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Quaint Mafra: preservation and innovation all-in-one!

Updated: Jan 2

Looking for a cozy lifestyle in the Greater Lisbon District of Portugal? The town of Mafra is one of the best answers. At 28 kilometers from the capital, 20 minutes by car, 40 by bus, and 10 kilometers from the World Surfing Reserve Ericeira, Mafra combines historical elegance with ethical business and innovation. Awarded for its sustainable living in a chlorophyll bath of nature, Mafra combines a strategic location, UNESCO cultural heritage, natural wonders, housing affordability, and an ultra-curated way of life.

The town is among top five places named by the Portuguese magazine as alternative living places to Lisbon for Portuguese people, with Torres Vedras, Sesimbra, Setúbal, and Caldas da Rainha. Perhaps more than the four others, Mafra is a cozy bourgeois town that could be a little sister to quaint Victoria Village or Primerose Hill in London. It has the same faux-quiet collected lifestyle, pairing bohemia with innovation playing out under the radar.

The town is a creative urban planning with houses of different types and shapes, picturesque cobblestone streets, well-designed boutiques and mercados, independent barber shops, bike shops, surf shops, soap factories and no less than eight Bakery / Pastelarias. No wonder, one immediately feels wrapped and grounded in this human-scaled, active, and elegant town sat on Roman foundations. Tombstones, altars, ceramics, and glass from the Roman era have been found in almost all parishes of the municipality. Dating back to the first and fourth century, it includes the Roman road connecting Sintra and Peniche, which crosses Mafra. A Vibrant and shiny Winter Town.

Do not expect Mafra to be a sleepy town in Winter. Alike Évora in Alentejo, people here are out and about, shopping, driving towards outdoor activities, looking for cultural events, and ordering… pastries. In holiday seasons, adults become kids dreaming of an electric bike at Bikespot or a new surfboard at Magic Quiver [Ericeira], while kids are playing vintage, riding horses on the ornamented merry-go-round.

That day of late December, daylights are pastel, and one is immediately in awe of the municipality's lavish holiday decorations. Another proof that Mafra isn’t idling on its timeless distinction and tourist economy. Soft American Christmas songs are diffused all over town with a melancholic Manhattan by Woody Allen sort of tune. And shiny gifts wrapped in sharp-red paper hang across the streets as many teasers for shopping to thrive until the end of the year.

In the late afternoon, the line of automobiles designs a crescent of white lights around the sumptuous Mafra National Palace. Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019, the imposing façade, built of local limestone, is no less than 220 m long. Around it, the ballet of cars gives the wide Terreiro D. João V, the vibrancy of a bigger city. On the opposite side, people brush the weight of a year soon closing, with joyful chats and ‘Imperials’ at outdoor cafes.

Now imagine being parachuted by bus from Lisbon to Mafra in 40 minutes and dropped right in front of this imposing silhouette. What a thrill! It's like entering a history book. The colossal landmark dominates the landscape, standing as a testament to the baroque grandeur and opulence of 18th-century Portuguese architecture and culture. And no matter where you'll be walking across town, glimpses of this extravagant masterpiece will stick out behind buildings and parking lots.

National Palace of Mafra: European Baroque at its Highest.

The Palacio’s intricate façade adorned by an array of statues and elegant carvings is offering its expansive staircase to teen group selfies. Built by order of King João V, the architectural ensemble consists of a Royal Palace, a basilica, a convent, and a game reserve. It highlights include two carillons, six historic organs, a library, and an 18th-century infirmary. Also note that the royal library is more than a bibliophiles’ paradise. It houses an astounding collection of ancient books and manuscripts fiercely preserved throughout centuries.

Facing the Palace, the town of Mafra entices its visitors into picturesque streets, sweet boutiques, and pedestrian cobblestone pavements with the scent of freshly brewed coffee mingling with the aroma of pastries. The holiday indulgence for high-sugar pleasures has people queuing, with faces simultaneously absorbed in their childhood reveries and checklists for the last shopping plans.

