The Capper Nomads Europe Adventure travel blog

Palace National

Swan ceiling

The chimneys

Magpie ceiling

Nautical ceiling

View across the valley

Sala das Brasoes

Coat of arms

Looking across at Sintra

The Palace again

The Moorish Castle

View 1

View 2

View 3

View 4

Storaghe holes

The Cistern in the Moorish Castle

Palace of Pena







View across to Moorish Castle


Painted by the King


Painted to look like marbel

The Ballroom




Final look

It was another nice day so we headed out to the small town of Sintra west of Lisbon. The location of our campground made it very easy to get on the motorways around Lisbon and out into the surrounding area.

Sintra was in its history the summer residence of the Moorish lords of Lisbon and later the Kings of Portugal. The small town sits around a series of green and wooded ravines. Although small the town had quite a lot of charm and its centre is dominated by the Palacio Nacional. This would be our first palace of the day. However before visiting the palace we walked to the other side of the ravine to get a photo of the palace with its very unusual conical chimneys.

It is believed that the palace was in existence at the time of the Moors. The palace seen today reflects the rebuilding work undertaken during the reign of Dom Joao I (1385-14330 and his successor Dom Manuel I. The most outstanding features of the palace were the painted ceilings and the Sala das Brasoes. The ceilings had swans, mermaids a nautical scene and one even had magpies. The tale goes that Joao was caught kissing a lady-in-waiting by the queen and so he decided to have one ceiling decorated with as many magpies as there were women at court to imply they were all magpie like gossips! The Sala das Brasoes was the most impressive room in the palace with its domed and coffered ceiling emblazoned with the arms of 72 noble families held by stags.

From Sintra we drove the narrow, steep and winding road to the palace and castle that sit high above the town. Our first stop was the spectacular Castelo dos Mouros or Moorish Castle. The castle sits high on a rocky outcrop and was built in the 10th century by Muslim Moors who occupied the Iberian Peninsula at that time. It acted as a control tower for the Atlantic coast and land to the north servings as an outpost for the city of Lisbon. The castle in 1147 was taken following the conquest of Lisbon by King Afonso Henriques, ending Moorish rule of the area. Until mid 19th century the castle fell into disrepair. In 1839 King Ferdinand II initiated a campaign to restore and renovate the castle so what is seen today is a mixture of both eras.

Because of its location and its impressive walls which we walked around the views of the surrounding area are outstanding. Well worth the climb up. Another impressive feature is the underground cistern holding a reservoir of water. There is no record of the water drying up and legend says there is a Moorish king buried underneath.

From the Moorish Castle we made our way to the Palacio da Pena or Pena Palace. Again this palace sits on a high rocky outcrop but was very different from the Moorish Castle. Walking up to the palace you think you have walked into Disneyland as you see the multi-coloured dome and turreted palace.

The site was originally a monastery until 1755 when it was badly damaged by the earthquake. On the extinction of religious orders in 1834 it was purchased in 1838 by Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha husband of Queen Mary II and a “new palace” was built incorporating the old monastery. The palace was lived in by the Royal family until 1910 when the royal family left Portugal on the abolition of the monarchy.

If the outside looks as if it should have been in Disneyland the inside was equally bizarre with rooms clearly decorated in very different styles.

We had seen two places and one castle each had been very different from the others. A very enjoyable day at Sintra.

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