Belem National Palace

In the heart of Lisbon, Portugal, by the calm waters of the Tagus River, you’ll find the impressive Belem National Palace. This historic gem, known as the Palácio Nacional de Belém in Portuguese, is the official residency of the President and has a museum open to visitors.

History

The Palácio Nacional de Belém, originally built in 1559 by D. Manuel de Portugal was initially a retreat with riverside gardens. In the 18th century, King D. João V made substantial changes, including adding an equestrian school, which now houses the Museu Nacional dos Coches (National Coach Museum).

In 1755, the palace served as refuge for King D. José I and his family during the earthquake, marking its association with the royal family. It continued to host foreign dignitaries and became the official residence of Prince D. Carlos in 1886. However, after D. Carlos became king in 1889, it reverted to hosting foreign guests.

In 1912, following the establishment of the republic, the palace became the official residence of the President of the Republic. Over time, it was used for various significant events, including President Sidónio Pais’s funeral in 1918 and President Bernardino Machado’s departure in 1926.

During the Estado Novo period, its political role diminished due to the limited powers of the President. President Craveiro Lopes lived there permanently from 1951 to 1958, while President Américo Tomás rarely visited during his term from 1958 to 1974. The palace survived the Carnation Revolution in 1974.

With the adoption of the current constitution in 1976, the palace returned to its role as the official residence of the Head of State. Since then, only President Ramalho Eanes lived there full-time, while subsequent Presidents like Mário Soares, Jorge Sampaio, Aníbal Cavaco Silva, and the current President, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, primarily used it for official duties.

Today, the Palácio de Belém serves as the official residence for the President of the Portuguese Republic, hosting foreign dignitaries. It also houses the Museum of the Presidency of the Republic, established in 2004, and offers guided tours to the public. The palace was officially designated as a Heritage site on March 29, 2007.

Visiting Times & Tickets

The Museu da Presidência da República (Presidency Museum) is located on the premises and is open to the public from Tuesdays to Fridays (10 am – 6 pm) and Saturday to Sunday (10 am – 1 pm and 2 pm – 6 pm).

It is closed on Mondays, January 1, May 1, Christmas and Easter Sunday. The changing of guards ceremony takes places every third Sunday each month at 11 am.

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