Why choose Sintra Palace on a one-day itinerary in Sintra

The National Palace of Sintra, where each room is exquisite and decorated with a blend of Gothic, Manueline, Moorish, and Mudéjar styles is a must visit!



7 min read

picture of The National palace of Sintra or Sintra Palace

The National Palace of Sintra

The National Palace of Sintra (NOT to be mistaken for the more famous National Palace of Pena!) is located in the center of Sintra town. This is my favorite palace, sharing #1 position with Castle of Moors Sintra, in capturing my interest. I want to introduce it to you, as it is a must see! 

Sintra palace (for simplicity) recognized by 2 tall white cone-shaped chimneys. Each room inside of this Palace is exquisite and decorated in either Gothic, Manueline, Moorish, or Mudéjar style, depending on the time it was built and now is organic mixture of of them all, creating an unforgettable experience!  The price is 10 euro and is totally worth it.

If you have only one day in Sintra, save time and money by NOT going inside the more famous Pena Palace (picture below). Every other  website will tell you to visit Pena Palace and go inside it, while most insiders disagree. 

But do go to see the outside and the gardens of Pena Palace. The ticket to Pena palace has 2 parts . The line is much smaller to visit the gardens, and it cost less. 

And because you will have time now, go visit Sintra Palace! You will enjoy it so much!

picture of Palacio Nacipicture of The National palace of Sintra or Sintraonal de Pena ( Pena Palace)

Here is THE OTHER  palace, Pena palace. I will tell you about it in details in another post. I am showing you the picture just so you can keep track of all the palaces!:) Because,  while it's wonderful to have so many  incredible Palaces to chose from, learning which is which  is a bit confusing!:)  

Let's orient ourselves on the map now. 

Where in Portugal is Sinra?

Sintra Portugal, the Lisbon District of Portugal, is located 30 km  North West from Lisbon, or 1 hour train ride.

While it is located only 14 km from the Atlantic ocean, it takes 90 minutes by public transportation. It only takes 20 minutes to ride by car.  Do NOT come on a car because of a parking problem!

Where is Sintra National Palace located?

Sintra Palace is located right in town, a short  10 minutes walk from Sintra train station.  Arriving on a train or bus is by far your best bet as finding parking anywhere in Sintra is impossible. It will create you unnecessary stress and it will take away from your enjoyment for sure! 

What is Sintra Palace ( or Palacio Nacional de Sintra)?

Sintra Palace is the best-preserved medieval royal residence in Portugal.  It was inhabited continuously from the15th century to the late 19th century and now is the designated UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Palace actually goes back to Moorish times from around 8th century and it was the residence of the Islamic Moorish Taifa of Lisbon rulers of the region.  Casltle of Moors Sintra, which is located high up on the hill, overlooking Sintra Palace is another palace built in Sintra during that times.  Both palaces are the best palaces to visit in Sintra in my opinion.  And yet, the most famous is The Palace of Pena. Go figure!:)

I have to say that Moorish people knew how to build their palaces! Each and single one of Moorish palace I went to all over Spain and Portugal was simply exceptionally beautiful! I am grateful  that Spanish and Portuguese states keep them in such great shape!

picture of Castle of Moors Sintra or Moorish castle

This is Castle of Moors Sintra or Moorish Castle. Another must-see!

But back to Sintra Palace history. In the 12th century the village was conquered by King Afonso Henriques,  and new additions to the existing buildings have started.

That explains the blend of Gothic, Manueline, Moorish, and Mudéjar styles in the present palace, as many rooms were being added during a stretch of a few centuries under different rulers.

This blend of a few different architectural styles together is an example of organic architecture, which refers to a few different styles of architecture  coexisting organically with each other, complimenting each other and acting both as a whole together, while keeping it’s distinguishable characteristics as an individual pieces.

Most building additions to Sintra Palace  happened during King John I major building campaign of 1415.

The majority of buildings around the central courtyard - called the Ala Joanina (or John's Wing) – were built during that time;

The main building  with the entrance arches.

Moorish accents called biforas.

The Swan Room (or Sala dos Cisnes) with the swans painted on the ceiling is the largest  room of the Palace, where the most important events, like celebrations and receptions, took place.  Even today official banquets  for special occasion of visits by foreign heads of state are held here.

