sintra: palácio nacional de sintra

Friday, July 19:  After exploring the Castelo dos Mouros and the Palácio Nacional da Pena, I take the Scotturb bus back into Sintra-Vila.   Since I have so few opportunities to get pictures of myself on my holiday, I bought one of those pictures taken by a photographer at Palácio Nacional da Pena.  It’s an 8×11″ picture, and quite large to carry, so I decide I’ll return to Piela’s to drop off the picture, eat some lunch and maybe visit the Friday market that Manuel told me about this morning.

Right across from the train station is a little cafe with outdoor tables; there I order a codfish croquette and a shrimp & cheese croquette and sit outdoors to eat.  It’s still lovely weather in Sintra and I love being outdoors as much as possible.

After lunch, I walk down the pedestrian walk toward Piela’s and I come across a little market with these enticing figs. I buy four of them and take them back to my room.

Figs in a market in Sintra
Figs in a market in Sintra
Fresh strawberries
Fresh strawberries

By the time I get back to Piela’s, it’s close to 2:30, and Manuel tells me that the Friday market is over.  I’m disappointed that I missed it!  Oh well, what can be done?   I drop the picture in my room, eat a couple of my figs, and head back out to Sintra-Vila to see the Palácio Nacional de Sintra.  Below, you can see the two conical chimneys, one of which is ugly gray concrete.  I thought this was some kind of factory when I first arrived in Sintra.

It is the best preserved medieval Royal Palace in Portugal, having been inhabited more or less continuously at least from the early 15th up to the late 19th century. It is an important tourist attraction and is designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

According to Lonely Planet Portugal, the palace had Moorish origins; it later was expanded by Dom Dinis (1261-1325), enlarged by King John I in the 15th century (when the kitchens were built), then given a Manueline twist by Manuel I in the following century.

Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Palácio Nacional de Sintra

There are some interesting sculptures along the Alameda Volte do Duche on the way to Sintra-Vila.

sculpture on the
sculpture on the

Even though the Palácio Nacional de Sintra isn’t much to look at from the outside, because of renovations and scaffolding hugging the building, and because of those ugly chimneys, it’s lovely inside.  The interior is a mixture of Moorish and Manueline styles, with 15th- and 16th-century geometric azulejos that figure among Portugal’s oldest.

The earliest azulejos in the 15th century were imported from Seville by king Manuel I after a visit to that town in 1503. They were glazed in a single colour and decorated with geometric patterns. They were applied on walls and used for paving floors. The Portuguese adopted the Moorish tradition of horror vacui (‘fear of empty spaces’) and covered the walls completely with azulejos.

tiles in Palácio Nacional de Sintra
tiles in Palácio Nacional de Sintra

The octagonal Sala dos Cisnes (Swan Room) is adorned with frescoes of 27 gold-collared swans.

the Swan Room at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
the Swan Room at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
27 gold-collared swans in the Swan Room at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
27 gold-collared swans in the Swan Room at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
inside Palácio Nacional de Sintra
inside Palácio Nacional de Sintra

The Sala das Pegas (the Magpie Room) is painted with magpies on the ceiling. This relates to a story that the king John I was caught in the act of kissing a lady-in-waiting by his queen Philippa of Lancaster. To put a stop to all the gossip, he had the room decorated with as many magpies as there were women at the court.

the Magpie Room at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
the Magpie Room at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Tiles in Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Tiles in Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Bedroom in Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Bedroom in Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Tiles in Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Tiles in Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Tiles in Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Tiles in Palácio Nacional de Sintra

Another highlight of the Palace is the Galleon Room.

the Galleon Room at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
the Galleon Room at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Galleon Room at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Galleon Room at Palácio Nacional de Sintra

Blazon’s Hall is all ablaze with colorful tiles from the walls to the ceiling.

Blazons Hall at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Blazons Hall at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Blazons Hall at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Blazons Hall at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
ceiling in Blazons Hall at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
ceiling in Blazons Hall at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
azulejo tiles in Blazons Hall at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
azulejo tiles in Blazons Hall at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Blazons Hall at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Blazons Hall at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Blazons Hall at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Blazons Hall at Palácio Nacional de Sintra

The earliest surviving part of the castle is the Royal Chapel, possibly built during the reign of King Dinis I in the early 14th century.

the Palatine Chapel
the Palatine Chapel
tiles at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
tiles at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
tiles at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
tiles at Palácio Nacional de Sintra

Inside the huge kitchen, I can look up into the conical chimneys, but they don’t make for very interesting pictures.

kitchen at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
kitchen at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
kitchen at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
kitchen at Palácio Nacional de Sintra

King Manuel ordered the Manueline Hall’s construction.

