Cascais - Visit Sintra

Martin and Elizabeth Bevan
Tue 21 Sep 2010 21:00

Today was an outing to Sintra, a World Heritage Site and well worth a visit.  Public transport was the order of the day and we invested 2 x €10 for an all day bus ticket. A 40 minute bus trip through endless suburbs brought us to Sintra; not the best of starts but then the treat began.


Sintra contains one of the oldest Royal Residences in Portugal, our closest equivalent in the UK is Windsor.  This and the decision by the Royal Family to create a summer residence on the hillside above the town in the mid nineteenth century lead to an explosion of building of summer residences by the nobility and bourgeoisie.  Some of these are very grand and preserved whilst many are in a poor state.


Not being ardent tourists we limited our visits to two absolute gems, the Pena Palace and the Quinta da Regaleira, both of which we were able to get to using our bus pass.


Pena is described as the finest example of nineteenth century Portuguese Romanticism.  It was created using an earlier monastic building as the core for a family retreat to which were added some additional wings for more formal use.  The nearest equivalent that we have seen is Neue Schwanstein, King Ludwig’s Wagnerian folly in Bavaria.





A walk through the magnificent woodland gardens took us back to the bus route, back into the town and then out again to the Quinta da Regaleira.  This I hasten to add was Elizabeth’ suggestion, but if you read on you will see why she thought that it might be of interest to me.



The Quinta is an architectural confection bearing not some small similarity to the complex iconography of Roslyn Chapel and described as having symbols from the Templar Order and its successor in Portugal, the Order of Christ as well as references to enigmas of the alchemical.  The gardens contain numerous follies of great complexity including the “Initiatic Well” a subterranean tower that sinks some 27 metres into the earth made accessible by a monumental  spiral stairway from the top and underground passages from lower down the garden into the base. 


Tearing ourselves away another bus took us back into the town where we caught the return bus to Cascais; this time an alternative longer route but most interesting as it took us through the countryside via Cabo Roca, the most western point of the European mainland and round which we sailed some days ago..