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How to make the most of Jardim do Cerco, a pleasant place to enjoy nature, and its secrets for exploring Mafra iconic garden, near Lisbon.

The Jardim do Cerco was a place that really surprised us after a visit to the Mafra National Palace. We really liked this well-kept garden, which can go unnoticed and that’s why we want to share it with you!

Jardim do Cerco is a precursor of modern botanical gardens, being a pleasant place outdoors, with a beautiful garden, two small vegetable gardens (one of aromatic herbs) and a wood with beautiful leafy and shady trees.

Here the green of plants and impressive trees reign, the flowering of flowers and the singing of birds, in a somewhat bucolic environment to contemplate, take a romantic walk or simply to read a book.

The complex (called ‘Royal Building of Mafra’) consisting of Jardim do Cerco, Tapada de Mafra (Game Reserve), Palace, Convent and Basilica of Mafra has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For all this, be sure to visit Jardim do Cerco, in Mafra, which is so close to Lisbon!


What is the Jardim do Cerco, Mafra

The Jardim do Cerco is a well-kept and fenced garden, with 8 hectares, adjacent to the National Palace of Mafra. It was built by King D. João V, in the 16th century, in Baroque style and was inspired by the Palace of Versailles Garden, near Paris.

Jardim do Cerco e Palácio de Mafra
Jardim do Cerco entrance and Mafra Palace

Initially, there was only the Cerca do Convento (convent fence), with a vegetable garden, an orchard and water tanks.

Subsequently, the King ordered a forest to be planted and “all sorts of wild trees to be planted, which he led from various parts of the Kingdom”. Here he also ordered the construction of four traditional Portuguese ball game fields, mainly for the friars recreation.

Jardim do Cerco is also sought-after by people of all ages for long or short walks, along the spacious paths adorned with statues or dense green smaller ones.

Likewise, Kings and Princes strolled here, and took advantage of the various benches placed in discreet spots.

The playground for children and the picnic area are also very popular. Jardim do Cerco, in Mafra, is certainly the ideal place to go with your family!


The importance of Jardim do Cerco, Mafra

Jardim do Cerco, in Mafra, follows the example of the fenced garden that existed in Portugal next to convents, monasteries and palaces.

Jardim do Cerco
Jardim do Cerco

These fences gardens generally contained species of utilitarian interest, such as vegetables, aromatic and medicinal plants, as well as fruit trees (orange groves, vines, nopales, etc.) and other forest species (for firewood).

The garden also had species of ornamental interest (on site) and for ornamentation of palaces and convents.

How to Visit Jardim do Cerco, Mafra: Highlights

We will help you to visit Jardim do Cerco, in Mafra. Enjoy the contact with nature and relax!

Entrada do Jardim do Cerco
Jardim do Cerco Entrance

=> After passing through the Entrance Gate, go to the right side of the garden, cross a huge lawn surrounded by large trees and enter the Aromatics Herb Yard.

AROMATICS Herb yard

In this garden you will find 36 beds planted with aromatic and medicinal herbs, including thyme, peppermint, lemon balm, lavender, marjoram, coriander, fennel, chives, rue, pennyroyal and many more.

Aromatic herbs were used in the kitchens of the Palace and the Convent, as well as some medicinal herbs for the Dispensary (Botica in Portuguese) of the Convent.

=> Head to a huge Water wheel, that pulls the water from a well.

Water wheel

The well-kept Water Wheel is housed in a large stone structure over a well.

It is believed that prior to the construction of the aqueduct, the Water Wheel served to pull the water from a well, in order to fill the elliptical main tank.

Eventually, you’ll be able to watch the Water Wheel’s mechanism working, with its wooden cogs!

Nora do Jardim do Cerco
Water Wheel in Jardim do Cerco

=> Further ahead you will find the Aqueduct.

AQUEDUCT

The aqueduct, supported by arches, with its yellow color, used to bring water from the Palace’s Game Reserve (Tapada Nacional de Mafra) to Jardim do Cerco.

This 4 km aqueduct brings water from the springs, at the highest point of Tapada (the ‘Sunível’), through the steep hills of Tapada, to the Jardim do Cerco.

Jardim do cerco aqueduto
Aqueduct in Jardim do Cerco

=> Beside the aqueduct, you will find the Friars Garden.

Friars garden in the jardim Do Cerco

In this garden, botanical species were also planted to be consumed in the Convent and Palace of Mafra, in addition to the plants and roots harvested in the Game Reserve (Tapada Nacional de Mafra).

