Scintillating Sintra in Portugal
Traveling north from the capital city of Lisbon, visitors to this scenic part of Portugal will come across the popular coastal resorts of Estoril and Cascais before reaching the charming village of Sintra. With its heavily forested hilltop, Sintra was once the summer getaway for Moorish lords and the kings of Portugal as they sought relief from the city in the heat of the summer months. Sintra is an amalgamation of three villages which were at one time separate. This can prove confusing to visitors, but the spectacular Sintra Palácio Nacional stands as a prominent landmark providing a point of direction.
While the palace is thought to have originally been built by the Moors, its present form is the result of rebuilding and renovations commissioned by Dom João I and his successor, Dom Manuel during the 14th and 16th centuries. The architectural style of the Palácio Nacional has Gothic influences, while the additions commissioned by Dom Manuel are based on his design ideas. The palace chapel and its adjoining chamber are worth seeing, bearing in mind that this is where Pedro I kept his mentally disturbed brother Afonso VI captive for six years.
The public bus service stops off at a number of Sintra's attractions, including the ruined ramparts of the Moorish castle, which offers spectacular views, as well as Pena Park and the adjoining Palácio de Pena, the latter featuring elaborate domes and towers, with the interior preserved as it was when the royal family fled from Portugal in 1910.
Within walking distance from the center of Sintra, along the Seteais-Monserrate road, the private estate of Quinta da Regaleira is open to visitors and by all accounts well worth visiting. Built at the turn of the 20th century the palatial building and its picturesque gardens were designed by a theatrical set designer at the request of one of Portugal’s wealthiest industrialists. It features an underground stone spiral staircase and a tunnel running between the garden and a nearby lake. Referred to as the Initiation Well, it is said to have been inspired by the secretive initiation practices of the Knight Templars and Freemasons.
Trains run between Lisbon and Sintra on a regular basis, making this a popular day-trip for visitors to Portugal’s capital city, although it is recommended that visitors stay overnight in order to see all the sights. Various types of accommodation are available in and around Sintra and there are a variety of restaurants and cafés to suit all tastes.