Magpie Room ( or Sala das Pegas); the magpies (pegas) painted on the ceiling . This room received the notables of the kingdom and foreign ambassadors. The tile decoration and the composition of the ceiling are quite remarkable.  The south-facing window opens over the Sierra with a view of the Moorish Castle.

Patios: the early wing of the palace features courtyards embellished with tiles and Islamic style water pool.

arched Manueline windows in Sintra National Palace
Sintra palace central patio with a pool

Major building campaign by King Manual I between 1497 and 1530

The other major building campaign of the Sintra palace was sponsored by King Manuel I between 1497 and 1530. That was the time of the exploratory expeditions in the Age of Discoveries, which brought a transitional Gothic-Renaissance art style, named Manueline.

 At the same time there was a boom of Islamic artistic influence in Portugal, called Mudéjar, which reflected in the use of azulejos, which are lavishly painted polychromed ceramic tiles.  The main purpose of azulejos was to keep buildings cool during hot times, while being very pleasing to the eyes.  .

 King Manuel redecorated most rooms with azulejos, which he ordered from Seville. These azulejo tile panels bear Mudéjar motif.

It features features of medieval, Gothic, Manueline, Renaissance and romantic architecture. It is considered an example of organic architecture, a set of bodies apparently separated, but which are part of a whole articulated with each other, through courtyards, stairs, corridors and galleries

King Manuel saw to the construction of the Ala Manuelina, Manuel's Wing.  It is located to the right of the main façade, decorated with typical manueline windows.

Sintra Palace Mudejar style door

King Manuel also built the Coats-of-Arms Room (Sala dos Brasões) (1515–1518), decorated in Manueline style with a magnificent wooden ceiling with 72 coats-of-arms of the King and the main Portuguese noble families.  This is the most impressive room in the Palace and one of the most artistically significant heraldic rooms in Europe. The azulejos in this room  were added in  18th-century.

I have to say that I don’t think I have ever seen a room as impressive as that one!

 Coats-of-Arms Room (Sala dos Brasões) in Sintra Palace
Coats-of-Arms Room Sala dos Brasões alonga travel

Another outstanding room built at that time is the Arab Room (Sala dos Árabes). It is a tiled room with a Moorish style fountain in the center.

Main courtyard with a Mudéjar-style mullioned windows and portal and 16th-century geometrical tile decoration. 

The adjacent Grotto of Baths features tiled and stucco decoration from the 18th century.  There are some magnificent there,  stuccoes including the Creation of the World (center panel), the Four Seasons (corners) and mythological themes. The blue and white tiled wall panels represent fountains and gardens. The water, flowing from two lines  that surround the whole space, refreshes the atmosphere on hotter days.

Sala dos Árabes, the arab room in Sintra Palace

Why were the kitchens in sintra palace built.

In the old times sharing meals with their subjects was one of the fundamental functions of the king, almost as important as providing justice and protection. When a palace was located away from a city, hauntings were the main source of food.  So, the need for large and well functioning kitchens was tremendous. 

The kitchens of Sintra implemented a great innovation – very tall (33 meters high) chimneys that tapper as they reach upward, that created an exceptional exhaust force, keeping the kitchens smoke free. Now these two tall cone-shaped white chimneys are landmark of Sintra.  


 Tall white chimneys in Sintra Palace

Modern history of Sintra Palace

In the following centuries Kings continued inhabit the Sintra Palace from time to time,  ordering some new decorations, some paintings or furniture, but nothing major.   

The was one dark mark in the history of Sintra palace when the mentally unstable King Afonso VI, was forced to live in his bedroom in the medieval section of the Palace, without leaving the residence from 1676 until his death in 1683.


Sintra Palsce suffered damage after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake but was restored in the original manner. The biggest loss to the great earthquake was the tower over the Arab Room, which collapsed.

At the end of the 18th century, Queen Maria I redecorated and re-divided the rooms of the Ala Manuelina.

 During the 19th century, Sintra became again a favorite spot for the Kings and was frequently inhabited. With the foundation of the Republic, in 1910, it became a national monument. In the 1940s, it was restored by architect Raul Lino, who tried to return it to its former glory by adding old furniture from other palaces and restoring the tile panels. It has been an important historical tourist attraction ever since.

And it’s waiting for YOUR visit!:)

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