Sintra tour: day trip from Lisbon not to be missed!
Sintra is a small city located just a 30m ride from Lisbon the Portuguese capital. It has a history that dates back to the Roman Empire and has been home to many civilizations through the centuries since its a strategic point just outside Lisbon.
The moors, Muslims from the North of Africa region, ruled the area for more than 200 years and since the Portuguese King conquered back the land in the 12th century it has been a symbol of the Portuguese Nation. wasSintra has always been home of Kings from the early stages of Portugal History and by the end of the Monarchic regime in 1910 was still the summer residence of the royal family.
It was the German Prince Ferdinand II, who married the Portuguese Queen Mary II in 1836, that truly put Sintra in the World map since he was a very artistic and cultural man bringing poets, composers and other artists from Europe to Sintra like Richard Strauss or Lord Byron.
Since you will be spending just a day in Sintra you may want to choose just 2 or 3 places for visiting. I would advise Pena palace, Quinta da Regaleira and cabo da Roca since those are the most interesting and iconic monuments and stops.
If you want a personalized Sintra Tour with a native guide reach me out .
1. Sintra Palace
The National Palace of Sintra is located at the heart of the oldtown city center. It is a magnificent building with an exceptional value since it witnessed centuries of History and many Portuguese Kings left their mark on it.
We must go back until the 11th century to trace the origins of the Sintra Palace that originally belonged to the Moors that occupied Sintra and the Iberian Penisula ( Portugal and Spain) back then. After the defeat of the Muslims by King D. Afonso Henriques ( 1st Portuguese King) the palace became an essential element of the Portuguese power and many generations of monarchs proceed with adaptations and expansions . All the mixture of styles and taste make it so special and unique with many details that can only be witnessed with a closer look.
King D.Dinis in the 13th century was the first one that changed the palace. He spent several periods there and ordered the construction of the Palatine Chapel.
In the 14th century King João I left his mark at the palace main façade with the beautiful Swans Hall,as well as the conical chimneys that are inspired by English style since his wife Philippa of Lancaster ( daughter of the 1st Duke of Lancaster) was an English princess.
Another King that left his mark was D.Manuel I in the 15th century with his distinctive Manueline style that can also be seen at the Jeronimos Monastery. He has also added two new structures , the east wing where D.Manuel apartments were located, and the tower of the coat of arms.
Visiting the palace and walking around the city center can be done in 2 hours
Pena palace exterior
2. Pena Palace
The Pena Palace has a unique extravagant design that rests on the top of the Sintra mountain at the highest point of the city.
It was built during the 19th century on top of the remains of an old medieval monastery that was abandoned. This was a personal project of Ferdinand II , a German Prince who married the Portuguese Queen Maria II. His goal was to have in Sintra one of the most important places of the Romantic movement in Europe.
Until 1910, the year a republic was established, this palace was a summer residence of the Portuguese royal family and over the years has became a museum that attracts thousands of visitors every month.
In terms of design it was a work commissioned to Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege, a German engineer who found its inspiration in the palaces that existed in the Reihn region in Germany . However the Pena palace has unique elements, details and a natural position that makes him stand out . Ornate windows in the 15th century Manueline style, vault arches, Islamic elements, arabesque style windows and many maritime and fantasy ornaments are some of the things we can see only at the Pena palace.
Its interior is very sober considering the time and social status of its residents with small well-decorated rooms and beautiful saloons to receive guests.
On the outside there`s a spectacular view from the beautiful arabesque style windows located in a wide terrace from where you can see as far as the 25th April bridge in Lisbon or the Atlantic seashore to the west.
Surrounding the Pena palace is a 100-acre park also commissioned by Ferdinand II who wanted to mimic an idyllic garden filled with hidden corners and picturesque trails.
Lord Byron and German composer Richard Strauss are some of the most notorious men who felt in love in Sintra because of this palace and spread the word across Europe.
Allow at least 2 hours for visiting the palace and the park since it is a journey that will stay with you for a long time.
3. Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira is an esoteric mysterious mansion with lots of elements that transport us into another dimension.
It is a 5-floor palace commissioned in the early 20th century by the millionaire António Monteiro that dreamed having a romantic intricate construction in the middle of the Sintra woods.
On the outside you will be amazed by lakes, fountains, benches, grottoes and other exquisite constructions spread over its 4-acre gardens.
In terms of design the palace stands out for its unique octagonal tower, its Gothic pinnacles, gargoyles and capitals. making it a very complex structure with lots of details to appreciate. There is also a Catholic chapel decorated with frescoes and stained glass windows with many religious sculptures and historical symbols like the armillary sphere and the Order of Christ cross.
An intricate tunnels system, the ornated bridge,and the mysterious initiation wells related to Tarot rites are some of the magnificent things you can appreciate at the gardens.
Allow yourself at least 1.5 hour to fully appreciate Quinta da Regaleira.
4. Castle of Moors
Almost next door with Pena palace is the Castle os the Moors, a fortress built in the middle age by the Moors that occupied the Iberian Penisula for centuries. It was conquered back to the Christians after the first King of Portugal D. Afonso Henriques took Lisbon from the moors in 1147.
The Castle endured several maintenance repairs over the centuries especially after the 1755 earthquake that seriously damaged its structure.
The cistern and a chapel are the only buildings that exist inside its walls, but most people visit the castle for its magnificent views over the Sintra mountains and the Atlantic.
Because of its age and spectacular location the Castle of the Moors is a very busy monument with thousands of visitors every year.
Between 30 and 45 minutes are enough for you to fully explore the castle
Monserrate Palace: a beautifull 19th century summer residence
5. Palacio de Monserrate
Sir Francis Cook, a wealthy English business man, loved Sintra so much that decided to order the construction of a villa for his family summer vacations in the mid 19th century. The Palacio de Monserrate is an estate that has an arquitechtural style with moorish, neo-gothic and indian elements that make it a very relaxing and exotic place that seems out of a fairy tale.
Its interior has many arabic influences and corridors with a special layout that enables natural light to be a constant presence and a distinguish mark.
On the outside this place also shines with its big garden and forest that was 100% planned from the scratch. Everything is organised by world areas like Australia, South America or Asia, with plants that were brought from those regions.
Lakes, waterfalls, ruins, marbles and tiles from India, are just some of the decor we can find in the garden.
You can expect to visit Monserrate in 2 hours without rushing.
7. Cabo da Roca
Cabo the Roca is a viewpoint close to a lighthouse located by the Atlantic coast near Sintra. It is the westernmost point of Europe and from there you have a splendid view to the Atlantic and the coastline until Cascais.
It is a very popular spot with visitors all year round especially on sunny days when you can see further into the Ocean and take great shots.
A word of warning here: it is usually a windy area with a very high cliff to the sea so respect all the safety fences to avoid accidents that unfortunately happen every year.
See you soon :)
Are you inspired to visit Sintra? If you are planning a trip to Portugal it is definitely a place you cannot miss, especially if you love art,nature and mysterious landscapes