Here were harvested the medicinal plants, for the friars to manufacture medicines in the Convent’s Dispensary (called ‘Botica’), namely syrups, oils, tinctures and balms to be used by patients in the three Infirmaries.

=> Next, enter the small wood.

jardim do cerco wood

This small wood has large size centenary trees, with dense vegetation, wide paths and tranquil hidden spots.

Behind the wood wall is the Tapada Nacional de Mafra, a Game Reserve.

Thus, if you want to get lost or put the camera to good use, you can walk the paths through an exuberance of green tones from the centenary trees (laurels, etc.). In fact, in some places, you can find tree tunnels, occasionally flanked by hydrangeas.

Caminho no Jardim do Cerco Mafra
Path in the Jardim do Cerco

=> Upon entering this small wood, you will soon see the Children’s Playground with the Picnic Park next to it.

PLAYGROUND

The spacious playground is an ideal place for children’s fun, where the little ones can spend their energies!

Picnic Park

A large picnic park, with wooden tables and benches, is a good place to have a picnic with family and friends.

Parque de Merendas no Jardim do Cerco
Picnic Park in Jardim do Cerco

=> Beside you will find the toilets, the Gardener House and the Ball Game fields.

BALL GAME FIELDs

The Ball Game (‘Jogo da Bola’ in Portuguese) field is a paved space, 50 meters long and 9 meters wide.

In a good state of conservation, stone stands emerge over the entire length of the field for spectators to watch the games.

In this place there were 7 games fields in the past: 4 for ball games, 2 to play a traditional game called ‘laranjinha’ and 1 for the ring (‘aro’ in Portuguese) game.

Jogo da Bola no Jardim do Cerco
Ball Game in Jardim do Cerco

Ball Game in the Jardim do Cerco

Until the 19th century, the Ball Game was widely played by the nobility and clergy, and until the beginning of the 20th century it was popular among the people.

This game was played in several places of Portugal, such as in the convents (in Arouca, Santa Cruz in Coimbra and Mafra), in the palaces (as in Necessidades Palace in Lisbon) and in public places (as in the current Praça da República of Ericeira). The fields in Coimbra and Mafra can still be seen.

The Ball Game was played with 4 balls of 14 cm diameter, in order to knock down 9 sticks of 30 cm (placed on top of a board), and then scores were awarded accordingly.

However, a board served as a barrier for the balls and allowed the ricochet. While six stakes of 120 cm high were placed in the middle to make the game more difficult. All equipment was made of wood.

Therefore, the player (or team) with the best score would win.

Laranjinha Game

Laranjinha Game is a traditional Portuguese game that was played with 1 or 2 balls of 10 cm diameter that were thrown with the purpose to be as close as possible to a smaller ball called “laranjinha” (in Portuguese, little orange), placed at a distance on the top of a board.

The balls that were closest to the ‘laranjinha’ scored. The balls were prevented from falling into the pit behind and the opponent’s balls could be cleared.

So, the player (or team) with the best score would win.

Ring Game

The Ring Game (‘Aro’ in Portuguese) was played with 2 wooden balls that were thrown, first by hand and then with the help of a stick, with the purpose to insert them into an 8 cm diameter iron ring placed on the ground, scoring whoever did it.

The player (or team) with the best score would win.

=> Crossing the Picnic Park and the Playground you will reach the Cistern.

CISTERN

This cistern collected the waters that arrived from the Game Reserve (Tapada de Mafra) through the Aqueduct.

Afterwards, this water was distributed to the Central Lake (or Tank) to water the Garden and the Friars Garden, as well as to supply the Palace and Convent.

=> Return (on the left side) to the Garden.

Garden

This Baroque style garden was inspired by the Garden of Versailles, near Paris, but in a small spot.

Jardim do Cerco visto a partir do Palácio de Mafra
Jardim do Cerco seen from the Mafra Palace

The Garden is arranged in terraces with geometrically designed beds, containing plants and flowers of the most varied species and colors, of great beauty, as you capture pleasant scents from them.

The flowerbeds are surrounded by small boxwood hedges and with statuettes and vases made of stone every now and then.

=> In the middle is a beautiful lake.

LAKES, SOURCES AND WATERFALLS

The Garden contains small lakes (or tanks), fountains and slight waterfalls over the stone sinks. Taking advantage of the uneven terrain of Jardim do Cerco, it was created a pleasant environment, with mirrors of water, sound and water movement.

In the Central Lake (or Tank), which is elliptical, there is a great fountain in the center and several fish and water lilies in the water, surrounded by several plots with plants and flowers.

Lago no Jardim do Cerco
Lake in Jardim do Cerco

=> Head the Entrance Gate and find a place with exotic birds and, further ahead, greenhouses.

