Sintra Travel Blog

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I mean, how many castles can one place hold? Sintra says loads, and each is unique and beautiful in it's own way (of course!). The Palacio Nacional in the town centre is infamous for it's twin white towers, though up close these are actually revealed to be greyish coloured - still, the interior is spectacular, with spirals being a main motif (a seemingly central theme in a lot of the castles in Sintra - archaeological fact? Hmm).

Taking the 434 tourist bus up to the two castles in the hills is a joyride in itself - if you think the way up is frightening, wait until you come speeding down the narrow windy curves in the unwieldy bus later on! Still, the drivers know what they're doing, and the Palacio de Pena is amazing for it's brightly coloured buildings and elegant archways.
The one downer is that you can't take photos inside, though the rooms are so jam-packed with antiques and odds and ends that it's enough just to look. I particularly liked the courtyard of arches, and the little hidden walkway around the outside of the castle that gives you spectacular views of the valley and photo opportunities crammed into mini turrets off the ramparts. Also, if you're lucky (as we were), you might surprise some amorous couples on the secluded walk! Mental note - never get busy outdoors in a frequented tourist monument if you want to avoid that awkward elongated moment of embarrased silence.

My favourite out of all the castles visited that day (and we didn't even visit them all!) was the Quinta do Regaleira - it's grounds are simply stunning for their lush vegetation and for the fairytale-like eruption of ancient stone monuments and walkways from the foliage.
There are romantic balconies and archways a-plenty, even for a buff like me and you can't help but be enchanted.

In the main castle itself, there is a stunning mosaic tile floor in the first room with an amazingly ornate carved fireplace. The carved rope knotwork on the outside of the windows is also really lifelike, and I couldn't get over how fanciful everything was. The top floor of the castle was inhabited by a weird modern display of the castle evolution, accompanied by eerie background music of plopping water and screeching strings. Surreal.

Wish I'd had more time (and better feet) for exploration!
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photo by: Vikram