This town near Lisbon, in the "saloia" (rustic) area, which used to supply the capital with garden produce, is famous for its imposing Palace-Convent, the largest edifice in Portugal, built by order of King Dom João V in the 18th century.
The king, who still had no children three years after his marriage to Dona Maria Ana of Austria, promised the Franciscan firars that he would build them a convent in the Mafra area if his prayers for an heir to the throne were answered.
So, on the occasion of the birth of his daughter Dona Maria Pia, he began the building, the plan for which was initially quite modest. After the German architect Ludwig was contracted, however, the plan underwent considerable changes as a result of the luxury Portugal was experiencing at the time on account of the wealth coming from Brazil. Hence this grandiose monument was built, (including a convent for 300 friars, a basilica and a 666-room royal palace), in a record time, from 1717 to 1730, to be inaugurated on the king´s 41st birthday.
The Mafra Preserve which adjoins the Convent, acquired by King Dom João IV in the mid-18th century to enhance the value of the set of buildings, was used as a game reserve, and is now open to the public.
In the surrounding area, it is worth visiting José Franco's ceramics workshop in village of Sobreiro, where you can appreciate the more traditional aspects of life in the local villages, life-sized or in animated miniatures.
The traditional fishing village of Ericeira, on the seaside near Mafra, is much sought after as a holiday resort, and by surfers attracted by the excellent opportunities this beach and the ones near it (Ribeira das Ilhas and Lizandro) afford for their sport.