A rainbow-colored city with a legendary history, Sintra is one of the most popular day trips from Lisbon. This city has some of the most beautiful romantic architecture in Europe, and a history dating back to Neolithic times. Colorful castles, generations of royals who spend the summer here and a thriving artist culture are just some of the things to discover in this historic town. Here is a look at some of the most notable attractions in Sintra.
This small convent and its residences were originally created in the sixteenth century to house 12 monks, who lived in incredibly cramped conditions, their tiny cells having low, narrow doors. It was acquired by the state in the twentieth century and opened to the public. The site includes a farmhouse, courtyard, hall of retreat and hall of penitence, among other buildings. It was designed to fit perfectly into the natural environment of large granite boulders along the edge of the Sintra Mountains. Hidden in the woods, it is located outside of the city even today, due to the fact that it was designed as a reclusive retreat for solitude and prayer for reclusive clergy.
This Palace resort was the traditional summer home of the Portuguese royal court. Its eclectic style is very unique, and offers the only example of the architectural Moghul style in Portugal. Its uniqueness is clear and distinct, even in a city as resplendent with palaces as Sintra. Terracotta domes with white accents reminiscent of faberge eggs rise from alternate square and cylindrical towers. Below, the Monserrate park offers open lawn expanses beneath the shadow of the palace, and a lovely, landscaped place to frolic on warm summer days.
Sitting atop a cliff, the Castle of the Moors dates back to the 8th century when the Muslims conquered the Iberian Peninsula, though it was later conquered by Portuguese rulers. The block walls encircling the castle and its towers are reminiscent of the Great Wall of China, with the same stunning views, which, in this case, extend to the Atlantic Ocean. The cylindrical tower and double fortress wall work into the granite cliff faces, and they are in good shape for an eighth century castle.
With its iconic twin conical chimneys and lavish interior Sintra National Palace is one of the most beautiful palaces in Portugal. The interior is a mix of Moorish and Manueline styles, with arabesque courtyards, barley-twist columns and geometric tiles. The palace is of Moorish origins, though much of what can be seen today can be traced back to 1385, when king John I ordered the complete reconstruction of the palace. The palace was in use by the royal family until 1880. Highlights include the octagonal Sala dos Cisnes (Swan Room), adorned with 27 gold-collared swans and the Sala das Pegas (Magpie Room), its ceiling decorated with magpies.
This romantic-styled estate and chapel was most recently a private home of a local millionaire, instead of a regional home for royals. The building has been home to many different barons and merchants, and the large grounds contain many ornate and cryptic buildings, statues and frescoes that depict alchemy, the knights templar, masonry and other mysterious legends. This includes two spiral-staired ceremonial wells whose bottoms served as altars for tarot and other divination ceremonies. Underground tunnels connect many of the outbuildings, making this the perfect setting for a mystery or crime novel. It has been owned by the city of Sintra as a public building for the past two decades, and is one of the most popular public tours.
This hilltop palace sits so high it can be seen from nearby Lisbon, and is the top attraction in Sintra. With its domed golden tower and red brick chapel steeple, the complex is extremely beautiful, and considered to be one of the most impressive examples of 19th century Romanticism in Europe. One of the most striking things about this palace is the eclectic combination of architectural styles, which includes neo-gothic, neo-moorish, neo-manueline and neo-renaissance. A wild and diverse forest with large century-old trees from around the world surrounds the large stone pinnacle where the palace sits.