With its incredible setting in a National Park on the north slope of a granite mountain and set amongst wooded ravines with natural water springs, it comes as no surprise that that for many years Sintra was the favourite summer destination for the Portuguese Royal Family. As a consequence the area became a popular place for summer homes for many of Portugal’s wealthy and aristocratic. Since 1995 the town has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site and attracts, deservedly so, tens of thousands of visitors each year.
Palácio Nacional de Sintra
The old town of Sintra (Sintra Vila) is dominated by the impressive National Palace of Sintra. The building is known, amongst other things, for its conical chimneys that rise above the palace from the palace kitchen. The kitchen along with the main central block are the oldest parts of the palace dating from the late 14th century during the reign of Dom João I (King John I).
The late 16th century saw additions made, particularly by Manuel I, bringing back influences of the Moorish style. Highlights of this must see are the azulejos (blue and white tiles) that decorate the Sala dos Arabs (Arabian Salon), the magnificent ceiling of the Sala dos Cisnes (Swan Salon) painted I the 15th century and the Sala dos Brasões (Coat of Arms Salon) decorated with stags holding the coats of arms (brasões) of 72 noble Portuguese families.
Known to the locals as “Paço Real” it continued to be a summer retreat for the Portuguese Royal Family until the 1880’s when Maria Pia, grandmother of Manuel II, passed away. Since 1910 it has been a national monument.
A visit to Sintra is not complete without trying Queijades de Sintra. A sweet cake made using requeijão (Portuguese ricotta), milk eggs and sugar.
A must visit for any visitor to Lisbon.