Back to Sintra the following day to see some more of its beauty and another beautiful day it was. We decided to start at the Castelo dos Mouros on the top of the hill, overlooking the township of Sintra. It dates back to the 9th century when the Moors built it containing two walled sections with a total perimeter of about 450 metres.
It is surrounded by beautiful parkland on one side and a sheer drop on the other. Its place on top of the hillside overlooking Sintra with it’s turrets, ramparts and towers really accentuates the romantic character of this place, particularly when enshrouded in rolling fog and mist.
There’s nothing much to do here but just wander the perimeter, climb and explore the towers and turrets and admire the breathtaking views. You can see all the way out to the Atlantic on a clear day.
After some lunch we headed to Parque de Pena, where you can find the Palácio Nacional de Pena, a completely over-the-top Romanticist palace crossed with a little bit of Disney. If I had to choose, this was probably my favourite place. It’s pure fantasy!
Upon arrival at the park gates, there is quite a hike, but well worth it, up to the palace through the beautiful woods or you can take a little carriage bus up there if you’re feeling lazy. The palace is situated 450 metres above sea level and is perched high above Sintra.
It was built in the 1840’s by German architect Baron Wilhelm Eschwege for King Ferdinand and Queen Maria II. It became the summer residence for the Portuguese royal family and the last family member to live here was Queen Amélia in 1910 before leaving the country in exile. During the 1910 republic revolution, the monarchy was deposed by a military coup and the monarchy was never restored again in Portugal. The palace was purchased by the State in 1889 and after the republic revolution it was classified a national monument and turned in to a museum.
The palace is a crazy fusion of styles, a mixture of eclectic Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Gothic and Islamic influences. King Ferdinand had exotic taste and probably would have been described as flamboyant but he wanted an extravagant love nest for him and his Queen.
Almost the entire palace is built upon rock. There are drawbridges, studded archways, a clock tower, turrets, terraces, chapels, circular towers and rainbow coloured outer walls. The palace is built within 200 hectares of the most wonderful and enchanting forest. King Ferdinand ordered trees to be planted from many distant places like China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and North America. A labyrinth of paths leads to many beautiful locations throughout the park. Again, we found the park the highlight of the visit. One path took us to a huge crucifix high up on a hill.
From here we got the most breathtaking views back to the palace.
The rest of the afternoon was spent strolling through the forest, getting lost, exploring the many flower gardens, discovering hidden gazebos and fountains and photographing the beautiful flora and fauna.
And we also thought it would be a really great place to film a movie. So here are our first few attempts…..okay, so we thought it was funny. Apologies in advance….clearly too much time on our hands.