Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sintra Portugal Vacation

Sintra Portugal

On the last post I told you about Porto, the major city and economic engine in Portugal's North Region. Today I'll tell you about one the most fascinating and beautiful towns that exist in the world today, Sintra.

Sintra is the former retreat of Portuguese Royalty. It is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list and a must see for anyone who is inters ted in Seeing Portugal. People who have visited Sintra often describe it as a place out of a fairy tale. Sintra gets its dreamy quality due to the incredibly large number of Castles and Palaces that have been built there over thousands of years. Even the Sintra's Town Hall, The Câmara Municipal, which you can see on the image above, is an amazingly beautiful building.

Like most places in Portugal, Sintra has a very long history, spanning thousands of years. Sintra's long history can be traced back to the early Neolithic period, and archaeological evidence indicates a long succession of human settlements spanning through Bronze and Iron ages into modern times. During Roman occupation of Lisbon, Sintra formed part of the Roman Administration town of Olisipo (Modern Lisbon). It wasn't until the 11th century, during Moorish occupation of Iberia that direct reference is made to Sintra, at the time it was included as a dependency of Lisbon. Approximately seven years after the Christian King Afonso Henriques reconquest of Lisbon in 1147, Sintra was awarded charter as a commune. It was during the Christian Reconquest that Sintra's iconic Moorish Castle was partly destroyed.

Sintra was governed by the Knights Templars until the order was abolished, and soon passed on to the Order of Christ, which were the Knights Templars renamed. Although there were buildings built by the Portuguese Crown well into the 15th century, it wasn't until the commencement of the Portuguese Global Empire that Sintra bloomed. History suggests that it was King Manuel I, who commenced the permanent connection between Sintra and the Crown by enlarging the existing Royal Palace and the building of the Nossa Senhora da Penha Monestary, from where it is said that he watched Vasco da Gama's historical return voyage of discovery.

Today, Sintra is a place full of magic and splendor that was created by successive peoples who lived in the area. With the help of the Portuguese Crown, it is truly one of the most fascinating places on earth, and unique in every way. A visit to Sintra is a must, and should not be missed on your next Portugal Vacation.

The Following are some of the wondrous places awaiting your visit in Sintra:

The Royal Palace: Constructed in the 15th and 16th century the Royal Palace is located in the Centre of Sintra. With its two massive chimney stacks, the Royal Palace is as beautiful as it is imposing. The Palace has incorporated, extensively, the use of azulejos, which are Portuguese blue and white tile work used as ornamentation on walls.

The Pena Palace: Designed by Portuguese architect Possiddnio da Silva, the Pena Palace is a work of pure Romanticism. The prototype Of European Romanticism, the Pena Palace was commissioned by King Ferdinand II, and built over the ruins of a medieval monastery that had been abandoned after the 1755 earthquake. Extensive use of Egyptian, Moorish, Gothic, and Renaissance elements gives the Pena Palace a timeless and magical feel.

The Palace of Montserrate: Designed by distinguished British architect, James
Knowles Junior for Sir Francis Cook, The Palace of Montserrate is an example of mid-19th century eclecticism. Combining Neo Gothicism and elements derived from India, Montserrate is as fascinating as it is beautiful.

The Moorish Castle: Sitting high on a mountain peak it is said that the Moorish Castle is not Moorish at all but of Visigothic origin. It was occupied by the Moors at the time of the Christian Reconquest and therefore became known as the Moorish Castle. Although the castle is partly in ruins, due to the sacking by Dom Afonso Henriques Crusade in Iberia, it is well preserved and worth a visit due to its incredible history and panoramic views.

The Quinta da Regaleira: The land where the Regaleira sits was originally owned by the Barons of Regaleira, a wealthy merchant family from Porto. It wasn't until the land was purchased by wealthy businessman Carvalho Monteiro that construction of the Regaleira commenced. Built between 1904 - 1910 the Quinta da Regaleira is inspired by mysticism, infused with symbols of alchemy, Masonry, the Knights Templar and the Rosicrucians, the Quinta should not be missed on your Portugal vacation.

These are just a sampling of the many wonderful places to visit in Sintra. There are numerous and vast gardens with plants and trees imported from the 4 corners of the world. Sintra is more than a place, it has an energy that is beyond compare and should be on your top places to see in Portugal and the world.

Images above provided as follows:

The Royal Palace: By Delatorre
The Palace of Montserrate: Alagamares
The Quinta da Regaleira:: Lusitana

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