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Sintra National Palace

A striking and eclectic mix of architectural styles, this is most likely the best preserved medieval palace in all of Portugal.

TravelCurious Tip

You can easily walk to the Sintra National Palace from the town — it take about 20 minutes, with a slight incline and wonderful scenery

The history of the Sintra National Palace begins one thousand years ago, when the Moors held the Iberian Peninsula. During the 12th century ‘Reconquista’ the original Moorish palace came into the hands of Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal. Although the original building was levelled, something of its spirit remains. The windows with surmounted arches, the glazed tiles that cover the walls in geometrical patterns, and the manicured interior courtyards are all echoes of the Moorish influences that first shaped the Palace.


The Palace’s long history has been closely intertwined with the fortunes of Portugal’s monarchy, who lived here from the early 15th to the late 19th century. Alas or hoorah, the monarchy is no more, and the Palace is now a museum. Enjoy a tour around its lavish rooms, with their eclectic flourishes of Moorish, Gothic and Manueline styles.


One For Sorrow

The Palace’s oldest rooms surround the central courtyard. The Sala dos Árabes is lined with wavy arrays of azulejos; the expansive Sala dos Cisnes has a magnificent ceiling depicting dozens of swans; and the Sala das Pegas is decorated with 136 magpies, each of which holds a rose and a scroll with the words “Por bem.”


The story goes that the King was making an advance on one of the ladies-in-waiting by passing her a rose behind the back of the Queen when a magpie snatched it from his hand. Red-faced, he excused himself, saying “foi por bem” — it was for the best. Annoyed by the subsequent whispering behind his back, he rebuked the court’s women by commissioning a magpie for each of them - 136 in total - since they loved to chatter and had a glint in their eyes for any bit of gossip.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Lisbon
Sintra
This municipality is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its vast 19th century Romanic monuments.
Pena Palace
Standing boldly atop a hill above Sintra, this beautiful palace can be seen all the way from Lisbon on a clear day.
Sintra City Hall
An unusually flamboyant town hall, and one of the most prominent landmarks in the town of Sintra.
Castle of the Moors
Built between the 8th and 9th centuries, this military outpost in Sintra played a key role in the Reconquista against Arab rule.
Monserrate Palace
The traditional summer resort of the Portuguese Royal Family.
Quinta da Regaleira
This romantic UNESCO World Heritage Site displays the wealth and extravagance of the Portuguese elite.

Related Tours

Discover the Wonders of Sintra with skip the line tickets from Lisbon
Visit Sintra, one of Portugal’s most magical UNESCO World Heritage Sites, for hilltop castles and fairytale palaces set in the forested hills near Lisbon.
 
  • Tour the turreted, Romanticist Pena Palace, perched on a dramatic hilltop
  • Visit a Moorish castle which served as a military outpost in the 9th century Reconquista
  • Stroll around the lake-dotted secret gardens at the Quinta da Regaleira Palace
  • Explore Queluz National Palace, the last official residence of the Portuguese Royal Family
  • Take in spectacular sea views from Cabo da Roca (Cape Rock), the westernmost point of mainland Europe
Fairytale Sintra
 
The ancient city of Sintra may lie just half an hour from Lisbon, but its forest-covered mountains feel a world away from the frenetic capital. A cooler climate and lush landscapes have drawn Portugal’s rich and powerful here for over a thousand years and it even served as a summer retreat for the Royal Family. Hence, the hills are dotted with extravagant Moorish castles, fortresses and Romanticist palaces, which you’ll explore the very best of on this guided tour.
 
Royal Pleasure and Military Might
 
Take guided tours of some of Sintra’s most famous monuments. You’ll start at Pena Palace, a yellow and orange Romanticist wonder complete with domes and turrets, watchtowers and drawbridge. The Castle of the Moors, a 9th century military outpost, was a key site during the Reconquista and today, you can wander the remains of its walls for incredible views of the region and Pena Palace.
 
Tour the Regaleira Ranch, a grand house built by a wealthy resident in 1892, which is most famous for its quirky garden structures, from fountains to sculptures and the inverted tower. This spirals down 27 metres to spectacular underground tunnels. You’ll also get the chance to visit the Queluz National Palace, which presents one of Europe’s finest examples of Rococo architecture and was the last official residence of the Portuguese Royal Family before the French invasion of 1807, when they fled to Brazil.
 
To marvel at one of Sintra’s most spectacular viewpoints, you’ll visitCape Rock, the westernmost point of both Portugal and continental Europe. From this dramatic cape, you’ll get panoramic sea views from windswept cliffs. Before leaving the magical hills of Sintra, you’ll make final photo stops at both Monserrate Palace.

You could spend weeks exploring Sintra’s hilltop treasures but if you haven’t got time for that, this tour showcases the best of its castles, viewpoints and decorative palaces. 
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