Versailles’ fanciful cousin-once-removed, the powder-puff Palácio de Queluz was once a hunting lodge, converted in the late 1700s to a royal summer residence. It’s surrounded by queen-of-hearts formal gardens, with oak-lined avenues, fountains (including the Fonte de Neptuno, ascribed to Italian master Bernini) and an azulejo-lined canal where the royals went boating.
The palace, whose facade was restored to its original 'enamel blue' during a massive 2015 restoration, was designed by Portuguese architect Mateus Vicente de Oliveira and French artist Jean-Baptiste Robillon for Prince Dom Pedro in the 1750s. Pedro’s niece and wife, Queen Maria I, lived here for most of her reign, going increasingly mad. Her scheming Spanish daughter-in-law, Carlota Joaquina, was quite a match for eccentric British visitor William Beckford. On one occasion she insisted that Beckford run a race with her maid in the garden and then dance a bolero, which he did ‘in a delirium of romantic delight’.
Inside it's like a chocolate box, with a gilded, mirror-lined Throne Room and Pedro IV’s bedroom where he slept under a circular ceiling, surrounded by Don Quixote murals. The palace’s vast kitchens house a palatial restaurant, Cozinha Velha, where you can feast on original palace recipes such as steamed Dover sole.
Once you’ve seen the palace, live the life: the Royal Guard of the Court quarters have been converted into the dazzling Pousada Palácio de Queluz, with high-ceilinged rooms that will make you feel as if you’re at home with the royals.
Queluz (keh-loozh) is 12km northwest of Lisbon and makes an easy day trip. Frequent trains from Lisbon's Rossio station stop at Queluz-Belas (€1.60, 18 minutes).