Sintra: the Castle and the Quinta da Regaleira

11-12 august 2016 

What to see in Sintra? Sintra is located less than an hour's drive from Lisbon and is ideal for a day tour. The historic center of Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the attractions that should not be missed are certainly the castle (Palacio da Pena) and the Quinta da Regaleira, although the city offers countless museums and palaces of historical and architectural interest.

Sintra Portugal
Among the best attractions in Sintra, the most famous is certainly the Palacio da Pena (or Castelo da Pena, more friendly known as "Sintra Castle"), a complex of buildings that stands on top of an hill near the city. The castle was built starting from 1840 over the ruins of an ancient monastery, and was commissioned by Maria II of Portugal as a wedding present for her husband, King Ferdinand II of Portugal. The Sintra Castle is one of the most famous tourist attractions of Lisbon area and perhaps of all Portugal, mentioned everywhere on the tour operator brochures, and therefore very well publicized. Although it is really spectacular, the visit is not recommended in high season (July and August) due to the number of visitors, making very long queues at the ticket office and and filling-out the small parking lot very quickly. In any case, it is good to plan the visit early in the morning, showing up at the ticket office well before the opening time.
Sintra Castle
The facade of the Palacio da Pena is adorned with ceramic tiles, while a beautiful high relief (pictured right) illustrates a mythological newt that symbolizes the allegory of the creation of the world.
Castle in Sintra

The beautiful facade of the Palacio da Pena in Sintra, partly made up of ceramic tiles. This monument is included in the list of the Seven Wonders of Portugal and belongs to the UNESCO world heritage sites.
Castelo da Pena
View from Sintra Castle

The beautiful inner courtyard of the Pena Palace, with a view that sweeps over the plain below, up to the Atlantic Ocean.
Facade of ceramic tiles

More photos of the facade of the Palacio da Pena and the beautiful ceramic tiles.
Castle in Portugal Moorish architecture

Another inner courtyard, which leads to the various rooms of the castle, showing a Moorish architecture, typical of Islamic art exported to the Iberian peninsula.
Royal dining room Royal living room
Royal bedroom
The Palacio da Pena was used as a summer residence by the royal family of Portugal. The interiors are sumptuously decorated and furnished: in the photos above, the dining room and the living room; in the photos below, the bedroom.
Astronomical observatory
Another room, with walls finely decorated by high reliefs (which are very reminiscent of some decorations in Alhambra palaces from Andalusia), was instead used as an astronomical observatory.
Palacio da Pena
Through a large terrace, visitors can see all the castle and the courtyard below.
Clock tower
More photos of Palacio da Pena in Sintra, with the large clock tower (completed in 1843) and part of the outer walls that are also the foundations.
Palacio da Regaleria
Another important attraction in Sintra, which should not be missed during a visit to the city, is the Quinta da Regaleira, a complex that includes an ancient palace and a huge garden where there are secular trees, caves, cisterns for water collection, benches made with marble, statues and fountains.
Palace of Regaleria
The Regaleira Palace dates back to the beginning of the last century and was built, then restored, by various noble families of Portugal. It was open to visitors only a few decades ago, before including it in the list of world heritage sites by UNESCO.

The interiors of Palacio da Regaleira in Sintra, with decorations on the walls, on the ceiling and around the doors.
The Palacio da Regaleira is surrounded by 4 hectares of gardens, crossed by paths that make their way through the thick vegetation.
Regaleira garden
Quinta da Regaleira
In the garden of the Quinta da Regaleira there are buildings, towers and laced walls that serve both as decoration and to offer peace and tranquility to the owners.
Well of initiation Well in Sintra

The well of initiation is an underground structure that is very reminiscent of the Well of San Patrizio in Orvieto: 27 meters deep, it has a spiral staircase that allows visitors to reach the bottom. The function of this well was not to store water, but to host various ceremonies.
The gardens of Quinta da Regaleira have a network of claustrophobic underground tunnels, a sort of secret passageways and labyrinths, linking the wells to various parts of the garden.
Giant ferns Secular tree
Quinta da Regaleira houses giant New Zealand ferns (first picture) and ultra-secular trees, such as the plane tree in the second photo.
Araucaria excelsa Secular Araucaria excelsa
A many centuries-old specimen of Araucaria excelsa, in the gardens of the Quinta da Regaleira.
Ibis fountain Mosaic
Marble bench

In the top photos, the fountain of the Ibis with its beautiful colored mosaics. In the photo below, a marble bench.
Panorama in Sintra Castle on the hill
The Quinta da Regaleira is located not far from the historic center of Sintra (you can walk to all the hotels in the center) and also offers a beautiful view of the surrounding hills.
Sintra Palace in Sintra
Sintra old town Sintra historical centre
Photo of Sintra. After a day spent among castles, palaces and museums, visitors can finally relax in the alleys of Sintra old town or between the wide squares, walking on the characteristic Portuguese floor.

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