EXOTIC BIRDS AND GREENHOUSES

Exotic birds can be seen at this location. Usually are found here, for example, peacocks, pheasants, cockatiels, parakeets, doves, ducks and others.

The greenhouses, all glazed, contain plant nurseries.

Entries at Jardim do Cerco, Mafra

Jardim do Cerco is a free entrance garden.

For more information, we recommend the official website of the Municipality of Mafra, which manages the garden space.

Location: Largo General Humberto Delgado (Alongside the north entrance of the Mafra National Palace) – Mafra – Lisbon

More Information:  www.cm-mafra.pt and then at ‘selecionar idioma’ pick ‘Inglês’

How to get to Mafra

where is Mafra

From Lisbon, Mafra is 25 km (or 15.5 mi) to the north, in other words, if you are in the Portugal Capital city, very quickly you can visit this village and its magnificent Palace.

Vista de Mafra a partir o Palácio de Mafra
Mafra Village seen from the Mafra Palace

See below for tips on how to get from Lisbon to Mafra.

Mafra is close to the coast, 10 km (or 6 mi) from the beaches of Ericeira, the latter being famous for surfing.

If you are in Sintra or Cascais / Estoril, Mafra is 25 km (or 15.5 mi) and 35km (or 21.7 mi) away, respectively.

From Óbidos to Mafra is 70 km (or 43.5 mi).

To mafra by car

From Lisbon: Calçada de Carriche => A8 (Leiria / Loures) => Exit 5 => A21 (Ericeira / Mafra / Malveira) => Exit 3 (Mafra-Este / Sintra) => N116 (36 Km or 22.4 mi, 0h30)

TO MAFRA BY BUS

From Lisbon: Campo Grande Station => Mafra Bus Stop (Convent) (0h50, operator Mafrense: Timetable)

TO MAfra by Train

From Lisbon: Rossio Station => Mafra Station (1h00, CP operator: Timetable)

What to do in Mafra

VISIT THE Mafra National Palace

The Mafra National Palace is one of the largest in the world and the most important building of baroque architecture in Portugal, inspired by the Papal Rome.

Visiting the Mafra Palace is like travel back in time and bring the past of the Kings, Queens and their courts to life. Not forgetting the charm of the beautiful Library, which is one of the most important in Europe.

For all this, and many others things that you can discover in this post, be sure to visit the Mafra Palace, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

Visit the Tapada Nacional de Mafra park

The Tapada Nacional de Mafra Park is a game reserve that was created by King D. João V, in the 18th century. It had the purpose of meetting the needs of the nearby Mafra Convent and National Palace and to serve as a leisure park and game reserve for the Royal Family, in a total of 1,200 hectares.

In Tapada, you can mainly enjoy the tranquility of nature and see the animals living outdoors. Children and adults can do trekking in the park walking trails, use a bicycle or the mini-train, with or without the help of a local guide.

You can also take night tours.

In fact, the Tapada Nacional de Mafra is a good place to go for a walk with your family near Lisbon and take great photos!

Tapada Nacional de Mafra Park Entrance
Entrance of the Tapada Nacional de Mafra Park

Local: Codeçal, 8 km (or 5 mi) from Mafra

Visit the Museum-village of José Franco

In the village of Sobreiro (between Mafra and Ericeira), José Franco, one of the most famous Portuguese potters, born in 1920, built a typical mini-village with a lot to see.

Certainly, inspired by his visits to the Mafra National Palace, master José Franco was taken with the idea of molding unique clay figures, with festive and rural details.

Free of charge, you can visit the tiny village-museum, between houses and “labyrinthine” spaces, which portray both professions, objects and living in the old Portuguese villages.

In addition, there is always bread with (or without) chorizo ​​and freshly made sweet fritters!

Moinho com as suas velas na Aldeia Museu de José Franco Museum-Village in Sobreiro, Mafra
Museum-Village of José Franco in Sobreiro, near Mafra

Local: Sobreiro, 13 km (or 8.1 mi) from Mafra

Visit Ericeira

Ericeira is a great place for strolling by the sea, enjoying the boats of the fishermen or walk about in the narrow streets of this beautiful village.

Next, you can also visit the World Surfing Reserve Interpretation Center next to the Tourist Office.

Praia dos Pescadores, Ericeira Fisherman's Beach
Fisherman’s Beach, Ericeira

Local: Ericeira, 24 km (or 14.9 mi) from Mafra

Places to Visit in Lisbon

More Places to Visit in Portugal

To learn more about other LikedPlaces, go to our Destinations in Portugal page.

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