National Palace Of Sintra: Best Tips For Visiting In 2023

The National Palace of Sintra is the most important palace in Portugal, as it was the permanent (or temporary) residence of almost all the country’s kings and queens. On top of that, it’s the oldest Portuguese palace of all, with over a thousand years of history and origins dating back to the Arab occupation of this region!

In addition to dozens of magnificent halls, corridors, and rooms, the National Palace of Sintra is made up of numerous outdoor patios, covered galleries, and lush gardens. And brace yourself: this guide is the longest and most complete I’ve ever published on my cultural travel blog!

So, do you want to know more about the National Palace Of Sintra: Best Tips For Visiting In 2023? Keep reading!

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National Palace of Sintra
National Palace of Sintra

Brief History of the National Palace of Sintra

Like the Moorish Castle, the National Palace of Sintra was founded by the Muslims (around the 10th century) and conquered by King Afonso Henriques, in 1147. However, the first intervention works only began in the 1280s, under the orders of King Dinis (1279-1325).

The National Palace of Sintra, as we know it today, is still the result of reforms promoted by three other Portuguese monarchs: King João I (1385-1433), King Manuel I (1495-1521), and King João III ( 1521-1557). Therefore, the fusion of various architectural styles is clearly visible: Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Renaissance, etc.

Another fascinating feature of this former royal palace is the presence of the Mudejar style throughout its decoration. Here, the coverings of Hispano-Moorish tile panels stand out. This mixture of influences, materials, and elements of Christian art with the (already existing) Islamic art gave rise to a unique monument in Portugal!

Not everyone knows, but the National Palace of Sintra is known as the “Palace of the Queens of Portugal”. This is because King Dinis created a kind of “tradition” of offering the management of the town of Sintra (among other lands, such as Óbidos) to the queens, as a marriage dowry!

After Queen Saint Elizabeth (his wife), the Royal Palace of Sintra was administered by dozens of Portuguese queens, such as Queen Philippa of Lancaster (wife of King João I), Queen Catherine of Austria (wife of King João III), or Queen Maria Pia of Savoy (wife of King Luís), already at the beginning of the 20th century.

With the Implantation of the Republic of Portugal in 1910, the Palace of Sintra lost its function as a royal residence and was declared a National Monument, adopting its current name. At the end of the 1930s, the National Palace of Sintra finally opened to the public and, since then, it has been the target of several campaigns for heritage recovery.

World Heritage

Did you know that the National Palace of Sintra was part of Portugal’s fourth set of inscriptions on the UNESCO World Heritage List? This 19th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in Berlin (Germany), between December 4th and 9th, 1995.

However, the Cultural Landscape of Sintra includes many other UNESCO World Heritage Sites besides the National Palace of Sintra, such as the Chalet of the Countess of Edla, the Convent of the Capuchos, the Moorish Castle, the National Palace of Pena, the Palace of Monserrate, the Quinta da Regaleira, and the Villa Sassetti, among others.

Nowadays, Portugal is the ninth country in Europe and the eighteenth country in the world with the most UNESCO sites, tied with Poland. It has seventeen heritage assets (both cultural and natural) inscribed on the world list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

In the meantime, I’ve already had the opportunity to visit fourteen of them:

How to Get to the National Palace of Sintra

The National Palace of Sintra is the easiest monument to visit in Sintra, in terms of access. This is because it’s 2 minutes on foot from the Tourist Office (ie, 120 meters away). Therefore, you can perfectly save a few €€€ on car parks and/or public transportation!

The three times I visited Sintra, I traveled by car – although I always chose to leave it in a free car park (at the entrance to the town) and opt for the bus. This is something I highly recommend, especially during peak season. Not only is it difficult to find a space outside each palace, but the parking lot itself is quite expensive.

TIP: If you’re in Lisbon and want to travel by public transportation to Sintra, you can check the train timetables on the CP – Comboios de Portugal website.

Opening Hours & Ticket Prices

The Gardens and National Palace of Sintra are open every day, from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm, with the last entry being at 6:00 pm (the closing time of the ticket office).

