The best independent guide to Sintra
The best independent guide to Sintra
Sintra is filled with many extravagant 19th century villas, but none are more intriguing than the Quinta da Regaleira.
The main building (house) is a fusion of eccentric neo-gothic architecture and ornately carved pinnacles, but the main attraction are the gardens. These are no dull gardens of traditional stately houses; there are hidden cave passageways, secretive spiral stairs leading down wells, along with a host of mystical symbolism.
The owner of the Quinta da Regaleira was a wealthy Brazilian mining owner, who was fascinated by the secretive religious orders of the Knights Templar and Freemasons, and allowed his mind to run wild in the construction of his wonderous villa.
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The Initiation Well (Poço Iniciático). A spiral staircase descends to the base of the gloomy well where a Templar Cross is inscribed in the floor. Inspired by cultish religious ceremonies but equally could have hosted them…..
The exterior of the villa with its flamboyant neo-gothic architecture, elaborate stone carvings and gargoyles
Gruta do Oriente – a series of caves running beneath the gardens that lead to the Poço Imperfeito (The Unfinished Well), which is always much quieter than the Poço Iniciático.
The Lago da Cascata, with it’s concealed entrance to the caves and stepping stones crossing the water feature, just don’t fall in!
The Quinta da Regaleira is a fascinating tourist attraction and should be definitely included in your visit to Sintra.
In our opinion, it is the second-best attraction of Sintra (1st Pena Palace, 2nd Quinta da Regaleira, 3rd Palacio de Monserrate, 4th Moors castle, 5th Convento dos Capuchos, 6th Palacio Nacional).
The reason we rate it so highly, is that it is so varied, combing multiple things to see and to explore. The Quinta da Regaleira is the attraction to visit if you tire easily of historic buildings, or have no real interest in history. The main building is relatively small and is only a side interest to the gardens.
The only downside, as with everything in Sintra, is that it can get very crowded with tourists. In the peak season, there will be countless people taking selfies at the viewpoints and long queues to enter the Poço Iniciático. Thankful the grounds are large enough for some tranquillity, especially to the rear around the Gruta da Virgem.
Insight: For the quietest times, either visit early in the day or close to closing time.
The Sala da Caça (the hunting room), is the grandest room of the house and was used as the dining room. The room’s art has the theme of the circle of life and is dominated by the huge fireplace
The Quinta da Regaleira is open between 9:30 - 20:00 (summer season) and 10:00 - 18:30 (winter season), with the last admission 1 hour before closing time. The entrance fee is €10.00/€5.00/€4.00/€25.00 (adult/child/senior/family), and this includes entrance to the house and the grounds.
There are informative guided tours of the house and gardens (Tues-Sat) for €15, which lasts 1.5 hours. Tickets for this tour are purchased from the ticket office or from Sapo.pt:
A typical visit to the Quinta da Regaleira lasts 1.5-2hours, and the majority of the time will be spent in the gardens.
We strongly advise visiting as early in the day as possible, when the site is at its quietest. The peak hours are 11am to 3pm, and there can be long queues going up and down the Poço Iniciático.
The Quinta da Regaleira is just to the west of the historic centre of Sintra and is a 5-minute walk from the tourist office.
Note: Most tourists take the train to Sintra, but the train station is 1km to the east of the historic centre, and a 20-minute walk to the Quinta da Regaleira.
For a day trip to Sintra, we would recommend visiting the Quinta da Regaleira (or the Palácio Nacional de Sintra), wander the historic centre, then go into the hills to visit the Moors Castle and the Pena Palace. The highlight of this day will be the Pena Palace, and the route is served by the 434 tourist bus (guide here).
Note: This route would be the ideal day if there were only a few tourists in Sintra. During the peak season when the town is crowded, you maybe wish to visit the Pena Palace earlier in the day.
For a day trip to Sintra, we always suggest that the Quinta da Regaleira and the Palácio Nacional de Sintra are interchangeable. If you have an interest in Portuguese history and ancient palaces, then visit the Palácio Nacional de Sintra, if you prefer more quirky sites then head to the Quinta da Regaleira.
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The outside façade of the grand house is decorated with gothic turrets, carved gargoyles and other ornate features. Inside, the building spreads over five floors, but it’s very sparse in actual original details. The true wonder of the Quinta da Regaleira are the grounds, which cover four hectares and were inspired by the owner’s mystic ideologies.
There are references to the Knights Templar, the Masons and dark alchemy, all hidden within the grounds. The well is the strangest feature, which symbolises the initiation ceremony for the Knights Templar. In the well, there is a concealed passage that after descending 27 meters connects to a series of tunnels that run the length of the gardens.
The house was constructed in 1904 by the wealthy Portuguese businessman Carvalho Monteiro, which gave rise to the residence’s local name of “Palace of the Monteiro Millionaire”.
The house was in construction for over 6 years, but on the death of Carvalho Monteiro, the house was purchased by Waldemar d’Orey.
It stayed within the family until 1987, when it was bought by a Japanese business for private functions. Sintra local government reclaimed this important national monument it 1997 and opened it to the public in 1998.
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