The strange history of National Theatre Doña Maria II Lisbon & backstage guided tours

Teatro Nacional Doña Maria II has a strange history, like a lot of historical buildings in Lisbon. It was built on the ruins of one of the city’s finest buildings, the Palácio dos Estaus, which had burned down and which had housed the court of the Holy Inquisition. The liberal revolution and the end of the civil war created a climate in Portugal that was conducive to the development of arts in general and the theater in particular.

National Theatre Dona Maria II Lisbon 1 Teatro Nacional

National Theatre D. Maria II Lisbon

In 1836, by order of Queen D. Maria II, Almeida Garrett (famous author and poet) was charged with creating a conservatoire for the dramatic arts. The site chosen for this colossal task was the finest in the city at Praça Dom Pedro IV, commemorates Portugal’s first liberal king. The square is usually simply referred to as Rossio (big square).

National Theatre Dona Maria II Rossio and wave pavement

National Theatre D. Maria II Lisbon

The theatre opened to the public on April 13 1846, the date of the anniversary of the queen it is named after, but the acoustics were poor and the theatre closed the very next day for improvements. It reopened several years later to notable success. In late November 1964, the theatre staged Shakespeare’ Macbeth. A strange superstition, or more appropiately a curse, hangs over theatres that perform this play: one week after the first show the whole building burned down except for its outer walls. It was reopened in 1978. Since then, countless plays, by the finest playwrights of the past and of today, have been performed and staged.

Rossio Lisbon Theatre National Dona Maria II and ginja cafe

National Theatre D. Maria II Lisbon

Today, Teatro D. Maria II is not merely a concert hall. Besides its majestic Garrett room, it also has a smaller room, while the great hall has been turned into a theatre/ studio, covering a whole world of activities that very often burst out from behind its venerable walls.

Theatre Dona Maria II Lisbon near Rossio Station

National Theatre D. Maria II Lisbon

On the other side of the theatre you’ll find the unique Rossio train- and metro station (Estação do Rossio)

National Theatre Dona Maria Rossio Lisbon hall

National Theatre D. Maria II Lisbon

You can discover the theater (or take the time to enjoy a good show).

From Monday to Friday 10:00 am to 13:00/ 15:00 to 17:00 there are guided tours, in several languages, to the backstage of the theater. A journey that reveals the secrets and stories of Teatro Nacional D. Maria II.  (website)

Lisbon National Theatre Dona Maria II view from cafe Garett Rossio Christmas

National Theatre D. Maria II Lisbon: view Rossio square

Christmas time. Café Garrett, beside the theatre’s foyer, one of the most perfectly located cafés in Lisbon, facing the lively Rossio Square

Lisbon cafe Garrett Theatre Dona Maria II facing Rossio

National Theatre D. Maria II Lisbon

6 Replies to “The strange history of National Theatre Doña Maria II Lisbon & backstage guided tours”

  1. Dear July, I am very happy since I am having clients lead by your wonderfull & helpfull blog.
    thank you very much, I am waiting for your visit, I have fresh news: opening new restaurant in Jardim Botanico with a new concpt in town: organic, healthy & ethnic
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  2. The title “Teatro Nacional Doña Maria II” is WRONG! the right is “Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II”. The tilde above the “n” is Spanish In Portugal they speak Portuguese (the language of 200 million people) even if many people can’t distinguish Portuguese from Spanish.

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