As for tickets, they cost €10 (from 18 to 64 years old) or €8.5 (from 6 to 17 years old, and for over 65s), and provide access to both the Palace and the Gardens. There’s also a family ticket (for two adults and two children) for €33. And if you prefer to visit only the Gardens of the National Palace of Sintra, you can do it for free!

TIP: If you already know the day and time you want to visit the National Palace of Sintra (and/or if you want to visit more than one monument in Sintra), I recommend that you buy the entrances through the Parques de Sintra online ticket office. This way, you have access to an automatic 5% discount!

What to See at the National Palace of Sintra

National Palace of Sintra

Remember when I told you in the introduction that this article was the biggest and most detailed I’ve ever written? Well, one of the main reasons is the fact that the National Palace of Sintra has more than three dozen spaces to visit. And I’m just talking about the interior spaces! These are the halls, rooms, offices, chambers, and apartments that you can discover in this guide:

  • Palace Guard Room (or Entrance Hall)
  • Swans Hall (or Large Hall)
  • Magpies Room
  • Gold Chamber (or King Sebastião’s Room)
  • Wardrobe (or Mermaid Room)
  • Julius Caesar Room
  • Crown Room
  • Galley Hall (or Palatine Gallery)
  • Chambers of the Palace of King João III
  • Heraldic Hall
  • Chamber of King Afonso VI (or Prison Room of King Afonso VI)
  • Chinese Room (or Pagoda Room)
  • Crockery Room
  • Palatine Chapel (or Royal Chapel)
  • Arab Room
  • Guests’ Room (or State Bed Room)
  • Kitchen
  • Manueline Hall
  • Apartments of Queen Maria Pia – Bedroom, Covered Balcony, Dressing Room & Toilet Room, Sitting Room, Bathroom, and Wardrobe

Palace Guard Room (or Entrance Hall)

Once an open-air space, the Palace Guard Room (or Entrance Room) is the first room you’ll visit in the National Palace of Sintra, after passing through the Loggia and a Corridor (both on the ground floor), and climbing the monumental spiral Stairs, which leads you to the noble floor. And, as you can tell from the name, it was a room guarded by “halberdiers” – ceremonial guards armed with “glaives” (a kind of halberd, widely used at this time).

The Palace Guard Room was a place of passage and communication with two royal palaces: the one built by King João I (at the beginning of the 15th century) and the one that was erected by King Manuel I (at the beginning of the 16th century). Currently, the Palace of King João I (on the left) is the first of the visit, while the Palace of King Manuel I (on the right) is the last.

Swans Hall (or Large Hall)

The Swans Hall was the Noble Hall of the National Palace of Sintra, more precisely the Palace of King João I and Queen Philippa of Lancaster.

It takes its name from the ceiling wood panels, which date from the late 14th century and depict dozens of white swans (a symbol used by Henry IV, the then King of England and brother to the queen).

Here, all kinds of royal banquets, religious parties, musical soirees, and public receptions were held. In the reign of King Manuel I, the Large Hall was called the Princes Hall.

Like many other rooms in the palace, the Swans Hall was greatly affected by the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. However, the damaged structures were rebuilt in the following years.

Magpies Room

The Magpies Room also received its name because of the painting on the ceiling. In fact, in the reign of King Duarte (1433-1438), the successor of King João I and Queen Philippa of Lancaster, it was already nicknamed the Magpies Chamber!

In this case, they are representations of more than 130 magpies, which hold the inscription “for good” (the motto of King João I) and a rose (symbol of the House of Lancaster).

Although the Magpies Room was used as a second banquet room in the 19th century, it’s known that it had served as a royal audience room until then. For this reason, it was equipped with a wide dais (or rug), a canopy, and a throne, which have since disappeared.

Gold Chamber (or King Sebastião’s Room)

The Gold Chamber was the third room in the Palace of King João I and Queen Philippa of Lancaster and a place where the king or queen could receive more distinguished guests. It’s known that during the 15th and 16th centuries it was covered in gold (hence the name), but there’s no longer any trace of this ostensible coating.

