The National Palace of Sintra – the Obvious Secret of This Portuguese Town
Usually Pena Palace is the first choice of the travelers visiting Sintra. And with a reason – the colourful outside decor looks like copied from a fairy tale and pasted into the national park of Pena for us to admire it. But today I won’t be presenting this famous site of Sintra, today I’m talking about the National Palace of Sintra, that was built and belonged to the royalty of Portugal since the 12th century.
The past times I’ve visited Sintra, I’ve seen the palace naturally from the outside, because it’s situated right in the heart of the old town of Sintra, walking distance from the train station. Therefore I labeled it the “obvious secret”, because everybody sees it, but not too many people pay attention to it. But this white wonder with two 33-meter high pointy chimneys has always captured my curiosity, sadly I’d never had the chance to visit it on the inside. With the sun shining and the temperatures reaching 17C and little wind forecast, I decided that this would be the perfect day to visit. So on a sunny February morning, my husband and I headed to Sintra. While driving towards the old center, this fairy tale feeling of being in an enchanted forest town from the old times hit me right away.
I’ve planned visiting two monuments, the first one was the National Palace of Sintra (in Portuguese: Palácio Nacional de Sintra), if you want to know which was the other one, stay tuned for the next article.
The National Palace used to be a primitive Moorish fort, with records from the 11th century. King Afonso Henriques conquered the area in 1147 and since then there have been several renovations of the palace.
As soon as I entered the first hall – the room of Swans, I knew I haven’t made a mistake in my choice. This palace interior is impressive. Everything from the paintings on the ceiling to the detailed woodwork of the furniture was a feast to the eye.
Not only the majestic halls grabbed my attention, but also the beautifully painted azulejos, mostly in the blue, green and white colours. They were almost everywhere to be found.
During my visit I began to suspect that the National Palace of Sintra has the most remarkable rooms of all the palaces of Sintra. But it wasn’t until I reached the Room of the Coats of Arms that I was certain of it. The National Palace of Sintra indeed houses the most beautiful and noteworthy rooms.
I was stunned by the highly ornamented octagonal couple that has 72 coats of arms of nobles painted on its walls. What impressed me too, were again the azulejos (tiles) depicting this time episodes of what looked like being the life of the royal family during the years. I had the feeling that I could stay in this room alone for an hour and still have difficulty appreciating all the fine points.
We visited several other rooms. The chapel is the oldest part of the palace and is decorated in the Mudejar style, using glazed tiles with Moorish accents.
The kitchen was also very amusing with the huge pots used for cooking the dishes of the royal family. Painted all in white, with the shiny tiles and gigantic chimneys, it certainly has some style.
Next, we visited the gardens and patios of the palace, that were relatively small, but well taken care of and very pretty.
After the visit of the National Palace of Sintra we were a bit tired and very hungry. We wanted to eat in the old town this time as we had the car parked there. Our choice was Romaria de Baco Restaurant. It was the right one. From the bread and marinated olives to the main dishes – everything was very delicious and well done. My husband had the black rice with seafood which he enjoyed a lot.
I had the “Bochechas de Porco Preto” (black pig cheeks). The meat was excellent, very tender indeed. The sauce was well seasoned and the vegetables and potato puree that came with it were savory, too. Service was very attentive and polite. Prices were reasonable for the quality of the produce and the location of the restaurant. I can’t say anything negative about the restaurant. I highly recommend Romaria de Baco.
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