The best independent guide to Sintra
The best independent guide to Sintra
There is no more of a unique building in the Sintra region than the Palacio de Monserrate.
The villa is of a whimsical Arabian design, surrounded by classical English gardens, and set in the jagged hills of the Serra de Sintra.
The tri-towered Palacio de Monserrate is the most visually striking building of Sintra, and was inspired by Islamic architecture and the ideal of symmetry. Inside there is exquisitely fines lattice carvings, geometric patterns and the sense of being in some luxurious Middle Eastern setting.
The main building may be a cacophony of exotic ideas, but the garden is a little slice of England in the balmy climate of Portugal. The villa was commissioned by the English Sir Francis Cook, and he wanted a classically English garden surrounding his villa. There is a formal lawn leading up to the villa, a beautiful rose garden, and botanical gardens comprising of 1,000 different species.
The Palacio de Monserrate is one of the finest attractions of Sintra, but it is also one of the least visited. Monserrate lies 3.5km from the centre of Sintra and as it less famous than the Pena or National palaces, meaning it is sadly overlooked by most visitors.
This article will provide a tourist guide to the Palacio de Monserrate, the hidden gem of Sintra.
Related articles: Sintra introduction – A day trip to Sintra
The entrance fee for the Palace of Monserrate is €8.00/€6.50/€6.50 (adult/child/senior).
The opening hours are between 9.30-18.30, and the last ticket is sold 1 hour before the closing time (17.30).
Insight: As Monserrate is one of the least visited buildings of the Sintra region, it is rarely is busy with tourists. This means it is a good option to visit during the peak hours (11:00-14:00) of the summer season, when the other sights of Sintra will be crowded with visitors.
Monserrate Palace is not the largest of buildings, and most of the original furniture was lost during the 50 years the build was semi-abandoned. There is a selection of period pieces, but the main draw of the interior is the elaborate stone carvings of the main hallway and domed atrium, the grand music room and the library. Expect to spend around 20 minutes exploring the interior.
The gardens are the real treat of Monserrate, but are mostly hidden from the villa, and are at the base of the hill. The botanical gardens pre-date the construction of the villa in 1860 and include a Mexican garden, a Japanese Garden, a fern valley, a rose garden and ornamental lakes.
When the villa was constructed, ornamental features were added to the gardens and include a tranquil waterfall feature and the ruins of a chapel.
The Palacio de Monserrate is 3.5km to the west of the historic centre of Sintra, and is served by the 435 tourist bus service. This bus departs from Sintra train station, passes through the historic centre of Sintra and ends at the entrance to Monserrate. A return ticket costs €5.00 and the ticket is purchased from the bus driver.
Tourist insight: The 435 bus service also stops at the Quinta da Regaleira, and this route makes an enjoyable second day of sightseeing in Sintra. The second day in Sintra could visit the Quinta da Regaleira, Palácio de Seteais and Palacio de Monserrate.
It is possible to walk from the centre of Sintra to the Palacio de Monserrate, but the road is not particularly interesting or very scenic.
On the walk from the ticket office to the palace, you pass beneath the Indian arch.
The entrance to the palace is via the southern tower. This tower displays the perfect symmetry of the building, which was a key design ideal of early Islamic architecture, while the stone arches reflect the gothic inspiration of the villa.
The main gallery which extends along the length of the palace. The geometric latticework is supported by rose marble columns
Inside the main dome
The music room fills the entire northern tower and was created to have outstanding acoustics
The library and reading room, lined with walnut bookshelves and pictures of Sir Francis Cook and his wife
The decorative veranda overlooks the gardens
The lawn leads down from the villa to the botanical gardens and was the first lawn laid in Portugal
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