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.
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