The presence of a bed in this space suggests that the monarchs also used the Gold Chamber to stay overnight, as King Sebastião did during his reign (1557-1578). In the 19th century, the bedroom was converted into a dining room – although the current decor seeks to recover its original function.

Wardrobe (or Mermaid Room)

The Wardrobe room is better known as Mermaid Room, due to the marine decoration that makes up the ceiling. Located at the back of the Gold Chamber, it was accessed almost exclusively by the servants of the Portuguese Royal Family.

At the beginning of the 15th century, the clothes and other personal belongings of King João I and Queen Philippa of Lancaster (such as jewelry, shoes, silverware, etc.) were not kept in closets or wardrobes, but rather in large wooden chests.

In fact, this Wardrobe contrasts greatly with another Wardrobe in the National Palace of Sintra, which is part of the Apartments of Queen Maria Pia. The latter, used between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, is made up of wall-mounted cabinets!

Julius Caesar Room

The Julius Caesar Room results from the union between three divisions, a union that may have taken place in the 18th century. Due to their small size and direct access to the Wardrobe, it’s thought that these three rooms gave support to the Mermaids Room itself.

In the 19th century and with the creation of spaces entirely dedicated to personal hygiene in another part of the National Palace of Sintra, the Julius Caesar Room was reused as a space for preparing meals – which were then served in the Gold Chamber or Magpies Room.

Finally, its name comes from the tapestry of Julius Caesar, a magnificent Flemish tapestry dating from the 16th century and which depicts an episode in the life of the famous Roman emperor.

Crown Room

At first glance, the Crown Room seems like an eloquent place, because of its name. However, the designation is a mere allusion to the royal coat of arms painted on the ceiling (dating from the end of the 18th century) and not exactly to its “paramount” function in the National Palace of Sintra.

The Crown Room is also one of the best spaces to observe the mastery of Mudejar art. The Hispano-Moorish tile panels that cover the lower part of the walls are almost mesmerizing, with their geometric shapes, vivid colors, and relief details!

Did you know that the Galley Hall of the National Palace of Sintra is the oldest palatine gallery in Portugal? The news came only in January 2022, after two years of investigative work!

The Galley Hall marks the beginning of the visit to the Palace of King João III and has always been seen as the Noble Hall (or Large Hall) of this palace. However, this recent discovery made it an unprecedented space in the country and only compared to other great palatine galleries in Europe, such as the Gallerie degli Uffizi (in Florence, Italy) or the Galerie François Ier (in the Palace of Fontainebleau, in France).

The Galley Hall has several galleys painted on the ceiling (hence the name), which bear not only the flag of Portugal but also that of the Netherlands and the Ottoman Empire. Unfortunately, they were covered up in the 19th century, when the gallery was divided into small compartments to serve as the rooms of Infante Afonso (brother of King Carlos).

Chambers of the Palace of King João III

As it happens with the Swans Hall and the other halls, chambers, and rooms of the Palace of King João I, the Galley Hall is succeeded by a set of divisions, currently called the Chambers of the Palace of King João III.

If, on the one hand, all members of the Court and other guests had access to the Swans Hall (in the 15th century) and the Galley Hall (in the 16th century), the same didn’t happen with these chambers.

With more restricted access, the seven Chambers of the Palace of King João III are distributed over two floors – although not all of them can be visited. Access to the upper floor was previously made through the corridor that leads to the Heraldic Hall and afterward, through a spiral staircase built in the 18th century.

Heraldic Hall

The Heraldic Hall is, at the same time, the most impressive hall in Portuguese royal palaces and the most important heraldic hall in European royal palaces. Occupying the entire noble floor of the square tower, the Heraldic Hall is the perfect example of the power, influence, and wealth of King Manuel I.

Built by the monarch in the late 1510s, the Heraldic Hall is iconic because of its octagonal dome. In it, his royal arms are represented, surrounded by the coats of arms of his eight descendants. On a lower level, you can see the coats of arms of 72 noble families of Portugal. As for the walls, they were covered with tile panels in the 18th century, depicting hunting and countryside scenes.

