Downtown, in Restauradores Square, next to one of Lisbon's emblematic funiculars (Elevador da Glória), you can find Palácio Foz. Is hard to miss it! The large pink palace, with Parisian style rooftops is easy to identify. In part of its ground floor you can find, among other services, the City Tourism Office, but the noble part of the palace is not open to public on a daily basis and you can only visit it with a guide.
I've done this visit recently with Lx Secret Places tours and I strongly recommend it. Jorge, the guide, couldn't be more knowledgeable or passionate about the history of the palace and the visit was both interesting and fun to all the participants. Lx Secret Places has regularly planned visits, but you can contact them to check if its possible to held a non-programmed visit in the days you are visiting Lisbon.
The construction of Palácio Foz (also known as Palácio Castelo Melhor) started in the 18th century, after the great earthquake. In the centuries that followed, it had several owners, that introduced various styles trough interventions both in the exterior, like the mansard rooftops, and in the interior. Its magnificent rooms usually reserved for official events, serve also as location for cultural occasions and as film locations. The old library of the palace is now the National Sports Museum.
Commissioned by the Count of Castelo Melhor in 1777, the palace was sold to the Marquis of Foz in 1889 that ordered such a profound refurbishing of the palace that, with the exception of the exterior walls and the large and rich chapel, little remained of the original place. Reconstructed and decorated by the finest Portuguese artists, it was endowed it with the richest collection of art presented in a Portuguese palace. It was a collection of thousands of pieces of first choice, from furniture to porcelain, of an indescribable variety, which had in common the value and the quality. Among the hundred and fifty paintings exposed, were works by Rubens and Joardens, Rembrant, Sneyders, Velasquez and Bosch among others.
|Palácio Foz (circa 1900) - Photo in Arquivos Municipais de Lisboa|
|Pastelaria Foz (1918) - Photo in Arquivos Municipais de Lisboa|
But the good fortune of the Marquis would not last long, and 12 years later, in 1901, a monumental auction took to the square all the palace stuffing. In 1910 the palace was sold and its new owner rented the building to goldsmiths and tailors, photographers and dressmakers. There were clubs, showrooms and even a gym, transforming the most opulent residence of Lisbon in a sort of shopping mall. In 1917 was inaugurated, in the ground floor, a Patisserie (Pastelaria Foz) that was the place of choice for the elegant ladies to reunite with their friends for tea. In the basement, a different kind of establishment was functioning. But that will be the matter for a future story (and post). Eventually the business wouldn't be successful and the building is integrated in the National Heritage in 1939, and benefited, since 1944, from major restoration works, namely the construction of a new wing in the gardens area.
The tour takes the visitors to the Noble Spaces of the Palace, starting at the sumptuous staircase that takes from the hall to the main floor. Although the palace hasn't anymore all of its original furnitures, decorations and works of art, the remaining give us a glimpse of its original opulence.
At the first floor, the landing creates a rectangular gallery, where marble columns with golden Corinthian capitals support the roof. And what roof!!! The ceiling is hand painted with the images of a clouded sky from which center hangs a lamp inspired by a smaller lamp that can be founded at the French Palace of Versailles. Other decorative references to France can be found all trough the palace. Also impressive is the huge oil painting hanging in the wall, representing an allegory to Bacchus, the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine.
From this gallery, passing trough a cozy room with a fireplace, you can walk to a series of Noble Rooms like the gleaming Noble Hall or Mirrors Room, the unique Louis XVI Room, the Panels Rooms and the Dinning Room. This rooms are use in special state occasions and functions or otherwise reserved for cultural events.
The Noble Hall, splendid like no other in the decorative apparatus, was designed in Regency style, being inspired in the room of the mirrors of Queluz Palace, as this one had been in the one of Versailles. Its magnificence is impressive, presenting decorative works from respected artists like Columbano, that painted the medallions over the doors and on the ceiling.
Next to the Noble Hall, you can find the Louis XVI Room. Smaller and with a less solemn look, presents some original furniture pieces of the palace and a more sober wall decoration, with ornaments in stucco and frames painted in chiaroscuro by the Portuguese painter Malhoa.
Along the Noble Hall there is a large gallery with windows to the garden. This Gallery, decorated with busts, some of Roman inspiration and others in Renaissance style, comutes to the following rooms.
The Panels Room has two enormous paintings by Snyders, a 17th century painter of the Flemish school, representing market scenes. Apart from the striking paintings and the great chandelier of the 18th century, the room, in Louis XIV style, is quite simple. Worth of notice are the medallions, painted by Malhoa, representing the four elements.
The large Dinning Room is perhaps the more charming of the palace's rooms, with a large glass door leading to the terrace, overlooking the garden, framed by an imposing marble colonnade.
The room, in Louis XIV style, is decorated with full body figures in stucco in the crown molding, and the vast golden ceiling decorated with arabesques, from which hang three great Venetian crystal chandeliers.
The small and secluded garden, enclosed between the two wings of the building, is the perfect way of finishing the visit.