What to see in Sintra
Did you know the summers are super hot in Lisbon, so what do you do to stay cool in Summer? You find out Sintra is a cool place to relax and start building palaces as your summer house.
Sintra is a town about an hour away from Lisbon, it is a beautiful gem in the mountains. The town of Sintra has been known as the Glorious Eden by Lord Byron. What makes Sintra so full of wonderful palaces is because it is one of the coolest places in Portugal, it has its own mirco-climate that keeps the area foggy most of the time but cool and relaxing during summer. It also is a great woodland and rolling hills that was once perfect for the hunting of deer and there are many springs of water.
The Royal Family came to Sintra around the 10th Century to escape the Summer in Lisbon living in different early Palaces that no longer survive but build the Royal Palace of Sintra around the 14th Century, as time went on they added more and more to the Palace (you can see thought its layers of architecture) which is located in the heart of the town of Sintra.
Soon the Aristocracy, Courtesans and Travellers came to Sintra to discover the magic that the Royal Family were enjoying. The started building estates and farms but it really hit its height of popularity in the 19th Century.
Each Palace is a tribute to incredible Portuguese Architecture, including the town of Sintra with its beautiful architecture you will fall in love with this little town as you wander through discovering all its nooks and crannies, it really does feel like a magical place.
There are so many different Palaces to visit while in Sintra, here are some of the top highlights to visit when in Sintra.
Sintra Town Centre
The town of Sintra is a UNESCO World Hertiage Site and you can see why. It is a picturesque cobbled street town with the sense of a traditional Portuguese life style. It is great place to wander and enjoy one of the delicious cafes and restaurants. You could easily spend all day relaxing there.
In the heart of Sintra is the National Palace of Sintra, it is the oldest Palace in Sintra. From the outside you wouldn't think it is anything like the Palaces you see when they describe Sintra but it is worth the visit inside, it is so ornate with so many different types of Portuguese Architecture.
Quinta da Regaleria
Quinta da Regaleira was designed and built for Antonio Augusto Carvalho Monteiro from Brazil in 1907, he was a Freemason which is reflected in his home that was designed by Luigi Manini, there are symbols from the All Seeing Eye, wells to travel down, hidden grottos and a variety of secrets to discover throughout the gardens and home.
This was my favourite Palace to visit, I learnt so much about the Knights Templar and Freemasons. In the gardens you will discover a labyrinth to pass through as you reach different layers on the mountain. On these layers there are different steps you must take into becoming a Freemason, it all begins at the Initation Well which is hidden in the landscape, here you desend the nine levels which comes from the Divine Comedy by Dante. When you reach the bottom of the well you follow the dark tunnels towards many different openings but if you want to become a Freemason you must follow the sound of water to discover a small lake where you hop over the water to the other side via stepping stones, and did I mention you had to do this in the dark. Lucky for us we get to discover this beautiful place in the light with all its vivid greens, detailed stone work and the hidden secrets lying around.
Once you have finished discovering the gardens, head over to the Palace and its Chapel. The Chapel alone has so many hidden secrets in it including the All Seeing Eye, the Templar's Cross as well as it being a heavily Catholic Chapel which to me shows that harmony can be found. The Palace is an ornate Manueline Architecture Building with an edge of Gothic design as well, it is covered in leaf motifs, twisted vines and knots. Each room inside the Palace is beautifully decorated that you will spend the whole time with your mouth open going WOW! You will just fall in love with Quinta da Regaleria, I can't wait to go back.
Entrance into the house and gardens cost €6.00. It is best to go to Quinta da Regaleria first thing in the morning as the crowds head over to the other sights in Sintra before making there way here in the afternoon.
Palácio da Pena
The Palace of Pena is what you would describe the Grand Finale in a fire work show. It has everything you want to see, it is mind blowingly beautiful and so much colour.
Pena Palace is built of the site of a Monastery that was destroyed after the earthquake in Lisbon in 1755. In 1836 Maria II of Portugal married Prince Ferinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (parts of Germany), now he was a foreigner to the Portuguese especially with his lack of beard and wasn't made a King-Consort until an heir was born, so he wasn't popular with the people so what he did besides growing a beard to gain popularity was by building a Palace that combined all the important parts of history and architecture to show the people his true love for Portugal.
This new Summer house was built using ;
Gothic Architecture for Portugal's old past.
Manueline Architecture that is named after King Manuel I who lead the Age of Discovery in Portugal.
Moorish Architecture to remember what the Moors did to help develop Portugal.
Mudéjar Architecture which is what created after the Moors left and Portugal became to bloom.
Pena Palace became a Romanticism symbol for Portugal, celebrating how incredible the people and the history. Inside the Palace are wonderful and unusual rooms that reflect the Architecture outside, there were items and interior designs that I had never seen the likes of in Europe. It truly feels like this was once a happy home that the Royal Family enjoyed.
The Park in which the Palace is situated on is huge; there are lakes, temples and chapels, grottos and so much more to discover, you can easily spend all day here wandering around. Sadly on our trip we couldn't because of the huge amount of icy winds and fog, I could barely see my own mother in front of me the fog was so bad.
Palacio da Pena including the interior of the Palace and grounds cost €14.00 but if you just want to visit the Grounds and see the Palace from the outside it cost €7.00. You are able to buy a return ticket for a shuttle bus that takes you up to the Palace from the entrance for €3.00. The Palace is best visited later in the day once everyone has had there fill of the Palace and Grounds.
Moorish Castle: Sadly on our trip we couldn't see the Moorish Castle at all through the fog and the wind was horrible. But I look forward to going back one today and being able to see much more.
Things to know about Sintra
Sintra can be a COLD PLACE!!! It is on top of a lush green mountain which is beautiful but it has its own mirco-climate. That can have heavy fog then turn warm. When we went up to Sintra you could see the heavy dark cold that was surrounding it which makes you think you are in a Lord of the Rings Movie. So needless to say we didn't know, it said it was going to be a hot day so we dressed for the occasion. Luckily for us the shops in Sintra sell warm woollen jumpers which we didn't take off all day. So make sure you bring warm clothes to change into if the fog is on top of Sintra.
The best time to visit Sintra is during March to May or September to October when the weather is mild, the visitors are few and the weather can be on your side.
How to visit Sintra
When visiting Sintra it is best to get a train from Lisbon or enjoy a Tour Group.
The Train from Lisbon takes around 50 minutes leaving from Rossio Train Station about twice an hour. A return ticket cost €4.40. The train station in Sintra is about a 10 minute walk into the town centre.
To visit all the Palaces in Sintra, hope on top the tourist bus 434 which takes you to the Moorish Castle and Pena Castle or the tourist bus 435 which takes you to Quinta da Regaleria. The buses cost around €5.00 for a round trip. You are also able to hire out Tuk-Tuks but becareful if you are not use to driving in Europe. It is unwise to rent a car as parking can be a nightmare.
We decided for our first trip to Sintra to take a tour as we where so overwhelmed on what we could see in one day. We had a great tour which included Quinta da Regaleria, Pena Palace and further afield seeing Cabo da Roca which is the most western part of Europe and the seaside town of Cascais. Our tour guide was amazing, he was so intelligent speaking multiple languages and so knowledgeable about Sintra and all the secrets that are hidden. He was so great to talk to we talked about most of the world history, I would go back to Lisbon just to get another tour with him. We used Lisbon Native Tours for our trip to Sintra.
Sintra was a wonderful part of Portugal to discover, I feel like I have barely touched the icing on the cake in Sintra and plan to go back as soon as possible to spend at least 2 days there to discover what life is like in Sintra.
For more detailed information head over to Sintra's Website.