Chamber of King Afonso VI (or Prison Room of King Afonso VI)

This area of the National Palace of Sintra is the oldest of all, as it dates back to the reign of King Dinis and Queen Elizabeth of Aragon (1279-1325). And the ceramic floor, dating from the 1430s-1440s, is a masterpiece for its nearly 600 years!

When Queen Saint Elizabeth and her first successors received the management of the town of Sintra, it was here that they installed their quarters. This is because these chambers were the furthest away from the large public rooms and, consequently, the most protected areas of the palace.

However, everything changed in 1674, when this chamber became the bedroom (or rather, the prison) of King Afonso VI! Apparently, the Portuguese king was imprisoned in this room for nine years, after being removed from power by his own brother!

Chinese Room (or Pagoda Room)

The Chinese Room is popularly called the Pagoda Room, because of the large Chinese pagoda that adorns the space.

Carved in ivory and bone, this piece belonged to the personal collection of Queen Carlota Joaquina of Spain (wife of King João VI) and arrived at the National Palace of Sintra in 1850.

As far as is known, several European royal houses received works of this kind during the 19th century, offered by China.

The Chinese Room was part of the Palace of King Dinis and Queen Saint Elizabeth. And due to its dimensions, it’s likely that it corresponded to the Noble Hall (or Large Hall), similar to the Swans Hall and the Galley Hall.

Crockery Room

The Crockery Room is a very enigmatic space, whose initial function is unknown. Its construction seems to date back to the 15th century, but it’s impossible to precise whether this was an audience room, a sleeping chamber, or even a simple storage place.

But it’s certain that, at the beginning of the 20th century, Queen Maria Pia of Savoy transformed it into what we know today: a room destined to store all the crockery used at the table by the Royal Family. The cabinets you see in the photo are still the originals and the dinner sets themselves include the queen’s monogram!

Palatine Chapel (or Royal Chapel)

The Palatine Chapel (or Royal Chapel) was founded at the beginning of the 14th century, under the orders of King Dinis. However, it underwent major changes in the reign of King Afonso V (1438-1481).

Here, it’s worth noting the wooden ceiling, with geometric shapes that look like a starry sky! Due to its age and state of conservation, the ceiling of this Royal Chapel is considered one of the best examples of Mudejar carpentry.

In the first reign after the completion of the Palatine Chapel, the king attended mass in the main chapel, hidden by a curtain. In the 17th century, a superior tribune was added, which allowed King Afonso VI (the prisoner-king) to participate in religious ceremonies without leaving his chambers.

Arab Room

The Arab Room belongs to the central nucleus of the National Palace of Sintra. Unfortunately, this was one of the areas most affected by the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. For example, the Arab Room was part of a square tower, whose upper floor completely collapsed.

With so much destruction, it’s not possible to understand what the exact function of this room was. Some historians argue that it was an antechamber to the next room, while others suggest that it was the bedroom of King João I.

In any case, the Arab Room had direct access to the Central Courtyard, via a spiral staircase. The small exotic fountain and the Mudejar tile covering that give it its name were installed in the reign of King Manuel I.

Guests’ Room (or State Bed Room)

The large piece of furniture you see in the photograph is a four-poster bed from the 17th century, carved in blackwood from Mozambique and silver. So far, this is the only example of a “state bed” in Portugal and, of course, the first to be presented to the public!

The State Bed Room is nicknamed the Guests’ Room, but the truth is that no one knows how the space was used before the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755.

According to historical records, this chamber was surmounted by a terrace, which communicated with the upper floor of the Arab Room (the so-called square tower). But the natural catastrophe destroyed both of them, erasing the evidence of their first functions!

Kitchen

The Kitchen of the National Palace of Sintra is the largest and tallest kitchen I’ve ever visited, with its two 33 meters high conical chimneys! A true symbol of Sintra, the Kitchen was built by King João I with these monumental dimensions, as it was intended to serve not only the various members of the Portuguese Royal Family but also the hundreds of people from the Court!

Sintra has always been a destination highly esteemed by the monarchs of Portugal, both for its strategic location (in relation to Lisbon and the Atlantic Ocean) and for the wealth of its wild fauna. As the kings (and some queens) were great fans of hunting, the Kitchen of the National Palace of Sintra was often used to prepare large banquets with the animals caught in these royal huntings.

