The Palace of the Viscounts of Balsemao (Palacete Viscondes de Balsemao) is perched on top of a hill, It is small and now surrounded by other buildings. It is an attractive but not what you would really call a palace. It looks more like a large sized town house or an official town hall for a large market town. It is situated in the corner of a pear shaped piazza called Praca de Carlos Alberto.
Entrance to the Palace of the Viscounts of Balsemao in Porto
There are a number of cafes and bars around the Piazza. The climb up from the Avenida dos Aliados is quite steep and a call beer was very welcome. There are a number of trees and bushes planted around the edge of the Piazza but it looks scruffy. The flowerbeds are not very well maintained which is a shame. In the middle is a war memorial.
It was built in the 1700s by the noblemen Jose Brandao Godinho Perestrello Pereira de Azevedobut then passed down by marriage to the Viscounts of Balsemao who used it as their private residence in Porto. If you look closely at the top of the building you will be up to see the family coat of arms with a Unicorn and Dragon. If you are visiting Porto were children asked them to find one of these mythical creatures when you reach the Piazza and offer a reward for the first one to find them.
The Porto Palace of the Viscounts of Balsemao is surrounded by other buildings
In 1840 the current Viscount of Balsemao sold the property to a businessman. He turned it into a small hotel for visiting tourists, dignitaries and businessmen. King Carlos Alberto of Sardinia and Piedmont stayed here as a guest in April 1849 when he lost his throne before finding a permanent place to stay at the Quinta da Macieirinha which is now the romantic museum.
Today the city of Portugal owns the building and it is open to the general public normally Monday to Friday 9 am to 8 pm. The entrance lobby walls are tiled in tradition Porto style. There are large stone archways that look out of period from the elegant symmetrical frontage of the building. These arches hark back to an older gothic era when knights wore armour and rescued damsels in distress. It has a slight monastic feel which is surprising.
The Palace of the Viscounts of Balsemao square has a War Memorial in the middle
If you like old coins you will be in heaven. There is a whole room full of them. It also includes a valuable collection of medals, banknotes, tokens, and decorations, many of which were owned by Englishman John Allen (1781-1848).
The stone staircase is very unusual. The walls are again tiled in typical Porto fashion but the gold painted wrought iron railings are a mixture of styles including what looks like Grecian urns and Chinese dragons. The stairs and the floor are made of stone. They lead to a number of upper rooms that are surprisingly minimalist in style. They have tall ceilings with white or cream painted walls and only a few paintings and pieces of furniture to decorate them. This is a building of contrasts.
The rooms include the hall the king's bedchamber, the King's room, the dining room and the auditorium which can seat 60 people for music concerts.