August 19, 2017

What to see in Sintra, Portugal


Ramparts of Sintra’s Moorish Palace with the Pena Palace in the distance

Surrounded by rocky granite hills, wooded ravines and plenty of springs, few cities in Portugal are as pleasant as Sintra. This, along with its proximity to Lisbon, made the city a popular summer retreat for the kings and queens of Portugal. Today, Sintra has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site that draws thousands of tourists every year.

Sites to see in Sintra, Portugal

Sintra revolves around its Old Town and the Palácio Nacional de Sintra. Around this area are colorful houses, cafés and boutiques. This is also a great place to start any exploration of the city.

Palácio Nacional de Sintra

National Palace in Sintra, Portugal

Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Largo Rainha Dona Amélia, 2710-616
Sintra, Portugal

Palácio da Pena

Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal

With it’s yellow and pinkish-orange exterior, bubble-like domes and towers that look like a LEGO castle gone awry, the Palácio da Pena could be something out of a children’s cartoon or coloring book. This interesting castle was built for a certain Ferdinand Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the husband of Portugal’s Queen Maria II. Built on the foundations of an old mountain monastery, the palace can be seen from the outskirts of Lisbon on a clear day. Likewise, you can also see great views of Lisbon and the surrounding countryside from its towers.

Similar to other royal palaces, this one also has interesting and odd rooms. For example, there is the Arab Room that’s covered with trompe-l’oeil frescoes, the Ballroom with colorful stained glass windows and collection of rare Chinese porcelain objects, and the Noble Room, filled with gaudy furniture and arguably tacky decorations. Probably the most conventional and historically interesting room is the chapel. This is the only room of the palace that was part of the site’s original monastery. Both King João II and Manual I were fond of this place, the latter credited for building this monastery. An interesting fact is that the original monastery was mostly destroyed, save for this particular chapel.

Palácio da Pena
Estrada da Pena, 2710-609
Sintra, Portugal

Moorish Castle

Moorish castle of Sintra

For a structure dating from the 8th-century, this fortress/castle is in remarkably good condition. It was built during the early years of the 8th-century Moorish invasion of the Iberian Peninsula. Much of the original structure, including the old grain silos and castle walls that stretch to the sea, are still intact. Along the castle’s perimeter is an old (now ruined) church and cemetery. It is also possible to climb up any of the castle’s towers to get a great view of Sintra and the Atlantic ocean below.

Castle of the Moors
2710 Sintra, Portugal

Quinta da Regaleira

Photo courtesy of green trekker.pt

This romantic-styled mansion with impressive gardens was once the home of António August Carvalho Monteiro, a Portuguese multimillionaire who had a flair for the occult, the Knights Templar, free masonry and alchemy (perhaps that’s how he got so rich?). António also seems to have liked playing hide and seek – there are several “secret passageways” and grottos hidden among the gardens, most of them leading to dead ends. Then there are the two spiral-stairway ceremonial wells that were used as altars for some sort of divination and tarot ceremonies. It’s not hard to see why this place was chosen to film the movie The Ninth Gate.

Quinta da Regaleira Website
R. Barbosa do Bocage 5, 2710-567
Sintra, Portugal

Toy Museum (Museu do Brinquedo)

From Toy Museum of Sintra

This place is awesome! Here you’ll see many rare and contemporary toys including model and toy cars, planes, train sets, dolls, miniature figurines, actions figures, LEGOs and more. There are even toys from ancient Egypt! Whether a child or an adult, it’s a fun place to visit.

Rua Visconde Monserrate 26
Sintra, Portugal

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