Manueline Hall at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Manueline Hall at Palácio Nacional de Sintra

On the steps of the palace, I can see the pretty town of Sintra-Vila and the Castelo dos Mouros on the hill above.

Sintra-Vila from the Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Sintra-Vila from the Palácio Nacional de Sintra
fountain at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
fountain at Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Palácio Nacional de Sintra

After exploring the palace, walking around Sintra-Vila, stopping in the central square for a sparkling water and buying a couple of scarves at a little shop, I walk back up to Piela’s, where, once again, I admire the colorful manor houses.  At the Cafe, I sit with my computer and sip on a couple of beers while I chat on Skype with my friend Jayne in California and work on my blog.  Again, I love how people drop into the cafe, quickly down a beer at the glass pastry case, and then make a quick exit.

Manor houses in Sintra
Manor houses in Sintra
Manor houses in Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Manor houses in Palácio Nacional de Sintra

Manuel has recommended two restaurants in town that are frequented by locals.  He says they’re very good, have vegetarian options and are cheaper than the touristy places in Sintra-Vila.  I seek out one of his recommended places tonight for dinner: Culto da Tasca.  As I walk to the restaurant, a chilly wind cuts through my lightweight clothing to my bones. The sky is heavy with smudges of charcoal; it looks like a storm is brewing.  Inside the restaurant, it’s homey and warm, a welcome reprieve from the cold!   The place is brimming with lively Portuguese families.

Culto da Tasca
Culto da Tasca

I order cream with prawns, bacon & mushrooms, accompanied by rice and fries and a glass of wine.  Bread and olives are included, all for 11.20 euros.  This price for all that is unheard of in these parts!  And it is simply delicious.🙂

cream with prawns, bacon & mushrooms at Culto da Tasca
cream with prawns, bacon & mushrooms at Culto da Tasca

I return to Cafe Piela’s, where I hunker in for the night, while a cold wind blows outside my window.

16 thoughts on “sintra: palácio nacional de sintra

  1. I have just bought two figs -79p EACH!@£$$ and they don’t look half as good as those luscious morsels. I would like to eat them on the balcony of that crumbling manor house you photographed under the same blue sky and looking up at the castle wall.

    Can you tell that it’s raining here?

    1. That’s a lovely vision, mrs. carmichael. I assure you, I didn’t want to leave Sintra, and could have spent the rest of my life eating figs on the balcony of that manor house under crisp blue skies! 🙂

      It’s been raining or cloudy nearly every day since I returned to Virginia, so I’m in the same boat as you!

    1. Thanks so much, Gilly. As ridiculous as it sounds, I didn’t know much about Portugal before I went. That’s really unlike me, as I try to read a lot about a place before traveling there. I just ran out of time! I love the tiles too!🙂

  2. Gorgeous photos, and I am now kicking myself that we didn’t go into the National Palace. Those tiles are wonderful!

    As for figs, if you manage to get some more try them with a rocket salad, blue cheese and pomegranate dressing – the flavours go so well together!

  3. Such an unappealing building from the outside, Cath, but amazing inside. I love the swans ceiling and the azulejo panels are outstanding. The food looks good too🙂 A girl’s got to keep her strength up.
    Lots of rain? It arrived here this week with theatrical thunderstorms, which I rather like. Not sure that James will- he’s sleeping in a tent at a music festival.

    1. Well Jo, you know me and food. I love to eat on my travels, and when I find good food, it makes me really happy! The tiles inside the national palace were really amazing; I really loved how the Portuguese used tiles to the utmost. They made every facade so fascinating.

      Thunderstorms are dramatic and kind of fun, but if you’re sleeping in a tent, they’re decidedly not that! Poor James.🙂

  4. Sounds like a perfec day right down to the cream with prawns! I had almost forgotten how gorgeous the palace is on the inside Cathy. Your stunning images brought it all back.

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