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Sintra, the City that Boasts of Past Portuguese Trading Success

Travelers Today       By    Katherine Hewitt

Updated: Jan 20, 2015 01:54 PM EST

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Full of unique and contrasting architecture, Sintra, Portugal, is home to four UNESCO Wolrd Heritage sights.  Each one was built at different times, for different purposes, with different styles.  Yet despite the differences, these sights all work together to create an exotic and very Portuguese feeling. 

The first sight to be built is the Castle of the Moors in the ninth or tenth century.  The Moors invaded the Iberian Peninsula in the mid 600s, and weren't pushed out fully until Isabel of Portugal and Ferdinand of Spain united to expel the Moors in 1492.  However, this castle was taken over in 1147 by the Portuguese king, Afenso Henriques, in his re-conquest of the south.  Here you can walk around the stonewall that edges the side of the mountain, and look out at the land below.  

Pena Castle was probably the second addition to Sintra.  Originally built in the early 1500s, this castle served as a monastery until religious orders were outlawed in Portugal in the 18th century.  This is when the king purchased it as a summer retreat for the royal family.  The palace, at the top of a rock peak, needed desperate repairs which is why the style incorporates Moorish and Manueline (Portuguese Gothic) styles.      

The most unique building, really an estate, is the Quinta de Regaleria Palace.   It was built by and for the Barons of Regaleria.  It was later sold to Carvalho Monterio, who is famous for his eclectic additions to the estate.  Each building, tunnel, park, and fountain is of a different style and reflects the different ideologies he had.  For example, there is a deep well with a descending, spiraling staircase along the inside wall of the well, that he considers to be the pathway to knowledge.   

The last heritage sight is Monserrate.  It was owned by several British men, but came to be a retreat for the court.   The architecture reflects Gothic, Indian, and Moorish styles.  There is also an abundance of exotic plants from all over the world, organized in gardens according to their region.  

These interesting palaces and fort are a tribute to Portugal's past.  Portugal was the first country to begin international travel and trade in the 1500s and quickly became the leader for several centuries.  This allowed them to experience many cultures and styles outside of Europe.  Quickly this exposure was seen in the building styles of the wealthy and rich and these palaces described above.     

See Now: The U.S. had the highest number of Most Wanted properties, dominating the Hotels.com Loved By Guests Awards 2018

Tags
Iberian Peninsula, Portugal, Sintra, Castle of the Moors, Pena Castle, Quinta de Regaleria, Monserrate
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