Sintra - Palace and Park of Pena

We visited Sintra on 4 May 2018. It was the most beautiful day of our trip of Lisbon and the surroundings.  Gorgeously blue sky with mild temperature, colourful and world heritage Palace and Park of Pena, Moorish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros), Palace National of Sintra ............  

Our apartment is located at Bairro Alto. The easiest is to hop to Rossio Station to take a train to reach Sintra.  Between 7 and 10 am, the train is very frequent, every 15 minutes.  Half of them takes 40 minutes and the rest 49 minutes. Afterwards, the train departs every 20 minutes. Since the bus from Sintra railway station to the Palace of Pena starts to get long early, it's better to start the trip early. It's steep to walk up to the Palace of Pena.  The best is to take bus 434, €6.9 for return.  

Queues for bus and the ticket for the Pena Palace are long.  So, be patient.  After getting off the bus, one has to climb a bit to reach the ticket office of the Palace of Pena. We were stunned by the colourful palace while walking up the short slope up.  It stands admirably top of the hill.  Indeed, it is the focal point when we were in Sintra.  It can be seen from the park of the palace, the Moorish Castle and everywhere. Even when we were in Sebutal and Cristo Rei, we could barely see it.

The Romantic Palace Pena originated as a chapel was built on top of the hill in Sintra and dedicated to the Lady of Pene in the Middle Ages. At the end of 15th century, King Manuel I ordered the construction of a monastery on this site.  It remained very small and could accommodate 18 monks at a maximum. After the earthquake in 1755, the monastery became a ruin.  Until 1838, King Ferdinand acquired the monastery and lands in the surroundings to transform it to a palace for the royal families as a summer residence. After the king's death, the palace was passed to his second wife Countess of Edla.  It was sold to King Luis and subsequently to the Portuguese State.  Palace Pena was classified as a national monument and transformed into a museum after the Republican Revolution of 1910.

The different vivid colours and very different architectural elements draw every visitors' admiration.  The most mysterious is the Arch of the Triton. A mythological monster, half-man and half-fish is squatting between the aquatic world below and the terrestrial world above. This decorative art may be King Ferdinand's attempt to recover features of the Portuguese culture. The Triton is mentioned by Damião Góis (philosopher) and Luís de Camões (poet).

Apart from the Arch of Triton, there are other special architectural and decorative elements.  As Portugal was ruled by the Moorish, lots of related features are present. One room in the palace is called Arabic Room.

Some pieces of sculpture are funny. They look like dwarfs with angry faces and yell to the air.  Some are elegant such as a big shell basin on the courtyard at the ground floor.  Underneath is decorated with turtles.

Rooms in the palace are similar to other palaces. But the decorative arts are special and many are oriental, both Chinese and Japanese.  Perhaps, the king was very proud of the acquisition of Macau and as the first foreign country landing in Japan. Among all the rooms, my favourite is the kitchen.  Utensils are immense.  They rarely appear in the modern society. Forms of cake pan are very special: piggy, dolphin, castle, etc.

Visitors can have great views of the surroundings from both outside and inside the palace. The most spectacular is the Moorish Castle nearby.  There are other beautiful buildings which are probably private and not featured in touristic articles. The position of the palace certainly allows you to capture exceptional panoramic views of Sintra.

At age 24, opera singer Elisa Hensler met Ferdinard II after her performance in Lisbon.  They fell in love and travelled in Europe together. After their marriage in 1869, Hensler was awarded the title of Countess of Edla. They built a chalet and magnificent garden near a dramatic series of granite rocks with a view of the palace and sea. After the death of Ferdinard II, the palace and the surroundings were acquired by the State while the countess could use the chalet and garden. Visit to the interior of the chalet requires an extra ticket.

Near the Chalet of Countess of Edla stands a Gardener's House. Only the windows and door beam are decorated with cork, closely resembling the chalet. It is a one-room house for the storage of gardener's tools and as a shelter against rain and coldness evidence by the presence of a fireplace. 

Walk further south we reached the stable.  It is rather quiet. Next is a little farm.  Goats enjoyed the shelter and present climate.

Going further down towards the exit is the beautiful, lush green and romantic Valley of the Lakes.



Evora Se Cathedral and Churches

There is much to see in Evora. Even things done in one day are too much for one post.  So, churches which we visited are shown in this post and the rest is shown in alternate post.

Cathedral in Portugal is named Se which stands for Sedes Episcopalis (the seat of the bishop). Evora cathedral is the largest medieval cathedral in Portugal, built between 1283 and 1308. The architectural style transited from Romanesque to Gothic. It is completely made of granite. The cathedral was enriched in 15th, 16th and 18th century.  It was the ancient religious seat but gradually gave away to Lisbon.


Apart from the exquisite interior as the most important fortified cathedral, the most interesting part is the roof top and the views around.