If you wish to close the year with a spiritual reverence, a short walk from the town center leads to the Convento de Mafra. You will find a solemn sanctuary of tranquility within its cloisters and peaceful courtyards. A moment of time suspended to breathe and reflect.

For nature enthusiasts, Mafra equals to Sustainable Destination.

How to build a Touristic Destination that is truly sustainable? One may ask. Portugal is a country hyper-aware of its non-expandable natural resources and the weight tourism can affect them. How can places that are such high magnets for crowds, “ensure a balanced relationship between human activity, environmental protection, and the preservation of historical and cultural heritage”?

These crucial questions addressed are what has contributed for the Portuguese municipality of Mafra to be distinguished with the international seal Biosphere Destination, in accordance with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

A great part of it, are the Tapada Nacional de Mafra and the Ericeira World Surfing Reserve, two natural wonders that largely contribute to this territorial brand of reference in sustainability. Check the series Sustainable Destinations for more. And book your kid[s], for a field trip in these magnifique natural habitats, serving as inspiring playgrounds for kids. Video And if you wonder what a ‘World Surfing Reserve’ is about, check out where else this title was attributed.

Another precious asset in Mafra? Golden silence. Only identifiable sounds can be heard – rather than a cacophony; a car passing, a dog barking, a waiter dropping packages in recycling bins… The whole experience seems a day at the spa in contrast to Lisbon that has become a perpetual construction site lately. Here the tranquility presses its fingers on your temples with consideration, in these incredibly mild days of December.

Are you up for a home-brewed effusion of fragrances? Pay a visit to beauty labs. First the strawberry pink boutique Terra Viva. A Portuguese cosmetic brand founded locally by Teresa and Mário from their elegant warehouse in Mafra. The duo brought a mutual passion for natural bath products, aromatherapy, and skincare products within an ethical production process into the heart of the town.

Terra Viva's duo: Teresa + Mario, read article WETHEKNOT.

Terra Viva’s products are not tested on animals. All ingredients used are biodegradable. And if some contain animal products like honey, goat milk, beeswax, or eggs, most others are vegetarians and vegans. Their amazing collection of arty soaps blends no less than three fragrances per item. A perfect gift to stick between clothing in your suitcase, and you will have captured a bit of the Terra Vida [living earth] and the innovative spirit of Portugal.

Also, go visit Hona Cosmetic [honacosmetic] in Ericeira, for its fragrance-free and minimal soaps that suit ‘the whole family and all types of skins'. #honestlab #matureskin #naturalcosmetics #organic #coldprocessedsoap #artesanal

Mafra: For a Perfectly Sweet and Affordable Home.

To sum Mafra in housing terms, it is a great potential town for real estate investment and even better if you choose to live in! For who is caressing the dream of an active small town in pristine sunshine and the realm of nature at 20 minutes from a capital city, Mafra will stretch its neck out from the pedestal of its historical prestige, and might convince anyone who lives in Los Angeles, New York, London, or Copenhagen, with a dream of softer and sustainable living.

Whether it is the allure of history and architecture, the cozy ambiance of its streets, or the tranquility of its natural surroundings, Mafra beckons locals and travellers to immerse themselves in its soft aura and hiking trails opening on stunning viewpoints. Rare: the town is a buzzing place in verdant forests, rolling hills, five miles from rolling waves, and a production factory for indie culture, where a lot of the things you love come from.

So yes, cut the middlemen and high costs for import. Here, beauty products, surfboards, wide ranges of vines, and gorgeous vegetables are produced locally. These products are well crafted and offered with soft pricing, less carbon footprint, and priceless in experience.

And now Mafra has even a supercool skatepark! Book your flight to Lisbon before the year closes. No return ticket needed, promise!

Happy & Peaceful New Year to all of You!!! All at Mojo.

Mojo is a Boutique Real Estate guiding and assisting investors and buyers in Portugal with bespoke know-how. We scout and cherry pick the best possible property within your wish list and budget. We manage and coordinate the purchase process with high expertise in renovations.

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