"The National Palace of Sintra" Portugal Things to Do Tip by traveldave

Portugal Things to Do: 760 reviews and 1,215 photos


Formerly called the Royal Palace, the National Palace of Sintra is one of the best-preserved royal palaces in Portugal. Its unique cone-shaped chimneys have come to symbolize Sintra, and can be seen on everything from T-shirts to azulejo tiles.

The palace was built on a site originally occupied by the residence of the Moorish rulers of the region. After King Alfonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, expelled the Moors in the twelfth century, he used the Moorish building as his residence.

Eventually all the Moorish buildings in Sintra were demolished. Much of today's palace was constructed during a building program initiated by King João in 1415. The parts of the building that surround the central courtyard date from this period, as do the Sala dos Árabes, a room with a marble fountain and fifteenth-century Moorish tiles; the Sala dos Cisnes, an enormous reception hall with swans painted on the ceiling; and the Sala das Pegas with magpies painted on the ceiling.

A second major building program ordered by King Manuel I occured between 1497 and 1530, and determined the final structure and decorations that can be seen in today's building. The decorative flourishes added at that time were in the Manueline style of architecture. In addition, the Manuel Wing and the the Sala dos Brasões, whose ceiling panels were painted in 1515 and show the coats of arms of 71 Portuguese noble families, were added to the palace.

Between the early fifteenth and late nineteenth centuries, the National Palace of Sintra was used by the Portuguese royal families as their summer retreat. The palace is now a museum open to the public, and a tour through the palace offers an interesting insight into the lifestyle of the former Portuguese monarchs.

Directions: The National Palace of Sintra is located on Largo Rainha Dona Amélia, in the center of Sintra.

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  • Updated Nov 21, 2010
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