In the Lisbon Metropolitan Area, Amadora is a city within a metro ride of Portugal’s capital.
As locations go, it’s very handy if you want to see the fine royal palaces on the outskirts of Lisbon.
Queluz, Ajuda and Fronteira are all in your grasp, as are the astounding World Heritage Sites, the Belém Tower and the Jerónimos Monastery.
Traversing this city is Lisbon’s Águas Livres Aqueduct, an immense 18th century structure that managed to survive the catastrophic earthquake in 1755. You’re also on the Metro’s Blue Line here, which will put you in touch with Lisbon’s much loved landmarks and neighbourhoods in half an hour.
Lets explore the best things to do in Amadora:
1. Palácio Nacional e Jardins de Queluz
Dating to the second half of the 18th century is one of Europe’s last great Rococo palaces.
This was a summer escape for Dom Pedro of Braganza.
He would later become king consort after marrying his own niece, Queen Maria I. The palace was drawn up by the Portuguese architect Mateus Vicente de Oliveira and his French mentor Jean-Baptiste Robillon, and is breathtaking, both inside and out.
Some musts are the Ceremonial Facade from the cour d’honneur, the tile panels in the Sala de Mangas, the Ballroom, Hall of Ambassadors and the Queen’s Boudoir and its marquetry flooring.
In the grounds see the boating canal, with walls covered with azulejos.
2. Águas Livres Aqueduct
Passing through the area, and extending for almost 20 kilometres, is an awesome feat of 18th-century engineering that survived the 1755 earthquake.
It was built to solve Lisbon’s long-running drinking water shortage, channelling it down to the city from Caneças just north of Amadora.
It took about 20 years to complete, from 1731 to the 1750s, and the dimensions are impressive.
The highest arches are in the Alcantara Valley, where they get up to 65 metres, and have Gothic-style points on them.
You can also walk a section of the aqueduct between Amoreiras and the Monsanto Forest.
3. Amadora International Comics Festival
This event, the largest in Portugal, promotes comic strips, animated film and illustration.
Amadora BD has been going since 1990, and is big enough to attract artists from all over the world.
During the two-week event there’s something going on across Amadora, but the main events go down at the 4,000-square-metre Fórum Luís de Camões.
There are workshops, debates, autograph sessions, film screenings and conferences here.
Each year there’s one featured author, and in 2016 it was Porto-based author Marco Mendes.
The festival is normally held at the end of October/start of November.
4. Jerónimos Monastery
One of Lisbon’s obligatory sights is only minutes south of Amadora.
The UNESCO-listed Jerónimos Monastery was built at the dawn of the 15th century, a period of great optimism and wealth, when constant discoveries were being made in the New World and Asia.
This sudden affluence is obvious in the rich late Gothic architecture, in a very exuberant style that would soon become known as Manueline.
If there’s one element that encapsulates this style it’s the Church of Santa Maria’s south portal, loaded with unbelievably ornate sculpture on its tympanum, archivolt and around the window above.
You’ll be awestruck by the vaulting inside the church, as well as the two-tier cloister in the monastery, which is sculpted with nautical motifs.
5. Belém Tower
A World Heritage Site, this emblematic defensive tower sits on a little island in the Tagus and was built to defend the mouth of the river, leading to Lisbon’s harbour.
It dates to 1515 and is remembered as an icon of the Age of Discovery, the departure point for expeditions that changed the world forever.
The architecture is a reference point for the very decorative Manueline style, which incorporates influences from Moorish design in its domes and merlons and has images of exotic beasts in its stonework.
There are gorgeous loggias, as well as a cloister and a casemate to admire.
On the south side of the cloister see the Nossa Senhora de Bom Successo statue, treasured as a symbol of protection by sailors.
6. Palace of Ajuda
The Portuguese Royal family chose this palace as their last residence in the years before the monarchy was abolished.
The property crowns Ajuda Hill, looking out over Lisbon and the Tagus.
It was built in stages from 1795 onwards but never actually finished.
There’s a medley of styles as a long roll-call of architects was recruited for the project, which suffered many interruptions, mostly because of political strife.
The interior is a maze of divine interconnecting rooms and halls, each with a different theme and full of decoration.
There’s a Spanish Tapestry Hall, Music Room, Chinese Room, the list goes on.
A highlight is the Throne Room on the second floor, with thrones for King Luís and Queen Maria Pia.
7. Lisbon Zoo
Another of Lisbon’s big days out is a few kilometres towards the city.
Lisbon Zoo originated in the 1880s and has been at its present location in Sete Rios since 1906. There are 2,000 animals from 300 species, and if conservation is important to you, you’ll be reassured that the zoo is engaged in 57 breeding programmes.
There are Sumatran tigers, African elephants, giraffes, white rhinos and a forest with exotic birds like kookaburras in free flight.
