About telve miles west of Lisbon lies Sintra, a town which has been home to the most affluent of Portuguese society for centuries. Nestled in a small mountain range named for the town, its elevation and accompanying milder temperatures had made it an ideal summer destination for kings and nobility looking to escape the sweltering capital. Indeed, there are three national palaces located in and around Sintra, along with numerous former quintas, or estates, of wealthy Portuguese of the past. Even today, over a century after the fall of the country’s monarchy, the municipality is the wealthiest in the country.
When I visited last fall, I underestimated just how much there is to see here, so much so that a ticket I bought to a local monastary went unused. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to see everything, I decided to focus on the couple sites that looked most appealing to me: the royal Pena Palace on the mountaintop overlooking the town, and, on the slopes below, the ruins of the old Moorish Castle. Let’s start with the palace, an architectural fever dream of the Romantic era.
A bit down the hillside from Pena palace were the Moorish ruins. Over a millenium old, most of what is left of the this old castle are its walls. The views from these ramparts, made all the more dramatic by the flatness of the surrounding terrain, are breath taking.
From these ruins, a trail led down toward town through the lushly forested hillside.
Urbex bonus! While on the mountain, I saw what looked like an abandoned palace just outside of town. A little looking around on Google maps and I had figured out how to get there. Unfortunately, it was across the street from another major tourist attraction, so the only even remotely discrete way to get in was by hopping over its wall which ran further along the street, then dropping ten feet down to the garden below. Luckily, that went smoothly and I found my way to house. Up close, it was hard to say wether it was a new home abandoned while still under construction or if it was a more vintage building abandoned mid-renovation, but the surrounding gardens pointed to the latter possibility as they looked like they had been finished and in use long before being abandoned to nature.