The enchanted forest of Mata Nacional do Bussaco is a botanical and natural ex-libris in Portugal. Here stands the Palácio Hotel do Bussaco: an authentic fairy tale castle, built by order of King D. Carlos I who was influenced by the so-called “Romanticism Castelar” – European architectural style of the late nineteenth century.
Surrounded by 105 hectares of forest, it has been considered one of the most beautiful, romantic, and historical hotels in the world since 1917. The forest has species of plants from all over the world, and in its paths, shows us hermitages, fountains, chapels, and stunning viewpoints.
History begins in 1885 with the construction of the Palace, which would serve to house the last Kings of Portugal. In the forest that surrounds it, the Convent of Santa Cruz and the Via Sacra impose itself, which give this place an enormous peace and tranquility.
I make the trip to Bussaco Palace with Sonia, a friend for many years. It was a trip I always wanted to make and I had scheduled it several times, but I always ended up postponing or canceling it, due to unforeseen circumstances.
The truth is that sometimes it seems that nothing happens by chance… And I say this because on the way to the palace we had a car accident. Fortunately, it was nothing serious, but it was scary. After a few minutes, we resumed our journey, and when we finally reached our destination, the landscape made us forget the bad start of this trip.
Like us, surrender to the charm of this palace, drawn from a royal history…
1. The Palace
In a Manueline neo-Gothic style, the Palace, designed by the scenographer Luigi Manini, was inspired by works such as the Tower of Belém and the Monastery of the Jerónimos. It has an impressive staircase and is fully furnished and decorated with wonderful paintings, works of art of various genres and unique tile panels, representative of the Portuguese Discoveries period and the Battle of Bussaco.
Some say that it was in this 5-stars hotel, that the last official ceremony of the Portuguese Monarchy took place, commemorating the centenary of the Battle of Bussaco, on 27 September 1910. The young king left for exile a week later, given the implantation of the Republic.
This palace has welcomed monarchs, actors, and heads of state, from all over the world. It is also the scenariochosen for impressive weddings and magnificent honeymoons, as well as a space of excellence for meetings and corporate events.
In the restaurant, Portuguese cuisine is reinvented, accompanied by its own wine cellar, with world-renowned wines. I had dinner at Bussaco and I can say that everything is chosen and made in detail.
2. Staying at the Hotel
Currently, the palace is a 5-star hotel, ranked among the most luxurious in Portugal and the world. It is managed by the third generation of descendants of Alexandre de Almeida. The hotel offers its guests the unique experience of staying in a true royal palace, a different, idyllic, comfortable, and refined environment. Staying in this Palace Hotel is a unique historical experience, given the fanciful spirit, I would say almost unreal, that we live there.
All the architecture is extraordinary and I never got tired of walking around looking at the worked facades that make us feel really tiny. Inside, the crafted typical of the Manueline style, the armchairs, and some antique furniture, composed of Portuguese, Chinese, and Indo-Portuguese pieces, take us to a time of princes and princesses.
It is a true museum collection, with works by the most famous Portuguese artists of that time. The sculptures of António Gonçalves and Costa Motta Sobrinho stand out, as well as the tiles painted by Jorge Colaço, the paintings by Carlos Reis and João Vaz, and the frescoes by António Ramalho.
I left my room and admired everything, literally floated by the beautiful staircase that leads to the clock room, near one of the exits. There, I spent some time, looking at the old clock whose repeated noise flooded the room. Outside, I stared at the fantastic arches along the corridor that culminated in a magnificent view of the gardens. So, I decided the next day, we would explore the wonderful forest.
3. The Mysticism and Symbology of the Bussaco Forest
The exterior area of the palace stands out for the rich details of the façade and the privileged location in the middle of the forest.
This was planted and walled by the Order of Discalced Carmelites in the 17th century. They intended to create a spiritual haven for contemplation and reflection. This natural space has flora species from all over the world, and the famous Cedar of the Bussaco.
Here, we literally get lost wandering through the trees, photographing everywhere. At every corner a discovery, we found the biggest trees we’ve ever seen. I tried to embrace one of them, I had heard that it gives you strength and peace, and I really felt it.
In the middle of nature haven from the Carmelite, representative of one of the most complex landscapes and architectural complexes in Portugal, we found the Via Sacra, which reproduces the Holy City, using chapels where are represented the steps of the Passion of Christ. The Bishop-Count D. João de Melo, wanted to create a new Jerusalem, and it is this purity that is felt in the air and in the waters, along the path of spirituality.
The Siloe Gate, the Judicial Door, the Praetorium and the Calvary, are important structures in the place. Famous is also the Papal Bulls.
One of the most beautiful places in the forest is the source of the cascades that spring from a stone, as we walk on steps through it. In the background, a huge lake seems to mark the end of the path, like an oasis in a desert, that’s how I felt it.Meet the Palace and its forest… you will feel that enter an enchanted story…