Mafra and Ericeira make a great day trip from Lisbon.
While Mafra is renowned for its convent and palace, regarded as the most important Baroque building in Portugal, Ericeira is a seaside resort, famous for its beauty as well as its surf break.
This day trip is perfect for independent travellers but it can also be done as a private tour. It can be undertaken by public transport, but you can gain time and see more by hiring a car in Lisbon.
Where is Mafra
The town of Mafra is located in Central Portugal. It is about 40 kilometres (25 miles) northwest of Lisbon, a 45-minute drive approximately. Ericeira is a coastal resort some 10 kilometres (6 miles) west of Mafra.
What to See in Mafra and Ericeira
In one day, you’ll be able to see:
Palácio Nacional de Mafra
Begun in 1717, now celebrating its tercentenary, Mafra National Palace was commissioned by King D. João V, who squandered the Brazilian gold in this Baroque landmark of enormous proportions comprising a church, a convent, and a palace.
The palace, of limestone and marble, which also served as a Franciscan monastery, covers an area of almost 4 sq km, including 1,200 rooms, 4,700 doors and windows, and 156 stairs. The convent shelters the world’s largest historic bell carillons – 98 bells in total. Finally, the basilica has an uncommon set of six organs, among other features of interest.
In a visit to the palace, you will go through a number of rooms, each decorated according to its purpose. The oddest is the hunting room, and the stunner is the library of marble floor, with more than 36,000 leather bound books with gold engravings, lined in rococo style shelves.
The palace was also the setting for Baltasar and Blimunda by José Saramago. The novel tells a love story intertwining historical characters and the palace construction. With this novel, the Portuguese Nobel laureate achieved widespread recognition.
Price: Palace – €6, Basilica – free
Timetable: Palace – 9.30am to 5.30pm, closed Tuesday. Basilica – 9.30am-1pm and 2pm-5.30pm daily
Parking is freely available on the south facade, next to the Escola de Armas (School of Arms).
Tapada de Mafra
The nearby Tapada has its origins in the recreational hunting ground created in 1747 by King D. João V to serve the grand palace. The park offers a diverse landscape of woods, grasslands, and water courses. Eucalyptus, cork and pine are some of the most common trees in the park.
Tapada de Mafra is home to wild boars, red deer, foxes, badgers and eagles that live together in this natural habitat. Hopefully, one or more species will cross your hiking path.
The park is open for several activities (some available only on weekends), including hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, introduction to archery, and beekeeping workshops.
Price: €4 for the hike (a family of 2 adults + 2 children pays €13)
Timetable: 9.30am to 6pm
José Franco’s Typical Village
In Sobreiro, a few minutes from Mafra, there’s a quaint miniature village of windmills and traditional shops created by the sculptor José Franco. Even if the place is not an attraction by itself, it is worth stopping on your way to Ericeira. Kids will love it, while adults will want to have a taste of the delicious bread, pão com chouriço. The entrance is free.
The seaside resort and fishing town of Ericeira offers seafood restaurants, beach, surf, but also history. After a delicious lunch, enjoy the town with its stunning seaside views, beautiful Portuguese calçada (sidewalk pavement), and tile-covered buildings.
Ericeira’s 8-kilometre (5-mile) coastline, dominated by rocky cliffs, hides beaches on small bays. Ericeira was the first World Surfing Reserve in Europe, with seven surf spots. You might want to check out two of the most popular – Ribeira d’Ilhas and Coxos in Ribamar. The best surf season is from October through May.
During the summer months, Ericeira is a popular beach destination for families.
How to Get from Lisbon to Mafra and Ericeira
Take the A8 motorway, then take exit 5 – Malveira/Mafra. Follow on A21 to Mafra (about 40 minutes) and then to Ericeira (10 more minutes).
There is a frequent bus service from Lisbon to Ericeira, going through Mafra (Convent), operated by Mafrense. Buses depart from Campo Grande just outside the metro station (green and yellow lines), and the trip takes about 1h20.
Staying in Mafra and Ericeira
Places to Eat in Mafra and Ericeira
The area is famous for its variety of seafood restaurants. If you’re not sure which one to choose, the following are three of the best:
- Mar d’Areia – Rua da Fonte do Cabo 49, Ericeira
- A Canastra – Rua Capitao Joao Lopes 8 A, Ericeira
- Estrela do Mar – Rua de São João, 27, Ribamar