It is one of my most treasured places to visit due to
it being filled with so much history and whimsical architecture surrounded by
emerald green trees. Its history is evident by the numerous sites you can
visit, including Pena Palace, Castle of the Moors, Monserrate Palace and
Capuchos Convent as well as the newly opened Biester Palace, but what I was particularly
interested to visit for the day was Quinta da Regaleira, which let me tell you,
transports you to a completely different world!
Filled with charm
Let’s start at the beginning of the day before I dive into the wonder that is Quinta da Regaleira. We first made an all-important visit to Fábrica da Nata, located right in the square at Praça da República. It is an excellent choice and its charm in my opinion comes from being able to see the baker all in white lifting golden trays of custard tarts out of the oven right in front of you as you wait in the queue. We ordered the breakfast menu, which was delicious, a ham and cheese croissant, café latte and a custard tart all for €3.90 which you can’t argue with as I can assure you these may be the best custard tarts I have ever tried and best of all, they were still warm.
Following this we walked less than 10 minutes to the renowned Quinta da Regaleira which is a unique estate that was designed and built in the late 1800s. It was acquired by the Sintra Town Council in 1997 and has been extensively renovated whereby it was opened to the public in June 1998 and began hosting cultural events. In August of that same year, the Portuguese Ministry of Culture classified the estate as "public interest property". I fell completely in love with it and I can see why it is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (within the “Cultural Landscape of Sintra”).
“It reflects the cultural, philosophical and scientific interests of Brazilian owner, António Augusto de Carvalho Monteiro and was built by Italian architect Luigi Manini. From the culture and creativity of these two personalities, resulted an eclectic-revivalist architectural ensemble, with particular focus on Manueline, Renaissance and Classical styles." This unique site is filled with caves, gargoyles, statues of Greek gods and goddesses, a chapel, an initiation well and beautiful gardens as well as an eye-catching tower with comfortable shoes being a must to navigate down the steep and narrow stairs.
Exploring the caves
I loved exploring the caves, with one in particular leading to a lake in the middle of the gardens. It is an absolutely extraordinary place and I urge everyone to experience its opulence, despite being a popular tourist hotspot, its mystery lives on and is subject to a lot of fascination, you could honestly spend hours there and there is even a café/restaurant and shop so you can take breaks in between your visit.
Following a lot of walking around, we were ready for some lunch so we opted for Tascantiga “Portuguese Tapas & Wines” cosy restaurant in the town centre, where we were greeted by their friendly staff. They are known for their traditional small plates so we had fried squid with aioli with the twist being that it contained squid ink which we really liked as well as fried chorizo which was served with bread all washed down with a refreshing beer. Asides from their small plates, they have lots of delicious sandwiches to choose from as well as soups so I would definitely recommend them if you are looking for a light Portuguese meal full of flavour.
After our lunch, we decided we wanted to explore the square so wandered through the various tourist shops with handmade artisanal products. The shops were packed with excitable tourists getting their photos for social media. As we wandered around the square, we saw that carriage rides were being offered so we decided to seize the romantic opportunity to do a short 15-minute tour around the emerald town, which took us to near the train station and back round again. It was a great way to experience this historic place as we soaked it all in at a leisurely pace.
I would highly recommend a tour with Sintratur Carriage Tours, they are really friendly and they offer longer rides to the beach and even organise picnics to make for an even more enjoyable experience.
For more information about Quinta da Regaleira,
please visit http://www.regaleira.pt/.
Fall head over heels in love with Sintra!
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