Manueline Hall

The Manueline Hall was the Noble Hall of the Palace of King Manuel I and, therefore, the fourth Large Hall of the National Palace of Sintra (after the Swans Hall, the Galley Hall, and the Chinese Room). In the second half of the 19th century, it was divided into three small compartments with the help of partitions, in order to house King King Luís’s chambers.

During the dictatorial regime of the Estado Novo (1933-1974), the Manueline Hall was converted into a true space for nationalist propaganda. Just to illustrate, the wooden ceiling was painted with portraits of figures and episodes from the Portuguese Discoveries of the 15th and 16th centuries, with the aim of praising Portugal’s role in the globalization process!

Apartments of Queen Maria Pia

Did you know that Queen Maria Pia of Savoy was the last queen of Portugal to inhabit the National Palace of Sintra? Like her husband (King Luís), Queen Maria Pia decided to establish her chambers in the former Palace of King Manuel I, more precisely in the east wing:

  • Bedroom
  • Covered Gallery
  • Dressing Room & Toilet Room
  • Sitting Room
  • Passage
  • Bathroom
  • Wardrobe
Bedroom

This Bedroom was initially designed for King Pedro V and his future wife, Queen Stephanie of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (the predecessors of King Luís and Queen Maria Pia of Savoy).

The works took place between 1857 and 1858 and, from that time, it’s still possible to admire two decorative elements on the ceiling: the shield with the Portuguese royal crown and the couple’s monogram (“PS”, that is, “Pedro & Stephanie”).

It’s also important to mention that this Bedroom (and the other spaces that make up the Apartments of Queen Maria Pia of Savoy) only opened to the public very recently, after decades of intervention and restoration work!

Covered Balcony

Although the Covered Balcony is an exterior space of the National Palace of Sintra (and I saved all the patios, courtyards, and gardens for last), I decided to include it here, as it’s part of the Apartments of Queen Maria Pia of Savoy.

During his reign, King Manuel I already used this balcony as a place for socializing, recreation, and rest. But its Portuguese name “Galeria de Cor” (ie, Color Gallery) only appeared more than three centuries later, when Queen Maria Pia decided to close the balcony with colored glass windows.

In my opinion, this is the spot of the National Palace of Sintra that has the best views of the historic center and the imposing Moorish Castle. And taking advantage of the arcades, you can even take pictures with different framing, as I did!

Dressing Room & Toilet Room

When the Apartments of Queen Maria Pia opened to the public, they were transformed into a small museum of decorative arts, where around one hundred pieces of furniture, paintings, and other household objects are on display. Some of these decorative art pieces were part of the original collection of the National Palace of Sintra, while the rest came from other national and international palaces.

Several of these furniture and utensils are displayed in this Dressing Room, the room where Queen Maria Pia of Savoy got dressed, combed, did her makeup, and applied perfume. Rococo-inspired, they are very elegant decorative pieces and reinforce the fact that this space was exclusively feminine.

As for the Toilet Room, it’s very narrow and consists only of a latrine and a bidet, made of ceramic and built into a piece of wooden furniture. In addition to the door that separated it from the Dressing Room, the Toilet Room stands out for its carpeted floor. Apparently, the floor of the Apartments of Queen Maria Pia of Savoy was completely covered with carpet, but only this small piece has survived to this day!

Sitting Room

Queen Maria Pia of Savoy used this Sitting Room to work, exchange correspondence, rest, or receive visits from her closest circle of friends and family. It’s also known that it was the queen herself who designated the arrangement of the furniture and other household objects, as well as the decoration of the walls, floors, and windows.

One of the most fascinating elements of this Sitting Room is the fireplace, made of lioz stone. This type of limestone, very prosperous in the Lisbon region (including Sintra and Mafra), was the raw material for numerous palaces, churches, pillories, fountains, and other Portuguese monuments, such as the Jerónimos Monastery, the Tower of Belém, the Convent of Mafra, or Rossio Railway Station!

