Sintra Cultural Landscape (World Heritage)

The former Moorish city west of Lisbon has been the summer residence of the Portuguese kings and nobility since the Middle Ages. Located on the northern slope of the Sintragebirge, the city nestles in a unique cultural landscape with palaces, castles, villas and country estates as well as numerous parks. The main attraction is the Palácio da Pena above the city.

Sintra Cultural Landscape: Facts

Official title: Sintra cultural landscape
Cultural monument: Cultural landscape with evidence of Moorish architecture such as the ruins of the Moorish fortress, with country estates and castles such as the Paço Real, the royal palace with its magnificent domed hall, which is decorated with coats of arms and ornamental and scenic wall ceramics, and the hall of the magpies, in which 136 ladies-in-waiting are depicted as magpies, as well as the Pena Palace of Prince Regent Ferdinand II of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha-Koháry
Continent: Europe
Country: Portugal
Location: Sintra, northwest of Lisbon
Appointment: 1995
Meaning: first European center of romantic architecture and landscape design

Sintra cultural landscape: history

1st-2nd Century BC Chr. Established as part of Olisipo (Lisbon)
713-1147 Moorish period
1093 first capture by a Christian army
1147 Captured by the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques (Alfons I)
1385-1433 Reign of João I.; Start of work on the royal palace
1432 in Sintra birth of the later King Alfonso V.
1495-1521 During the reign of Manuel I, Sintra became a summer residence for a long time
1580-1640 spanish period; Abandonment of the Sintra residence
in the 19th century “Discovery” of the “romantic Sintra”
1904-75 Sintra-Praia das Maçãs tram line
1998 renewed commissioning of the Sintra-Praia das Maçãs tram line

Fairy tale in the green greenhouse

Winding paths, lush ferns, moss-covered ruins and dreamy palaces make the Serra de Sintra, which is often shrouded in mist, appear like a fairytale forest. Thanks to the mild, humid microclimate, a splendid garden developed like in Parque de Montserrate, with around 3000 plant species thriving like in a greenhouse. The lavish, exotic flora of the Serra has inspired dreamers and romantics of all times to sometimes exaggerated hymns of praise. For the Danish storyteller Hans Christian Andersen, the park landscape was “the most beautiful place in Portugal”, and the English writer Robert Southey considered Sintra to be “the most successful piece of earth on the inhabited globe”. The representative of Portuguese Romanticism, João Baptista da Silva Leitão Almeida Garrett, however, wrote: »(…

In this idyllic landscape with the best hillside location, which served as a selected summer retreat, the nobility and upper middle class of Lisbon recovered in famous castles and handsome villas with extensive gardens. Together with the castles and monasteries from earlier times, you feel like you are in a Hollywood scene that is ready for a film.

In the center of Sintra is the oldest palace, the Palácio Nacional de Sintra, also called Paço Real. The bright white shape of the two monstrous, conical kitchen chimneys clearly highlights it in the townscape. They are “tailored to the voracity of a king who devours an entire kingdom every day,” said the Portuguese novelist Eça de Queirêz in 1888. Originally built by a sultan, the taste of the subsequent landlords can be clearly seen in the structural changes to the imposing palace. The delicate windows and columned portals, “Moorish” horseshoe arches, ship ropes and other maritime ornaments, for example, clearly go back to the Manuel style. The great treasure of the palace are the ornate tiles, polychrome azulejos with scenic motifs.

Outside of Sintra, the exotic Palácio da Pena occupies the wooded peak; he could easily compete with Disneyland. The romantically inclined Prince Regent Ferdinand von Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha-Koháry, husband of Queen Maria II da Glêria, acquired the medieval monastery ruins in 1839 and had them redesigned into a “Portuguese Neuschwanstein” by Baron von Eschwege. The lord of the castle was really not lacking in ideas and stylistic courage, if you only look at the bay window decorated with stone foliage and a monster from the water world or the entrance gate with its twisted columns.

In a prominent location on the summit, when the view is clear on the mountain hill opposite, you can see the eighth-century, several times redesigned Maurenburg Castle, the Castelo dos Mouros. The two defense towers, which are connected by a double wall, form the remains of the ruins of the Moorish fortress, which was conquered by the Portuguese King Alfons I in 1147 and restored in the 19th century.

Instead of a small hermitage called Monserrate from 1540, a neo-Gothic palace was built in the 18th century, which was taken over by the millionaire Sir Francis Cook in 1856. After the remodeling of his property, he left behind a stately summer house in the oriental-romantic style. He had mighty silver firs, sequoias and araucarias planted on the “Quinta de Monserrate” garden property, which grow naturally alongside local chestnuts and English oaks. Ferns, mosses and tendrils overgrow everything that human hands do not immediately expose – marble stairs, graves, grottos, dilapidated kiosks and the abandoned quinta. It seems that transience has been used as a purposeful stylistic device.

Sintra Cultural Landscape (World Heritage)