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For more than three centuries this unique palace in the world reopens for the first time. The members of this atypical place are real actors and deliver real performances that we discover during the meals. A living theater where you can dine, have lunch, have a drink, and stroll in its salons and gardens.

Normally we go to the theater, but in this enchanted setting the actors come to you. Enjoy a strawberry margarita or a cosmopolitan around a colorful menu: 27 months aged Iberian ham as an aperitif, gazpacho as a starter, fresh swordfish as a main course and assorted homemade sorbets as a dessert, we like to be taken in. A Portuguese wine list is also available to discover other flavors. 

The choreographies and shows were directed by the French artist Olivier Urman. Part of the troupe even lives in the palace. The choreographies that we discover throughout the dishes are zany, almost surreal, with a touch of humor: a mirror man with a plastic arm, a woman in a bowl of water or two protagonists fighting with boxing gloves in hand in a giant plastic bag. The theatricality, the colorful dishes and the classicism of the place clash and intermingle for an explosive and surprising result. The magical setting was imagined and designed by Dom Pedro, the first Duke of Lafões, a distant member of the Portuguese royal family (1718-1761). It is nestled on the banks of the Tagus River in Portugal and takes us into a parallel universe dedicated to dreams. The interior is spectacular and of great richness: we can observe, for example, the sets of murals by Cirilo Volkmar Machado, or the tiles of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which integrate the thematic rooms of the palace, such as the Academy Room, the Venus Room or the Chinese Room. The rectangular chapel houses a gilded wooden altarpiece dating from the second half of the 18th century. 

This grandiose project was intended to transform the dukes’ small summer farm into their permanent residence. The visitors walk through a dreamlike world of “strange and surprising rooms” which seem to be the stages of a fantastic and initiatory journey. This poetic place is like a philosophical tale where the visitor goes on a quest in search of signs that will lead him to the end of his dreams, like the shepherd in Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist.

For the record: when he designed the Palácio do Grilo, around 1750, Dom Pedro de Bragança was one of the first representatives of the State. Minister of Justice and illegitimate grandson of King Pedro II, the first Duke of Lafões, he was a rival of the already very influential and ambitious Marquis of Pombal. Dom Pedro was supposed to marry Mary I, but as an illegitimate descendant his fate was different. The beautiful Maria married the future king Pedro III and he began the construction of the Palace of Dreams. Legend has it that on the evening of their union, Dom Pedro had all the candles extinguished in the palace as the carriage passed by and placed a small cage near him containing a cricket to remind him of the goodness of the soul and the violin of the spirit. From that day on, Dom Pedro dedicated his talent to his dreamlike kingdom. He drew his own plans, took the first letter of his title to give the main building an L shape, and hired the most prominent artists of his time to create a haven of peace. The lord Dom Pedro de Bragança, Duke of Lafões, also known as “do Grilo”, collected these small singing insects and enjoyed multiplying them in his gardens. He never saw the palace built in its final form because he died prematurely at the age of 49. He wanted the Grilo to have “all the rooms, in their decoration as well as in their function, designed for us, to relax and dream better than anywhere else on earth”. He made it his home, a palace of dreams for his friends, his loves, and his reveries. 

Palacio Do Grilo

1 Calçada do Duque de Lafões 1950-207 Lisboa

Credits : @Courtesy of Palacio do Grilo

Flora di Carlo