Bathroom

Did you know that the Bathroom of the National Palace of Sintra was considered quite modern for that time (that is, between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century)? In addition to Queen Maria Pia’s Toilet Room and Dressing Room – it’s assumed that King Luís also had his own dressing room – this former royal residence had a fully functional bathroom.

Here, there were several types of bathtubs and washbasins, with different taps for cold and hot water. The size and height of the bathtub (or basin) depended on the type of bath the queen desired that day: full bath, feet, intimate parts… Finally, notice the curious detail of the colored glass that makes up the window. I think it lets you imagine what the Covered Balcony would be like at that time!

Wardrobe

Remember the first Wardrobe that I described at the beginning of this guide? The one that had belonged to King João I and Queen Philippa of Lancaster? And that was different from this one because the clothes were kept in chests and not in closets?

Well, here comes the second Wardrobe of the National Palace of Sintra and the last stop of this itinerary through the interior of the monument!

The wardrobe of Queen Maria Pia of Savoy was a relatively modest chamber in terms of size, but whose space was very well used. With the exception of the entrance door and the window, all walls are covered by wooden cabinets, where the queen’s garments and white clothes (towels and sheets) were stored.

Gardens, Patios & Courtyards

Unlike other palaces and mansions in Sintra (such as the Palace of Monserrate, National Palace of Pena, Chalet of the Countess of Edla, Quinta da Regaleira, Villa Sassetti, or even the National Palace of Queluz), the National Palace of Sintra doesn’t have large parks or gardens. The real reason isn’t known, but it may be related to the lack of space or the proximity to the Sintra Mountains – which is, in itself, a natural paradise!

Even so, the dozens of kings and queens who lived here for almost eight centuries always sought to build outdoor nooks, where they could walk, socialize, and relax. And these are the gardens, kitchen gardens, galleries, patios, and courtyards that you can discover in this guide:

  • Audience Patio
  • Central Courtyard
  • Diana’s Courtyard
  • Prince’s Garden
  • Tanquinhos Patio
  • Water Grotto
  • Lion’s Patio
  • Kitchen Garden
  • Araucaria Garden
  • Preta Garden

Audience Patio

The Audience Patio is located between the Swans Hall and the Magpies Room. Built at the beginning of the 15th century, it was frequented by King João I for his meetings and audiences (hence the name).

The two columns that support the porch are a clear example of the Renaissance style. However, this is just another space in the National Palace of Sintra where the so-called “Christian art” merges with “Islamic art”. An example of the latter is the bench, made of Spanish-Moorish tiles.

Interestingly, the Audience Patio was covered sometime in its period of existence and this didn’t change until the Implantation of the Republic of Portugal in 1910 (when the palace was classified as a National Monument)!

Central Courtyard

The Central Courtyard is, in my humble opinion, the most beautiful and photogenic courtyard in the National Palace of Sintra. Due to its central position in the palatine complex, it was constantly used as a kind of “shortcut” by King João I and Queen Philippa of Lancaster. This way, the monarchs didn’t have to go through all the halls, chambers, and bedrooms to get where they wanted.

Among the various decorative elements that make up the space, I have to highlight the twisted column (also called the Solomonic column), very characteristic of Baroque architecture. Installed at the end of the 16th century, it served as a water jet and was supplied by the fountain that appears in the second photograph.

Diana’s Courtyard

Following is Diana’s Courtyard, which received this designation due to the sculptural figure that adorns the fountain. This is Diana, the goddess of the moon, hunting, and the countryside in Roman mythology. Called Artemis in Greek mythology, you can easily recognize her by the bag of arrows she carries on her back.

Diana’s Courtyard linked the Crown Room to the Galley Hall – the latter, built on a higher level. Therefore, it integrates the Palace of King João III. The relief tiles that cover the walls allude to the harvest, depicting vine leaves, branches, and bunches of grapes.

Prince’s Garden

The Prince’s Garden s the largest garden in the National Palace of Sintra and the one that most resembles a formal garden, with its boxwood hedges forming geometric patterns. You can visit it right after passing through the Galley Hall and before entering the Chambers of the Palace of King João III.

