Sintra is a unique place full of castles, landmarks, and various antiquities. It’s a resort town that used to be popular among Portuguese monarchs, which is why it’s crammed with palaces, villas, and other royal residences.

The Palace of Sintra is the central (in every sense) landmark of the city. It’s easy to reach it as it’s located in the centre, near the railway station. The present-day palace was built in the 14th century (it was constructed on the site of the Castle of the Moors). It’s a snow-white building complex made in the Manueline style (Portuguese Renaissance) mixed with the Mauritian style.

The most recognizable elements of the complex are huge conical chimneys situated on the royal kitchen building. These chimneys can often be seen on postcards and as souvenirs. They are one of Sintra’s calling cards.

The palace doesn’t have a park, so its interior and exterior are the only things that attract tourists here. Inside the palace, there are several dozen rooms finished and furnished luxuriously in the royal way – frescoes on ceilings, azulejos, other mosaics, carved furniture. However, not all these elements have existed since the building was built. In 1755, it was severely damaged by the earthquake, just like the most part of Lisbon. Thus, the interior decorations had to be restored, while the furniture had to be supplemented with items from other palaces and museums.

The Palace of Sintra is currently a house museum and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Quinta da Regaleira and Initiation Wells

Quinta da Regaleira is another estate in the suburbs of Sintra. It’s not just one building but a whole palace complex with lots of gardens, among which a castle rises.

The Regaleira Palace used to be snow-white, but got darker with time. However, the greyish shade only makes it more stupendous against a background of green gardens. The architectural style is very interesting. It’s a mix of styles – Gothic, Roman, Manueline – which is characteristic of many Portuguese castles. In other words, Portuguese neo-Gothic.

The palace facade is a rich (sometimes even overabundant) assortment of turrets, sculptures, stucco decorations, capitals, and other sophisticated architectural elements.

Apart from the rooms that are common for such constructions, the Regaleira castle used to have an alchemy laboratory that, unfortunately, wasn’t preserved. The room can’t be accessed by tourists.

Quinta da Regaleira is a relatively young landmark – it dates back to the 17th century, and the palace itself was erected in the early 20th century. Despite the “young age”, it’s considered the most mysterious estate of Sintra. One of the last private owners of the villa was a member of the Masonic lodge. He wanted to change the interior of his property so that it would reflect his philosophy as fully as possible. So there are a great number of implicit and explicit signs referring to secret societies such as the Knights Templar and the Masons.

A curious feature of the complex is a net of underground passages connecting opposite ends of the area. For instance, there’s a chapel with a secret underground entrance.

The most famous, mysterious, and bright symbol of Quinta da Regaleira is the Initiation Wells. It’s a spiral inverted tower going deep down underground and having nine levels connected by a winding staircase.

Each level symbolizes another circle of hell according to Dante Alighieri’s philosophy. They say that a rite of initiation