After arriving in Sintra via train from Lisbon, my first stop was a quick stop to the National Palace of Sintra. I had a lot of palaces, castle and gardens to explore today… so I made a quick trip through this palace as it is has free entrance on Sundays until 14:00.
It would definitely be worth coming back for a more extended visit, but here are some of the highlights.
This palace was another Moorish transformation that had early foundations built by the Islamic Taifa of Lisbon in the 8th-10th centuries. After the Reconquista, this site was taken back by Catholic rulers under King Afonso Henriques.
Major construction was not initiated until the 15th & 16th centuries. Using wealth collected from the Age of Discoveries expeditions to the new world starting, King John I enlarged the castle in this time period construction resulting in the quintessential Sintra blend of Gothic, Manueline (Gothic-Renaissance style), Moorish and Mudejar (revival of Islamic artistic influence with ceramic tiles) styles. One of the most beautiful rooms from this time is the Swann’s Room (Sala dos Cisnes) in the Manueline style with beautiful swans painted on the ceiling.
King Manuel is the other main royal associated with this castle as he did most of the remaining building including the Coats-of-Arms Room (Sala dos Brasões) (1515–1518). As you enter the room, you are immediately struck by the blue ceramic tiles that date back to the 17th/18th century that show courtly and hunting scenes. Looking up, the ceiling is carved gilded woodwork and crowned by the Royal Coats-of-Arms. This is surrounded by the Coat of Arms of seventy-two main Portuguese noble families.
One of the coat of arms, the Tavora family, was removed however after the conspiracy against King Joseph I. Similar to how they handle things in the UK at Windsor where the family coat of arms is blackened over and stricken from use. The Tavora family affair is quite a juicy story. (Click Here for a Wikipedia lesson). The site where the entire executed Tavora family is buried is in Belem right behind a good lunch spot.
Sintra Palace’s most infamous resident was Afonso VI (1643-1683), the mad king who lost the crown to his brother and spent the last years of his life in one of the palace’s room. According to the legend, he used to walk back and forth inside the room, treading a path in the tiled floor that still remains visible for today’s visitors. Afonso VI really did earn the title of mad. A good synopsis is here for further reading on this twisted family plot.
With the foundation of the Republic, in 1910, the Palace became a National Monument.
- Official Website: Click Here
- Free until 14:00 on Sundays