You can also bring kids to the farm to befriend domesticated animals, and there’s a feeding show for the seals and sea lions.
The park is complemented by a 20-minute panoramic cable car ride and mini train to help you get around.
8. Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
Calouste Gulbenkian was an interesting figure; a British businessman with Armenian heritage who helped open up the Middle East’s oil reserves to the west in the first decades of the 20th century.
By the time he passed away he was one of the world’s richest men, and had put together an art collection of almost incalculable value.
And you’re invited to see it at this museum 15 minutes from Amadora on the Metro.
There are two circuits, the first of which takes in Ancient art from Armenia, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome.
And on the second circuit you’re confronted by a dazzling assortment of painting, sculpture and applied art by Rembrandt, van Dyck, Monet, Degas, Rodin and René Lalique to name just a handful.
9. Bairro Alto
You only need to allow 25 minutes to make it to Lisbon’s Bairro Alto, a lofty bohemian quarter packed with cute shops, restaurants and bars.
There’s a youthful vitality to this part of the city, which can be a little sleepy by day but buzzes with life at night, when people will be drinking and chatting at terraces on the narrow streets and you can catch the strains of live fado.
And because of the steep topography of the place the modes of transport are attractions of their own.
See Tram 28, a vestige of Lisbon’s tram system, connecting Bairro Alto with Chiado and Campo Ourique.
10. National Coach Museum
In the marvellous horse riding arena in the old Belém Palace is a museum dedicated entirely to historic horse-drawn carriages.
The venue alone is phenomenal, with a 17 by 50 metre hall for riding demonstrations, with first floor balconies to allow royalty to watch.
And the fleet of coaches dates from the 1500s to the 1800s.
They belonged to the Portuguese royal family but were crafted in various European nations like Austria, England, Spain, Italy and France.
These can be implausibly rich, and one of the outstanding pieces is the Baroque coach used by Philip II of Portugal during his journey from Spain in 1619.
11. Palace of the Marquises of Fronteira
The last of our palaces borders the Monsanto Forest Park and dates to 1671. It was built as a hunting lodge for the Marquis of Fronteira, and remains inhabited to this day.
So to visit the interior you have to go on a tour, but you won’t be disappointed by the Sala das Batalhas (with scenes from the Portuguese Restoration War), the Dining Room (decorated with Dutch tiles) and the chapel, which is coated with shards of glass and porcelain purposely broken after the palace’s inauguration.
The garden would merit a visit on its own, and that’s because of its wonderful azulejo panels depicting the seasons of the year and busts of the Portuguese kings.
12. S.L. Benfica
Football fans will be pumped to know that Amadora neighbours Lisbon’s Benfica area, home of the fabled football team.
The club is the most successful in the country, having won 35 domestic league titles, two European Cups and featured players like Eusébio and Rui Costa.
The grand Estádio da Luz has been the home ground since 2004, and is open for tours and museum visits, charting 110 years of club history.
But nothing beats attending a match, and only fixtures against the remainder of the Big Three tend to sell out.
Before the game you’ll be treated to the spectacle of the Águia Vitória, Benfica’s bald eagle mascot flying over the stadium and landing on the club’s crest to great cheers.
13. Dolce Vita Tejo
One of the largest malls on the Iberian Peninsula is in Amadora.
And it’s as enormous as you’d imagine, with more than 300 stores across a total area of 122,000 metres.
Thrown in the with the shops are cinemas, a gym and 34 restaurants.
The good thing about the mall’s massive footprint is wide aisles, which never feel crowded, even on busier days.
Dolce Vita Tejo is a real option if you’re up for a day of shopping but don’t want to venture into the centre of Lisbon: International brands like H&M, Desigual, Mango and Zara are all on hand here.
Attached to the mall, this amusement park is a kind of indoor city where you can bring (or drop off) your little ones for an entire day of ordered fun.
They’ll get “jobs” as police officers, vets, fire fighters, dentists, factory workers or doctors, and these jobs entail all kinds of activities in which they’ll earn currency.
At intervals they’ll be able to spend this money on recreation and games.
To work in some jobs they’ll need to get a university degree and will earn more money to play with.
They’ll have whale of a time playing grown-ups, all the while learning about the value of money and how some real life jobs work.
15. Necrópole de Carenque
Amateur archaeologists could come to this discreet but compelling archaeological site in the municipality for an hour or two.
It’s a mysterious place, discovered in the 1930s, in which tombs have been cut from the limestone.
The construction goes back to the end of the Neolithic period, roughly 6,000 years ago, and inside the cavities they found human remains, with stone idols, vessels and decorative shale plates.
This could be a good partner for the National Archaeological Museum near the Belém Tower, as a lot of the artefacts from these tombs are on show there.