The best guide to Sintra
The Palacio de Monserrate (Monserrate Palace), is one of the most beautiful and visually striking mansions of Sintra, but as it 3.5km from the historic centre many visitors simply overlook this stunning palace. Monserrate Palace seamlessly blends Arabic, gothic and Indian architectural styles to create a wonderful summer house that is surrounded by beautiful gardens; when you visit Sintra do not miss-out on this hidden gem. This guide will provide an introduction to Palacio de Monserrate, with tourist and travel information listed at the end of the article.
The actual palace was imagined by an Englishman, Sir Francis Cook, who decided to build a summer residence from the ruins of a pre-existent neo-gothic palace around 1860. Located about 3.5 km from the Sintra historical center, the stunning Monserrate Park and Palace continues the 19th century Romanticism architectural style found throughout of Sintra. While getting lost in the park, one can imagine travelling around the world while watching the different exotic species, only to be surprised afterwards by the marvellous palace, featuring Indian, Gothic and Moorish influences, which emerges at the top of the typical British lawn.
A regular tour around Monserrate can take between 1-2 hours, depending on the exploration of the places and information. When you buy the ticket, you will receive a map which allows you to go around easily by yourself. The best way to do the visit is starting by exploring the garden, through the scenic path, instead of going straight to the Palace.
There are lots of surprising spots along the way, such as an amazing waterfall, a ruined chapel or a Mexican garden. It is advised to be careful on the way down, since the most picturesque way is also the hardest. The garden is interesting throughout the whole year, since the different species have different blossoming times. In the afternoon the sunlight has a particular shine, but in Sintra, one never knows if the typical fog won’t appear unexpectedly, so always bring a coat with you!
The Palace has been emptied from its furniture and collections in the middle of the 20th century, so don’t expect to find a museum. For about fifty years the building was virtually abandoned and it deteriorated a lot. The restoration processes began in 2000. Nevertheless, the surprise of finding such an unexpected exotic architecture, fine materials and an elaborate plaster decoration make the visit worth. The old photographs exhibited in the different rooms are also a good way of travelling back to the Cook Family time.
The palace itself is not very big, but the rooms themselves are worth exploring. One of the highlights inside the palace is the Music Hall, still used nowadays for cultural events. Surrounded by inspirational muses, this Hall has impressive acoustics. Other inside spot one should not miss is the Kitchen with its technological wood burning stove, which provided hot water for the boiler, thus integrating the heating system of the house. This was considered very modern at the time.
The price to visit the Park and Palace of Monserrate is €8.00/€6.50/€6.50 (adult/child/senior). The opening hours are between 9.30-10.00 and 17.00-19.00 (for the palace) and 18.00-20.00 (for the park), depending on the season. Last ticket is 30 minutes (palace) to 1 hour (park) before closing time. Monserrate Palace is open 7 days a week (except for a few key holidays), unlike many of Lisbon's monuments which are closed on Mondays. Further information regarding opening times and entrance fees can be consulted at the Parques de Sintra website:
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From the Sintra train station, there is Bus number 435, which does a circular route between to Monserrate and back, passing by the historical center. During high season the round trip for this bus costs around €2.50. You can learn more about these tickets at http://www.scotturb.com/ (Portuguese).
By car or by foot the distance between the Sintra train station and Monserrate is about 6 kilometers. It possible to enjoy nature views and other historical buildings along the way, such as the Regaleira Palace or the Seteais Palace.
There are some inclined paths to get from the entrance to the Palace, but there are alternative ways with benches for people with limited mobility. There are two car parking places for handicapped people in front of the entrance to the Park, foldable wheelchairs and a traction equipment which can be adapted to most wheelchairs. It is advised to pre-book these equipment, since there is a limited number.