It sits in the heart of Sintra’s old town. It’s well beneath the hill with the Moorish Castle, but it still manages to be out on a point, overlooking the surrounding countryside and the new section of Sintra. And it’s two large conical spires can be seen from miles around–even from the Moorish Castle towering above.
But in an indication of how castle-rich this area is, I’d rank it as only the third-most impressive castle within a mile radius.
The site was once occupied by the Moorish rulers, with various governor’s residences and palaces occupying the site at least back to the 8th century.
After the Portuguese reconquered Portugal and drove the Moors out, in 1385 King João I (John I) ordered that the palace be rebuilt.
In the centuries following, bits and pieces were added. A particularly active period came in the late 15th and early 16th centuries when Manuel I added to the building extensively by taking cues from Moorish style. The result is something of a hodgepodge. There are interesting and impressive sections, but they never feel as though they’re part of a cohesive whole. Until the 1880s it served as an active royal residence and a favorite summer retreat, but it’s not what I’d call homely.
Oh, and those massive white cones? They’re not decorative or symbolic design elements—they’re chimneys for the massive kitchen underneath and were added in the 15th century.
Photos of the Palace of Sintra
I have more photos of the Palácio Nacional de Sintra here.
What to Know Before You Go
The Palace of Sintra sits right in the heart of the old section of Sintra and is right next to the bus stop for the route up to the Moorish Castle and Pena Castle.
Like everything else in Sintra, it can be swamped during tourist season. But I’d recommend starting with the Moorish Castle and Pena Castle and then circle back to the Palace of Sintra. It’s worth seeing, but in my humble opinion it isn’t as impressive as the other two.
Travel Advice for Portugal
You can find the latest U.S. Department of State travel advisories and information for Portugal (such as entry visa requirements and vaccination requirements) here.
Health & Vaccinations
The CDC makes country-specific recommendations for vaccinations and health for travelers. You can find their latest information for Portugal here.