Friday, June 17, 2016

Portugal Day 4: Sintra, Welcome to Fairytale Land

Sintra, located about 25 kilometres north of Lisbon, is the stuff that fairytales and palace dreams are made of. Truth be told, you would probably need two to three days to discover all the castles and palaces of the area - as I just had a day, I picked four of them to get a closer look at.
The Palácio Nacional de Sintra, which can be seen in the picture above, was on the bottom of my list. So while I did pass it in the morning after arriving in Sintra, I passed up the chance to visit just yet.
Instead I made my way to the Quinta de Regaleira - and it was like stepping right into a fairytale. Not only the various royal families of Portugal throughout history liked to build palaces and mansions in Sintra. So did the nobles and wealthy.
The Quinta de Regaleira, which was owned by the millionaire António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro, doesn't only feature a fantastic little palace, it also contains a stunning park. The Initiation Wells are probably their most famous feature - and they are quite something indeed.
Interestingly, many of wells and other feature are connected by underground walkways. This means that it get pretty dark at times, which did make me wonder what people did in the times before smartphones with a torchlight. I mean candles weren't the most handy things to carry around.
In some of the walkways, there also were also small-ish lights but it remained pretty dark at times. So, if you ever visit, you should neither be afraid of darkness nor walking up and downs stairs (and the latter goes for all of Lisbon).
But back to the Quinta de Regaleira. Considering that it was built at the end of the 19th century, the little palace evokes the best of previous styles including Roman, Gothic, Renaissance and Manueline, a special 16th century Portuguese style which we'll get to a bit more in one of the upcoming posts.
Wandering through the groundfloor of the palace of the Quinta de Regaleira you just wondered when the first woman in a glorious ballgown would step around the next corner. It wasn't a grand place but it was very cozy and elegant.
And - how could it be any way else in or around Lisbon - it also offered some great views...
...including a first sneak peak of the two next castles to visit, the Castelo de Mouros on the left and the Palácio Nacional da Pena on the right.
By the way, not only the palaces in Sintra a great. It's a charming little city with lots of pretty buildings (and way too many tourists - and yes, I realise I was one of them).
It got a little less crowded at the Castelo de Mouros. Built by the Moors in the 8th and 9th centuries, it was an important strategic point during the Reconquista and was taken by Christian forces after the fall of Lisbon in 1147. It did fall into ruins after that until conservations efforts were started in the 19th century.
And yes, it also offers some super stunning views over the area! But don't forget to pack a jacket, it gets quite windy up there.
A better look at the next palace on the list: Move over Neuschwanstein, there's a new fairytale castle in (my) town!
The Palácio Nacional da Pena is the most famous of all of Sintra's - and Portugal's - palaces. And rightly so. It's like a fairytale come to life! The palace is the greatest expression of 19th century Romanticism in Portugal, featuring clear influences of the Manueline and Moorish styles.
The fairytale fantasy that is the Palácio da Pena was built by King consort Ferdinand II of Portugal. During the 19th century, it was used as a summer residence of the royal family. After Ferdinand's death, his second wife inherited the palace but it was later acquired by the Portuguese state and remained in their hands after the end of the monarchy.
The architecture of the palace includes the best of the best areas in Portuguese architecture included Muslim, Medieval and Manueline influences - and lots of azulejos. For those who have read my post on day one, two and three will know that they get me every time!
Unsurprisingly, the palace also offers some stunning views. On the horizon, you can see the Atlantic Ocean. The Westernmost point of continental Europe, the Cabo da Roca, is actually not too far from Sintra.
It's all in the details...
...and naturally I also visited the palace's interior.
We will focus more on that one in an extra post just on the Palácio da Pena. But here's a preview at the Great Hall.
And another one from the outside to say goodbye!
Remember the Palácio Nacional de Sintra from the beginning? Well, I did visit after all to round off my day in Sintra as I had a spare hour or so left before I headed back to Lisbon.
We'll also have an extra post on this palace but here's another preview to keep you entertained until whenever that post will be ready. First up: A great ceiling...
...some awesome azulejos...
...and another stunning ceiling!

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