The Palau de la Música Catalana (or Palace of Catalan Music, in English) is the most stunning concert hall I’ve ever seen in my life and the only one declared World Heritage by UNESCO. Built between 1905 and 1908 by the architect by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, this music auditorium is situated in Barcelona, Spain. Besides having formidable acoustics, the Palau de la Música Catalana is richly decorated with stained glass, mosaics, ceramics, sculptures, murals, and wrought iron elements!
Castles and Palaces
Almourol Castle (in Portuguese, Castelo de Almourol) is a unique monument in Portugal, as it was built on an islet in the Tagus River, about 135 km from Lisbon. A symbol of the Iberian Reconquista, it was founded by the Knights Templar as a military fortress. However, Almourol Castle lost importance over the centuries and ended up abandoned. Besides, the structure was damaged by the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 – even though it was restored and adapted to the romantic taste in the 19th century!
Palau Güell is a building in Catalan Modernist style, which was designed by Antoni Gaudí. Built between 1886 and 1890, the palace is located in the historic center of Barcelona. When Eusebi Güell commissioned this first major work from Antoni Gaudí, the young architect was still far from becoming one of the most celebrated Catalan artists of all time. But the truth is that, after Palau Güell, Eusebi Güell became Antoni Gaudí’s most important patron and client!
The Castel Sant’Angelo (which in Italian means “Castle of the Holy Angel”) was once a mausoleum, a fortress, a prison, and even a papal residence. Nowadays, it’s a national museum, an archaeological site, and one of the main monuments in the historic center of Rome, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980. The Castel Sant’Angelo opened in 1901, with an exhibition of artifacts found in excavations. And since then, it has attracted thousands of tourists from all over the world!
The Vianden Castle is one of the most beautiful feudal residences in Europe and a masterpiece of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Located in a homonymous town and commune in northern Luxembourg, the Vianden Castle was built between the 11t and 14th centuries to house the Counts of Vianden. But after a few centuries, the monument was left abandoned. Fortunately, Grand Duke Jean donated the medieval fortress to the Luxembourg State in 1977, which restored and returned it to its former glory!
The National Palace of Sintra is the most important palace in Portugal, as it was the residence of almost all the country’s monarchs. On top of that, it’s the oldest Portuguese palace of all, with origins dating back to the Arab occupation of this region! In addition to dozens of halls, corridors, and rooms, the National Palace of Sintra is made up of numerous patios, galleries, and gardens. And brace yourself: this guide is probably the longest and most complete I’ve ever published on my blog!
The Moorish Castle is not only one of the best-preserved castles in Portugal but also the one with the best views. So, if you’re thinking about visiting Sintra, you should read this guide! Constructed in the 10th century during the Muslim occupation of the Iberian Peninsula, the Moorish Castle enjoyed a very strategic location, on one of the highest peaks of the Sintra Mountains. However, the fortress was conquered by King Afonso Henriques in 1147, thus becoming part of the Kingdom of Portugal!
The Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra is a must-visit monument for architecture, landscaping, and mysticism lovers. And did you know that the property hides mystical structures, magical sceneries, and alchemical symbols linked to Freemasonry, the Templars, and the Rosicrucian Order? Built at the end of the 19th century, the Quinta da Regaleira is made up of a luxurious palace and an enigmatic garden, which reflect the interests of its owner: the millionaire António Augusto de Carvalho Monteiro!
When people ask me what to do in Lisbon, I always suggest spending a 1 or 2 in Sintra, the land of enchanted palaces! The National Palace of Pena is the king of them all, with endless panoramic views and colors reminiscent of Disneyland castles. In addition to having been elected one of the 7 Wonders of Portugal, the Pena Palace is considered the first romantic palace in Europe. For that reason, it was the inspiration for other historic buildings, including the Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria!
The Sabugal Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Portuguese Gothic architecture. It’s located in the city and municipality of Sabugal (in the Guarda district) – a territory that belonged to the Kingdom of León until 1297, the year in which King Dinis signed the Treaty of Alcañices. During the Napoleonic Wars, the Sabugal Castle served as the headquarters for Portuguese and English soldiers, who managed to prevent the advance of French troops led by General André Masséna!