A couple of months ago, we decided to revisit a very special place in Portugal: Sintra.
Sintra is historically a very passionate place, having seduced the souls of writers such as Lord Byron and Eça de Queiroz. It’s romanticism and simplicity are unmistakable, making it a place truly worth a visit.
Sintra and its Serra are truly incomparable to any other place in Portugal, and arguably the World. There is a syntony between nature and historical monuments. Sintra has been classified by UNESCO as World Heritage under the category of Cultural Landscape.
We had already been to Sintra a few years ago, visiting some of the most historic landmarks such as the Palácio da Pena. This time, we chose to focus on just one or two main things, and also have a little time to relax. We didn’t think it was worth trying to cram everything in two days, when Sintra is only a 40 minute train ride away from the centre of Lisbon.
This picture is for those of you who are a little bit of a sweet tooth. Well, honestly speaking, I’m not very much of a sweet lover (apart from the undeniable chocolate that is, and the occasional dessert), but I happen to really enjoy the typical pastries of Sintra. Piriquita produces and sells, amongst other products, the two main pastries of Sintra: Queijadas de Sintra and Travesseiros. They are both spectacular specimens of Portuguese gastronomy (I am now thinking a photograph of the actual pastries would have been useful… next time!).
Passing on to the places we decided to visit, the first one we decided to go to was Quinta da Regaleira. Quinta da Regaleira was built between 1904 and 1910, during the final years of the monarchy in Portugal. The romantic domains that used to belong to the Viscountess da Regaleira were bought and expanded by Dr. António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro. With his large fortune, he associated his unique project of architecture and landscape to the creative genius of the italian architect, Luigi Manini.
Look out for the magnificent well, go down the spiral stairway until you reach the bottom. There, make your way through the labyrinthine caves until you reach daylight!
Below are some sweet bird houses that were in the middle of the forest area of the Quinta, we thought they deserved a picture.
Books hanging from trees, an original idea. There were some chairs nearby, possibly an incentive for people to sit down and read a book… or maybe just because it looks nice to have books coming out of branches.
Books again, I know. But this was a particularly cunning and creative piece we saw inside the palace of the Quinta. When you walked into this square room, all you saw was books lining the shelves from top to bottom on all four walls. The gray square in the middle is the floor, and all around was a mirror. This created the perfect illusion that there was a gap between the floor and the wall, and that the books continued on shelves going down to the next floor. Of course, maybe now it looks obvious that it is only a mirror mimicking the walls, but believe me, when you first saw it, this was not obvious! Plus, it was really fun to stay there and watch people’s reactions as they came in.
Our second visit was to Parque de Monserrate. This used to be a farm with trees and agriculture, and became a park in the 18th Century, when Gerard DeVisme rented the farm from the Melo e Castro family. Since then, all its owners have made the effort to create a beautiful botanical garden. Francis Cook, together with others created contrasting scenaries along winding paths through waterfalls, lakes, and ruins, emphasizing the domination of nature over man. The garden is organized by collections of plants and species of the 5 continents.
The Palace of Monserrate, ordered by Francis Cook in 1858 and built by the architect James Knowels Jr.
After buying the property, Sir Francis Cook decided that he wanted to create ruins. So, he had the neo-gothic chapel that had been built in honour of Nossa Senhora de Monserrate transformed into a romantic ruin, hugging it by a rubber tree
A few tips
Where to stay:
Casa da Pendôa
Where to eat:
Places to visit:
Palácio e Quinta da Regaleira
Parque de Monserrate
Palácio Nacional da Pena
Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Historical centre (“Vila Velha”)
Castelo dos Mouros
Convento dos Capuchos
How to get around:
There are a couple of buses that take you through the routes to the palaces and parks.
For more information check out Sintra’s Town Council’s website.