I think I’ve found a valid excuse for why it’s taken me so long to do a blog post about the Monserrate palace in Sintra: it’s very hard to describe! I was there exactly a year ago, and while I haven’t been ruminating on it every single day since then, I must admit that even now I’m still at a loss as to how to describe it. If a picture is worth a 1,000 words, it’s a good thing there’s a slideshow at the bottom with 22 photos.
What’s makes the palaces in Sintra so remarkable is that they’re truly the manifestation of someone’s (often multiple someone’s) romantic, architectural fantasy. Monserrate encompasses Gothic, Indian and Moorish styles, but to me the most striking feature with intricate Moorish carvings on the interior walls. Because the palace was being refurbished and wasn’t furnished, it was all about the walls, arches and skylights. And that was enough And they were absolutely incredible.
The grounds of Monserrate are just as noteworthy as the palace. Its range of species is just like a botanical garden, but there wasn’t too much in bloom when we visited at the end of October. Still, there was plenty for us and our son, who was 11 months old at the time, to explore. Before we even made the trek to the palace, we visited the manmade waterfall. The gardens and pool next to palace felt like they belonged in India or Asia — we had to remind ourselves we were still in Portugal!
If all this isn’t enough, the palace also has an impressive literary pedigree: Lord Byron stayed there and immortalized it in his poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”.
Monserrate is very different from and certainly more ornate than Quinta da Regaleira, which we visited first. Unfortunately, I can’t compare Monserrate to Pena, the most famous palace of them all, because we didn’t make it there. You really need two full sight-seeing days in Sintra, and we only had one. But our time in Sintra was short and sweet, and capped off by a fantastic stay at the ultra-luxe Hotel Tivoli Palácio de Seteais, a palace that has been converted into a hotel.