Things to do in Sintra. Castles of Sintra, which to visit?
2 of May 2022
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Sintra is a very special place to visit. There are 5 castles in the park of Sintra! Do you want to feel like a princess/prince? Go there! When visiting Sintra, you should plan in advance which castles you want to visit. To make life of traveler easier, after 3 days of walking, we fell for the stories of a young tuk-tuk driver and for 40 euros agreed to hire him as a guide in the park of Sintra. There were different options of tours, we chose: to ride with the breeze and go to the most accessible palace.
So what did we see from the road?
National palace of Sintra
The National Palace of Sintra is a complex of buildings that have been built and completed over many centuries, and the real date of construction of this oldest palace of the country is still unknown. According to experts´opinions, the first building was built around the X or XI century, when Sintra was under the rule of the Moors. At the end of the Middle Ages, the Sintra Palace was a favorite place for residence of the Portuguese monarchs. The Sintra Palace became a permanent place of their visit, as the region was a perfect place for hunting, offered a comfortable cool climate in summer and an opportunity to escape from the plague that raged in the capital. You can visit the palace for 9,50 euros and buy a ticket, for example, on their official website.
National palace of Pena
The National Palace of Pena stands out from the landscape of Sintra with its colorful appearance, clearly representing romanticism in Portugal and being legacy of the artist king Ferdinand II. In the XII century there was a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pena on the site of this colorful castle. Further, King Manuel I ordered the construction of the Royal Monastery of Our Lady of Pena. As a result of a devastating earthquake of 1755 the monastery was turned into ruins, although it continued to operate then, but later was abandoned. When King Ferdinand II first visited Sintra, he fell in love with the place and purchased the ruins of the monastery, ordering an architectural masterpiece that we can visit today.
You can visit the Pena Palace for 13 euros by purchasing a ticket on the same official website. You can lift to the castle (and also to the Moorish castle ) by bus 434 from the center of the park.
Before the Portuguese monarchs came here, the Moors ruled these lands. They lived in this castle until 1147, when Sintra was conquered by the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, after conquering Lisbon. With the settlement of the Christians in the Moorish castle, the Islamic Quarter began to disappear, and the conflicts between the Moors and the Christians gradually ceased, and the local population no longer needed protection of the castle. In the XIX century, following the spirit of romanticism of that period, King Ferdinand II carried out restoration work in the castle of the Moors, breathing new life into this place. During the works, a tomb was built there for the bones found in the castle. It was impossible to distinguish who the remains belonged to – the Moors or the Christians, thus the following inscription was placed on the tomb: “What the man collected, only God can divide.”
You can visit the castle of the Moors for 8 euros per adult.
Palace of Monserrate
The history of Montserrat Palace begins in 1540, when the friar Gaspar Preto ordered construction of a hermitage dedicated to Our Lady of Montserrat, inspired by the hermitage he saw while traveling through the Iberian Peninsula near Barcelona. At that time, this place belonged to the Lisbon Hospital. After the earthquake of 1755, the dilapidated building was rented by a British merchant Gerard of Wisme, who ordered construction of a neo-Gothic castle, but he only lived a few years there. In 1793, a British writer William Beckford became a new tenant of Montserrat. He subsequently ordered a project for restoring the building and its gardens. You can visit the palace for 13 euros.
Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta de Regaleira palace is a more modern palace built in the end of the XIX century. Its owner António Augusto Carvalho Monteiros, with the help of an Italian architect Luigi Manini, built the palace, as well as luxurious gardens, lakes and caves surrounding it. The palace combines elements of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Manueline architecture (from Manuel I, a Portuguese architectural style that we could observe in the structural elements of the Belém Tower and the Jeronimos Monastery as well).
Entrance fee is 10 euros per adult. The visit includes a visit of the castle and the gardens, wells and caves of the complex.
In the depth of the gardens you will find an extraordinary place – the well of initiation. The well of initiation is an underground gallery with a spiral staircase supported by sculpted columns and descending to the bottom through nine platforms. The nine platforms of the well may refer to the Divine Comedy of Dante and represent the nine circles of hell, heaven, or purgatory. The well of initiation received its name as it´s known that the well was used in Masonic initiation rituals.