The mansions and castles that dust the region beautifully complement the lush landscape of Sintra. An ancient city once settled by the Celts, and a meeting place for the nation’s elite through the early 1900s, this town today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site — the result of its stunning Romantic architecture. Among the most popular and beautiful examples of this are the Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors), Pena Palace, and the National Palace.
National Palace Tour
In the eye of the city, surrounded by verdant hills, lies the Castle of the Moors, a defensive stronghold that dates back as far as the 8th century. Around 1147 its Moorish inhabitants surrendered to Christian forces, and the king, Afonso Henriques, allowed them to remain there. Over time the local Jewish community also settled here, and so today the castle bears the marks of its multicultural residents. Nearby is the National Palace, with its beautiful courtyards. Built in the Middle Ages, the National Palace is the most well-preserved medieval castle in Portugal and was inhabited from the 15th–19th centuries. The interior of the palace is decorated with brightly painted murals and Moorish azulejos, or glazed ceramic tiles. One notable example is the Sala dos Brasões (Coat of Arms Room), whose ceiling is decorated with 72 Portuguese royal coats of arms. In another hall, the Sala dos Árabes (Arab Room), the azulejos are painted with geometric shapes in a pattern that creates an optical illusion of diagonally-stacked blocks.
When you’re off the palace grounds, stroll the streets of Sintra, taking time to view some of the majestic manor homes. Have some lunch at an outdoor café, explore some of the shops for souvenirs, and soak in the bustle of this historic town. Famous for its wine, Sintra boasts a tempting array of spirits that will perfectly cap any busy afternoon.
Sintra is a charming, timeless locale that seamlessly encapsulates both a fascinating history and a modern present. You can tour the town and visit the National Palace on Vantage Travel’s Portugal & the Duoro River Wine Country journey. Take some time to explore what the town has to offer. By the time you step back onto your cruise ship, Sintra’s combination of worlds is sure to have refreshed your mind and sated your wanderlust.