If you’re wondering why this photogenic place is called “Prince’s Garden”, the answer is quite easy. In the 19th century, the apartments of the future King Pedro V (son of Queen Maria II and King Ferdinand II, the founder of the National Palace of Pena and the Chalet of the Countess of Edla) had straight access to this garden!

Tanquinhos Patio

At the back of the Prince’s Garden, is located the Tanquinhos Patio (ie, Patio of the Small Water Tanks), a large and quiet terrace, but without any type of vegetation. It was designed at the beginning of the 16th century – during the reign of King Manuel I – together with the large square tower you see in the photo. By the way, this tower is the one that houses the Heraldic Hall!

The Manueline windows carved into the stone wall offered the king unobstructed views of the Atlantic Ocean. And nowadays, they are also the ideal viewpoint, to admire the Quinta da Regaleira! The flowerbeds, benches, and “small water tanks” that give it its name were only created almost two centuries later.

Water Grotto

Although the Water Grotto is part of the Central Courtyard, you can only see it after passing through the Apartments of Queen Maria Pia, due to the way the visitor’s itinerary is currently traced. Now, the Water Grotto is what is usually called a “fresh pavilion”: a small building installed outside, which served as a “refreshing shelter” in the hottest hours.

It’s believed that this hiding place was built together with the Central Courtyard, between the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century. However, its rich decoration with tiles and stucco dates back to the 18th century. The panels lining the walls recreate bucolic scenes, while the ceiling reliefs address mythological themes.

Lion’s Patio

Did you know that the National Palace of Sintra is served by a water supply network, which comes directly from springs in the heart of the Sintra Mountains and is almost as old as the palace itself? This hydraulic system not only supplied water for consumption and irrigation but also reached numerous decorative fountains!

Dating back to the 16th century, Lion’s Patio is just another fantastic place to admire this ingenious water supply network! On one side, you have a small fountain, decorated with Hispano-Moorish tiles. And on the other, a long water mirror, whose spout is shaped like a lion’s head (hence the name).

Kitchen Garden

Like any other great royal or imperial palace, the National Palace of Sintra has a Kitchen Garden (or Vegetable Garden), in order to reinforce its self-sustainability. This Kitchen Garden is located between Lion’s Patio and the Araucaria Garden, but can also be seen from the Galley Hall, on the upper floor (as you can see from the second photo).

Here, the main vegetables that accompanied the meals of the Royal Family were planted, as well as fruit trees and vines. Interestingly, an archaeological excavation was carried out at this site, which led to the discovery of fragments of columns painted with Moorish motifs, from the time of King Manuel I (ie, the beginning of the 16th century)!

Araucaria Garden

As we approach the end of this virtual tour of the National Palace of Sintra, it’s important to remember that these last gardens in my guide can be visited for free! For that, you just have to inform the ticket office that you don’t intend to visit the palace and they’ll take you to the entrance through the Preta Garden (which corresponds to the exit for those who visit the entire monument).

But before the Preta Garden, you can stroll through the Araucaria Garden, another magnificent formal garden with boxwood hedges and panoramic views of the historic center of Sintra and the Moorish Castle. It’s so interesting to see how the gardens of the National Palace of Sintra were designed in terraces, making the most of the little outdoor space available!

Preta Garden

If you’ve made it to the last stop in this guide, congratulations: you’ve just read an article with almost 6000 words! Well, the Preta Garden is so photogenic that I had a hard time choosing the photographs. So I decided to include four images instead of two, as I always do!

Recently restored, the Preta Garden is another panoramic viewpoint, decorated with flower beds and boxwood hedges. And the name is a tribute to the black-skinned washerwoman, who was painted next to one of the two water tanks. The young woman is accompanied by a male figure, which may symbolize a footman or coachman.

Finally, I can’t fail to mention the twisted Manueline column in the center of the garden. It sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Well, to me it seemed an almost perfect copy of the one that adorns the Central Courtyard! Apparently, this column was located in the current Queen Amelia Square and was only removed from there at the beginning of the 20th century!

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