Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Portugal - Sintra National Palace

About 20km from Cascais and 30km from Lisbon is the magical town of Sintra.
On this day, my daughter and I caught the 417 bus that travels from the Cascais bus station, (below the Cascais Villa shopping centre) and arrived at Sintra station, about 30 minutes later.

In Sintra we met up with the 3 Doctors visiting Portugal (2 of them working at the Clinic I work in) and we started our tour.
On the main road we walked past this 1922 Moorish influenced fountain. 

On the other side of that road a lot of quirky statues peppered the pavement, and there are also a few people selling arts and crafts.

Moorish Castle, Town Palace in the distance and various statues on the way to the Palace
Sintra National Palace or Town Palace

Sintra National Palace

Our first visit was to the Sintra National Palace or Town Palace (Palacio da Vila) right in the village center.  This is one of the best preserved royal palaces in Portugal and was inhabited from the early 15th century until the late 19th century. It's now a Unesco World Heritage Site. 
Entry to the palace costs €9.00 for adults and seniors (over 65) and children (6 to 17) pay €7.50.

View of Sintra from one of the arches of the Palace. The Moorish castle can be seen atop the hill

The windows, arches, geometrical patterned tiles and interior courtyards show the Moorish links of the craftsmen who built and decorated the Palace. 

Queen Amelia, the consort of the last King of Portugal Carlos I, (assassinated in Lisbon in 1908) was very fond of the palace where they used to spend their holidays. When Portugal became a Republic in 1910, it became a national monument, and in 1940 it was restored to it's former splendour.

Top: Magpie room, King Sebastian's bedroom (16th century). Bottom: Jules Caesar room, and various items of furniture

The Walls & Ceilings

One of the first rooms we saw and the biggest room of the Palace, was the Swan Room. The 16th century ceiling is decorated in wood painted with 27 white swans, representing purity and fidelity and adorned by octogonal frames. The horseshoe shaped arches above the doors are adorned with green, grey and white tiles.

The Swan Room


The Magpie room is so named for the ceiling painted during the 15th century representing 136 magpies holding King John I motto "Por bem" (for good), and a rose on it's claws for the House of Lancaster to which his English wife Phillipa belonged. This was the room where foreign ambassadors and local dignitaries were received.

Ceiling of the Magpie room

The photo below shows the ceiling of the Mermaid room, the smallest division of the Palace, used as a "walk in robe". The ceiling bears the image of 4 mermaids playing musical instruments and in the middle a mermaid coming out of the sea.

The Galleon room's vaulted ceiling was decorated around the 17th century with vessels from the Portuguese, Dutch and Ottoman (Turkish) empire, who were the world's biggest maritime powers at the time.

The Galleon Room has lots of art hanging from it's wall 

Galleon room ceiling and Mermaid room ceiling

Painted in the 16th century, the Hall of Coats of Arms is the most impressive room of the Palace, with blue and white tiles covering all 4 walls depicting hunting scenes, and the golden octagonal cupola ceiling is painted with the coat of arms of 72 Portuguese noble families of the time. In the center is the Portuguese coat of arms and then the coats of arms King Manuel I 8 children (He actually had 13 children from 3 wives, so I presume those might be the children he had at the time the ceiling was designed). 
Just a look at this room makes the whole visit worthwhile!

Portuguese Coat of Arms and the one of the 8 children of King Manuel I

The Chapel, Kitchen & Gardens

The small rectangular chapel founded in the 14th century by King Diniz I, has it's walls painted with patterns and a wooden relief  geometric ceiling.

In the white kitchen those huge 33mt high chimneys dominate the huge room, with big wood fired ovens.  The chimneys are the Palace's most notable and iconic exterior feature.
In the huge dining room - The Manueline Hall,  a fabulous crystal chandelier dominates the room, and once again patterned tiles cover the bottom half of the room. This was the last area of the Palace to be built.

Manueline Hall

The Arab Room with a central fountain and lots of doors leading into it
Kitchen and Manueline Hall

The inner courtyard, was also tiled, and the palace had a nice garden with lots of herbs.
The beautiful windows, doors and tiles filled were just awesome.
Doors, windows, courtyard and gardens

Tiles (Azulejos)

King Manuel I decorated most rooms with multicoloured tiles specially made for him in Seville, Spain. These tile panels bear Islamic motifs lending an Arab feel to the rooms.

Pretty Arab tiles

As we sat relaxing in the garden for a while, my daughter researched some restaurants nearby and came up with a lovely one - Tascantiga - a tapas style restaurant, where we had lunch. The staff was friendly, the menu was great with lot's of choice, food was served quickly, so all in all this was a great find.
The restaurant is at the end of one of Sintra's uphill cobbled lanes, across the Palace - at Escadinhas da Fonte da Pipa 2. We ate inside, but there's also an outdoor area.
Even the toilets were quite "funny" and well decorated.

Tascantiga Restaurant
View of the Moorish Castle from the garden of the Town Castle and me and the Drs in front of the Castle

After lunch we strolled through the village, browsed some shops, while one of the Drs went to fetch their car parked at the Station. He picked us up in front of the Palace and then we drove to the romantic Pena Palace on the hill. But that will be a story for another day...

Hope you enjoyed the visit to the Sintra National Palace.

National Palace of Sintra - Visit map - learn more on
Map of the Palace - photo from map given to visitors when buying a ticket

Note: Apart from the 417 bus from Cascais to Sintra, you can also take the 403 bus departing from the same spot, but doing the scenic coastal route via Cabo da Roca, the western-most point of Continental Europe, it takes 1 hour).


  1. The first picture has something very special.
    Oh, and that love for detail - my favorite is the magpies.
    It´s all very, very beautiful and such a nice sight on this grey November day.

    1. You're right Iris, so much detail in everything, what masters those people were!
      I loved all the colourful tiles, in fact my whole trip I took photos of over 70 different old tile patterns.

  2. Replies
    1. Realmente Sintra é linda! Obrigada Francisco.

  3. I don't even know where to begin. It's all so overwhelming. I simply adored the statues before you even got to the palace. I was just SO impressed with all your photos. I was in awe, falling in love with the Swan Room, the tiles, the various arches, and the gardens. What a fabulous time you had with your doctor friends in Sintra. And thanks for taking me with you.

    1. Thanks for taking part in the journey too Elizabeth, the town of Sintra really is magical and romantic.

  4. De uma beleza absolutamente extraordinária.

    1. Obrigada Pedro, sim Sintra é belíssima! Bom fim de semana.

  5. The town of Sintra looks a wonderful place.
    I enjoyed seeing your photographs.

    All the best Jan

    1. Thanks Jan, I love Sintra, I find it very charming and the castles are magical.


I would love to hear from you, please leave a comment.