Sintra Revisited

We revisited the beautiful hideaway that is Sintra – only a half hour away from Lisbon, it is an escape into nature and into another time and place…

Returning to Sintra feels a little like how the Pevensie children must have felt after they returned to Narnia the second time. There’s magic in this place that you can never grow tired of, from the serenity of the Convent of the Capuchos to the Moorish opulence of the Palace of Pena, Sintra is a world unto itself.

sintra, portugal, lisbon, medieval village
The “city”-scape of Sintra from the core of the town

The town, which probably hasn’t changed much since the days Quinta da Regaleira was raised, certainly didn’t change between the short time when we had visited Sintra first, and now. The old town remained the maze of shops, delis and restaurants serving food the Portuguese way – delicious and unfussy, but with artistry.

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An architectural element adorning the walls near Quinta da Regaleira

Walking around the town, it’s not easy to figure out when the town ends and the country estates begin. From the middle, looking around at the slopes, opulent manors surround the charming core of old apartments and narrow streets – the town of Sintra itself stands as an attraction in its own right.

portuguese architecture, azulejos, sintra hotel, european mansion
A beautiful estate on the outskirts of the core of the Sintra centre

It was a place where people less highly born lived out their lives, while their lords lived theirs in the surrounding palaces and manors. That said, many of these people were nigh on wealthy beyond imagining themselves, when compared to the average peasant at the time.

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An old, abandoned mansion on the outskirts of the old core of Sintra

Quinta da Regaleria

Quinta da Regaleria will always be worth a visit. I feel I could come back here time and time again, without ever tiring of the mystic architecture imbued with symbolism from different ages – beginning with the Greek gods and goddesses, to artefacts from the Enlightenment. The star attraction as ever is the Initiation Well at the heart of the palace, an architectural interpretation of Dante’s Inferno, the path leading down into the ground only to open up to a beautiful pond under a small waterfall.

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One of the many beautiful buildings in Quinta de Regaleria – the main manor

The gardens surrounding Quinta are beautiful all year round, and some day soon I would like to visit it in a different season, perhaps late autumn, when the leaves of the trees around will turn red and gold. But when we were there, they were the still maintain the verdant green of summer, with an occasional sprinkle of yellow.

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A beautiful ornate fountain embedded in an equally decorated wall

The gardens are lush and thick, hiding the palace and its ornate stone structure and all its symbolism in vegetation. The architect had certainly intended it – at the time, Quinta represented enlightened views that were only just beginning to take hold in the West, and perhaps the lord wanted a private space away from the rest of the world that would not understand these views.

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Looking up another, less famous, well

As you are driving or walking around Sintra, you will notice the breathtaking silhouette of the Moorish Castle lining the edge of the mountain. We visited it the last time and it was quite nice, but we didn’t feel the need to revisit it.

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One of two towers standing on the upper levels of the grounds of Sintra

Convent of the Capuchos

The Convent of the Capuchos remains a delight. The last time we visited, the entire place was shrouded in a mysterious fog. It was one of the most truly beautiful places I had ever visited. It had felt as if the fog had came and taken us back in time. This time around, however, the sun was shining full and bright, giving the place a completely different character.

A passage to nowhere in the grounds around the Convent of the Capuchos

The squat little buildings in the small monastery remain as charming as they ever were and as they had been the past hundreds of years. Covered in green and orange moss, with creepers, tiny and slightly larger ones, covering so much wall and roof you could barely make out the buildings from the forest. There is always something magical about places that have been conquered by nature, but whose structure yet still stands. Almost as if saying nature and man could live together, given the right attitude and sense of interior design.

The main building of the Convent of the Capuchos

More impressive than the Monastery, however, is the forest that surrounds the place. There’s a few paths that go on for quite a bit, you could walk down on and explore. Unlike the gardens of the Palace of Pena, the gardens of the Convent of the Capuchos… well, it isn’t like a garden at all, more like a private bit of forest, whose association with the Convent is marked by how silent it is and how every visitor walks about with a reverence you don’t find elsewhere in Sintra.

A cross standing guard in front of the Convent of the Capuchos

Palace of Pena

The Palace of Pena, standing high up on the mountain, a riot of colours, was an exciting repeat visit, with lots of history and spectacular views from the balustrade.

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The Palace of Pena in all its bright and colourful finery

To be honest, to visit it once is enough, but some friends were with us, and we decided to join them again for the tour. It was still interesting to see all the opulent rooms in the Palace and imagine the lives people use to lead back then.

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The silhouette of one of the towers of the Palace of Pena

As ever, my favourite place in these kinds of places is the kitchen. I also really like old libraries, but there were no libraries here, unfortunately. The Palace of Pena does have a kitchen such that any chef that ever lived would be pleased to work in.

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A well laid out dining hall in the Palace of Pena

It doesn’t even look that much different from a well equipped modern kitchen. I guess no matter how far haute cuisine has progressed today, we can still make the most delicious dishes from the simplest of tools.

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The beautiful kitchen in the Palace of Pena