is simply a must, if you are in the area of Lisbon! The old Moorish city,
which was recaptured in 1147 by the Portuguese King Alfons 1, has been
the summer residence of the Portuguese kings and the aristocracy for more
than 600 years. Today Sintra is a popular
tourist spot, surely not least because of its mild humid climate and its
picturesque location at the foot of the small coastal mountains Sierra
de Sintra that rise sharply above the city. The main attraction, however,
are its historical sights.
The landmark of Sintra is the National Palace (Palacio
Nacional), with its huge, conic, white twin chimneys, which rise
above the large palace kitchen, and are visible from quite a distance.
It is one of the most important examples of regal architecture in Portugal
and for that reason is classified as a National Monument. The palace
was continuously inhabited as a royal summer residence from the 14th to
the 20th c. It is a conglomerate of different architectural styles.
Elaborate wood carved ceilings, which arch over the rooms and marvellous
wall decoration with ceramic tiles from the 15th/16th centuries, the Azulejos,,
bear witness to the Arabic influence. The tiles were manufactured
in Seville and it is the oldest and most extensive collection on the Iberian
art of manufacturing Azulejoswas
brought to Spain and Portugal by the Arabs. Since then this craft
developed into a traditional art and became a special feature of Portuguese
architecture. Elaborate wall paintings from tiles decorate banqueting halls
of palaces as well as churches, public buildings, private homes, staircases
and fountains. Even street signs on houses are made from decorative tiles!
up on the hilltops of the Sierra de Sintra, the well preserved remains
of the imposing Moorish Castle (and the Pena
Palace rise above the city. The Moorish castle
(Castelo dos Mouros) was built by the Moors in the 8th and 9th centuries
and its walls wind themselves like a small Chinese wall round the rock
ridges. From the towers and walls one has a spectacular outlook onto
the city and its surroundings.