Sintra Things to Do Tips by slothtraveller
Sintra Things to Do: 285 reviews and 559 photos
Entrance to Quinta da Regaleira
Just outside Sintra on a road leading up into the hills, there is a stunning house set in vast, well-kept grounds. This property is the Regaleira estate (or Quinta da Regaleira) and was one of the highlights of my time in Portugal.
The house is named after the Baroness da Regaleira who acquired it in 1840. In 1893, it was sold to an eccentric millionaire, Antonio Augusto de Carvalho Monteiro, whose vision shaped the house and grounds into what they are today. He enlisted the help of esteemed Italian architect Luigi Manini and some of Portugal's best artists to create a fairytale house with a garden full of mystery and surprises. The house and grounds were opened to the public on the 27th of June 1998 after the Municipality of Sintra acquired them.
The house and the adjacent chapel are interesting to explore but for me the best part of Quinta da Regaleira was the garden and the many unique follies that are dotted around it. The grounds feature grottoes, a waterfall, towers with great views over the Sintra area and many diverse varieties of trees. I loved walking down into the depths of the Initiatic Well which is some 27 metres deep and connects with other parts of the garden via some creepy underground walkways.
Entry costs 6 Euros for adults and the entrance fee is well worth it. I spent most of the day here exploring the house, chapel and grounds. I also ate at the restaurant at Quinta da Regaleira where the food and prices were good- the Pasteis da Nata were very nice! The service on the other hand was very poor in comparison. There are several toilets dotted around the grounds too so you don't have to worry about drinking a lot of water to stay hydrated in the summer heat!
I explored the grounds on my own using the fantastic map they provide you with, although there are guided tours also available. For me, half of the intrigue of the place was discovering what lay around each corner on my own.
Quinta da Regaleira is open between 10am and 8pm in high season with earlier closing times in low season months.
Check out my travelogues for some photos from my visit to Quinta da Regaleira!
Castelo dos Mouros
High up above Sintra perched on a rocky crag, you will find the ruins of a Moorish castle dating back to the 8th century. From the walls of the castle, known as Castelo dos Mouros in Portuguese, you can enjoy great views over Sintra and the surrounding area. You can even see the coast and the town of Cascais in the distance. One thing I noticed was how much cooler it was up on the castle walls compared to down in old Sintra. This is due to the castle being 1,378 feet above sea level.
Built during the Arab occupation, the castle has endured a tumultuous history. It was ceded to Afonso Henriques' forces following the conquest of Lisbon in 1147. In 1755, a massive earthquake struck the Lisbon area and the castle became unstable and a no-go zone. Fortunately, a grand conservation project under the orders of Ferdinand II in 1840 restored the castle to its former glory and additional reconstructions over the 19th and 20th centuries have made the castle a far visitor-friendly place.
As the castle is situated up in the hills, access is not easy and visitors with disabilities may struggle. I chose to take the bus to the castle ticket booth and it is still a relatively steep climb on a dirt track to reach the castle entrance from there. I'm really glad that I took the time to visit the castle though as the views are amazing and being able to walk the medieval walls was a fantastic experience.
Entry to the Castelo dos Mouros costs 5 Euros. Buy your ticket at the roadside ticket office and make the final ascent via a twisty path to the castle entrance. You can also buy a joint ticket for the castle and the Pena Palace, but I decided just to go to the castle.
Directions: Accessible via a steep walk from Sintra or a tourist bus route.
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