|The Belém National Palace (Portuguese: Palácio Nacional de Belém) is the official residence of the President of Portugal. |
It is located in the Lisbon neighbourhood of Belém, close to the Tagus river and near many touristic and cultural attractions.
This Palace was one of the many that the nobility built on the outskirts of Lisbon in the 17th and 18th centuries; it was later converted into a royal residence.
The Palace was originally built in the 16th century by the nobleman Manuel of Portugal, over a hill facing the Tagus, near the magnificent Jerónimos Monastery, which had recently been completed. In the 17th century the palace came into the possession of the Counts of Aveiras. The five buildings that compose the main façade of the Palace date to the second half of the 17th century, with terraces from which the landscape could be enjoyed.
At the beginning of the 18th century, King John V bought the Palace and proceeded to expand and redecorate its interiors. The Great 1755 Lisbon Earthquake did not affect the Palace, which during the reign of Queen Mary I gained a small zoo with African animals (now inactive) and a new horse arena, designed in Neoclassical style by the Italian Giacomo Azzolini (the arena now houses the National Coach Museum).
The courtyards and interiors of the Palace have decorations dating to the 18th and 19th centuries. During this period, Belém Palace was used by the royal family, along with other residences like the Palace of Queluz and the nearby Ajuda Palace.
It was also used to house foreign visitors. In 1912, after the Portuguese Republic was established, the country's Presidents started inhabiting the Palace, at least for short periods. Nowadays it is the official residence of the Presidents of Portugal.
While President Ramalho Eanes lived in the Palace, both Mário Soares and Jorge Sampaio used it merely as a work place, living in their private residences.