Every fairytale seems to have a medieval castle surrounding by glorious scenery, enchanting foods, and an intuition well. Our fairytale day in Sintra has all this and more!
Our fairytale day begins and ends with a three-wheeled rickshaw. After parking our motorcycles in the parking area we noticed smiling tourist being taxied up the steep roadway to the start of the hiking trail to the Pena Palace.
A Celtic Cross is hidden among the forest as you hike up the hill towards the castle entrance area. This is actually the High Cross that was placed at the peak of Cruz Alta by King Ferdinand II in the 1800s. It was damaged by lighting in 1997 so it was repaired and relocated here. A concrete replica is now at the top of the Cruz Alta.
Palácio da Pena (Pena Palace)
High upon the mountain of Sintra sits the most notable example of Portuguese architecture in the Romantic period. The Pena Palace combines inspirations from Moorish, Gothic, Manueline, and Schindler Castles of Central Europe and looks striking in its bright red and yellow color scheme.
This palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
This castle was build on the original location of a monetary that was heavily damaged by the earthquake of 1755. The monestary, surrounding land, and nearby Castle of the Moors was acquired by King Ferdinand II in 1838.
The palace was designed by Lieutenant-General Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege. The construction took place between 1842 and 1854.
In 1889 it was purchased by the Portuguese State, and after 1910 it was classified as a national monument. Here we are enjoying it 110 years later.
The level of detail in this Romanticism styled castle is quite amazing. You can tell that expert craftsman labored with love.
Hand painted tiles are interwoven among the concrete carvings of the exterior castle walls.
Every direction has incredible views of Portugal below with views of the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south.
Soaking in all the great views. The Castle of the Moors is just along the next ridge line to the north.
A chapel, within the original monastery, is simply decorated compared to the castle and provides a quiet place to reflect on more spiritual things.
The bright colors of the castle made it difficult to put down the camera. Each bend seemed to provide another photo opportunity.
The castle is also a museum with the interior decorated in the same style as it would have been for the last royal family to live there in the early 1900s.
Some of the intricate details artistically carved into the ceiling and walls of one of the bedrooms.
Richly appointed upholstery and drapery decorate the office areas of the castle.
Just look at the exquisite detail and moorish styling of the wall coverings. The decorative wall was covered in hundreds of these tile sections.
After walking though the lavishly decorated rooms of the castle we made our way to the cafe to enjoy this model of the castle and some delicious food.
The cafe featured a wonderful assortment of delectable desserts to enjoy. This raspberry and white chocolate tart tasted even better than it looked.
Just a short distance from the castle is the royal garden area with relaxing pools, well manicured gardens, and ducks and swans.
Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors)
In complete contrast to the Pena Palace is the Castle of the Moors. There are no brightly colored walls, or decadence – just a castle made from cut and stacked rocks that form a formidable wall and staircases.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site was built during the 8th and 9th centuries, when most of Portugal and Spain was part of the Muslim Caliphate of Cordoba.
Christian forces took possession of it in 1147 during the conquest of Lisbon.
The castle walls provide stunning views of the municipality of Sintra below…
…and equally beautiful views of the Pena Palace to the south.
In some ways I enjoyed walking along the simple ruins of the Castle of Moors more than the decadence of the Pena Palace. Both are worthy of the entrance fee to visit, however.
After hiking the countless steps of the castle walls, we descended towards the municipality of Sintra.
The town of Sintra is a tourist town full of people, restaurants, and shops selling trinkets and souvenirs. We felt it to be mildly charming but were not comfortable with the amount of noise and people that seemed to congest in the restaurants and streets.
The walkways did capture our attention though. Many are decoratively painted with unique tiled artistry.
Beautiful hand crafted, painted, and glaze ceramic tiles in all of their unique varieties.
Many shops sold tiny tiles with scenes from Sintra and the local area. We purchased a small one that we’ll make into a Christmas tree ornament to remember our time here.
Quinta da Regaleira
Our final destination of the day was to view the Romantic era park of Quinta da Regaleira. This is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, that features lakes, grottoes, wells, benches, fountains, and a vast array of exquisite architectures.
It was enjoyable to explore the many winding trails in search of various landmarks and then study the integrate designs and patterns.
Although the park has its share of wonderful grottoes, fountains, benches, and towers…
…It’s the large initiation well that people come to see and marvel at. The well is basically an elaborate inverted tower that was dug out of the earth and provides underground access to the elaborate tunnels underneath the park.
Looking back up through the 27-metre spiral staircase. It’s an impressive piece of architecture!
The lowers sections of the park provide dark tunnels that wind around a large lake. It was fun to explore where each path would take you.
Every luxurious mansion and elegant garden would not be complete without a large male lion statue, right?
Getting Back to the Parking Area
Remember when we said our fairytale day began and ended with a rickshaw? Our day in Sintra ended with us renting a rickshaw ride from Quinta da Regaleira to the parking area where we left our mules for the day.
Riding around, top down, on three wheels was more fun than we imagined. It was a perfect ending to our fairytale day in the magical region of Sintra.
Next Blog Post
We enjoy the wonderfully colorful streets, history… and sardines(?!) of the capital city of Lisbon, Portugal
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