The renowned Hermitage Museum owns around three million artworks, meaning that not everything can be displayed at one time. That led to the opening of several other branches in cities such as Amsterdam and Venice, and in just over a couple of years from now, another branch in Lisbon.
Leading up to that permanent home in the Portuguese capital, there will be three temporary exhibitions in Portugal, in order to generate interest for the future Lisbon museum.
The first exhibition takes place at the end of October (opening on the 26th), running to the end of February of 2008. It will be shown in Ajuda Palace, in King Luis I’s former gallery (which underwent a renovation of close to one million euros), and will include more than 600 pieces of decorative arts, paintings, furniture, and jewelry.
Upon reading this announcement, I was reminded that I hadn’t been to Ajuda Palace in years. So there I went on a Sunday morning, joining a semi-guided tour of this former royal residence. I call it “semi-guided” because visitors must be accompanied by a member of staff, but who simply opens and closes the doors of each room as you pass through, providing no information about what is on display. Some foreign tourists did ask a few questions that our guide did gladly answer, but you’re basically on your own here.
It is therefore a good idea to read about the palace and its collection before you visit. It is worth it, as you’ll find that it is one of the most fantastic, yet underrated attractions in Lisbon. The ostentatious decoration is essentially the same as any you’d find in any typical European royal palace, but there are some interesting and singular elements here that are worth checking out.
As noted on GoLisbon’s Ajuda Palace page, there is a wide range of clocks (many of which are easily overlooked if not looking carefully, as they don’t resemble clocks at all), a couple of quite unique rooms such as the Winter Room (filled with some huge birdcages), and a room decorated entirely with porcelain. Some of the decoration is so extravagant, that some would classify it as “tasteless,” but this is a palace planned in the Romantic period, so it reflects the trends of that time and it is in that historical perspective that it should be appreciated.
A visit here can be combined with a stop at the charming botanical garden across the street behind it. That together with the upcoming Hermitage Museum exhibition is more than enough of a reason not to exclude Ajuda Palace from your sightseeing list.