Very nice stone sculptures show up between the Se Cathedral and the Spring of Porta de Moura.

Though not as important as the Se Cathedral, Igreja de S Francisco / Church of S Francisco is also adorned with its beautifully rich interior. The church is inspired by Gothic Manueline architecture and was build between 1480 and 1510. It is closely linked to the historical events that marked the Discoveries period in Portugal.

But for me the most spectacular is the colourful reflection on the floor.  I felt like I would ascend to the heaven.

The Igreja da Graca (Church of Grace) or Convent of Our Lady of Grace, was founded in 1511 and is an important Renaissance religious monument of the city. At the front you can see the statues that have been known for centuries as the 'Boys of Grace'.

Shortly after the Igreja da Graca, we saw a stork with its nest on the steeple of Igreja Senhor Jesus Pobreza (Church of Lord Jesus of Poverty).  So cute!



We struggled between a visit to Evora or Tomar on one of the last days in Lisbon. Both are beautiful and UNESCO towns. We took the one closer, Evora. It was a major trading and religious centre under the rule of the Romans. Different tribes ruled the city.  Until 1165 Evora was retaken by Geraldo Sem Pavor (Gerald the Fearless). The various rulers left historical monuments / tourist attractions within the city wall.

Rossio de Sao Bras (Igreja de Sao Bras / Ermida de Sao Bras Shrine) welcomed us to Evora and offered farewell to us on a sunny day. It is a 15th century fortified church with cylindrical buttresses covered by roofs with capital.  The charming church is not featured in the tourist brochure but you can admire the beauty when approaching the city from the railway station.

Jardim Publico and Palacio de Dom Manuel / Dom Manuel's Palace await your visit when moving towards the centre of Evora. Apart from being a relaxing venue for the locals, the park's peacocks fight for attention with the striking colours and the historic Dom Manuel's Palace will retain you for quite some time.

The Praca do Giraldo is named after the hero Giraldo Sem Pavor (Gerald the Fearless), who helped Afonso Henriques expel the Moors from the Alentejo region. In 1484 the Duke of Braganza was beheaded by his brother-in-law, King John II as the duke was in league with the Spanish nobility in an attempt to overthrow the Portuguese throne.  In the 16th century, the square was the focal point for the murderous 16th century Spanish Inquisitions.

Nowadays, the square of violence becomes a popular place for tourists to enjoy the relaxing ambience with the presence of many open air cafes and restaurants. The tourist information here provides a lot of information for free. Be sure to grab relevant brochures to maximise the joy of visiting Evora.

At the centre of the square is the ponte Henriquina fountain with eight steams representing the eight streets leading from the Praca do Giraldo. If you are interested in fountains, go southwest of the Se Cathedral to see the Spring of Porta de Moura.  It has an iconic marble sphere Renaissance fountain inspired by the Moors.


Diana Roman Temple is one of the most important sightseeing points in Evora and best preserved Roman structure on the Iberian Peninsula. 12 stone Corinthian columns and the connecting architraves remain standing and intact. The temple is situated in the Largo Conde de Vila Flor Square, next to the Se Cathedral and Museum of Evora.  It can be seen throughout the day without entrance fee.  At the back of the temple is a delightful garden.  Colourful flowers and beautiful sculptures assemble beautiful scenes.  I like particularly the kissing modern sculpture.  The position provides a panoramic view of the city.

Evora Aqueduct (Agua de Prata Aqueduct) is a massive 16th century structure carrying water from the river Riberia do Divor. As Evora flourished in the 16th century, King John III ordered that Evora should have constant supply of water in the mid of Alentejo which had hot summers and mild dry winters.  Francisco de Arruda (architect of Torre de Belem) started to build the aqueduct in 1531 and completed the construction in 1537. Water can be easily accessed at the city centre.  The aqueduct is still in use. Amazing!

The aqueduct with up to 25 metres mighty arches can be both viewed outside and inside the city walls.  For outside, it can be viewed just outside the city walls, by the ring road or where it crosses the R114, 1 km north of Evora.

Inside the city walls, the arches of the aqueduct are much reduced.  Underneath are little houses and shops. Best views to the aqueduct are around Rua do Cano, Rua do Salvador and Travessa das Nunes.

The University of Evora was founded in 1959, two decades after the University of Coimbra.   It was run by the Society of Jesus for two centuries. In 1759 the Jesuits were expelled from Portugal. The Marquis of Pombal ordered to shut down of all studies in the university.  It was reopened only two centuries after (1973).  Nowadays, the University of Evora ranks as one of the top universities in Portugal.

A few Euro entrance fee was required for the visit.  We didn't like it operating as a money machine and were not well informed on the visit.  As we were running out of time, we dropped the visit of the campus but spent a while in the park outside with cute modern sculptures.