Top Historic Sights in Sintra, Portugal

Explore the historic highlights of Sintra

Pena Palace

The Pena Palace stands on the top of a hill in the Sintra Mountains above the town of Sintra, and on a clear day it can be easily seen from Lisbon and much of its metropolitan area. It is a national monument and constitutes one of the major expressions of 19th-century Romanticism in the world. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. It is also used for state occasions by the Pr ...
Founded: 1842-1854 | Location: Sintra, Portugal

Palace of Sintra

The Palace of Sintra is the best-preserved medieval royal residence in Portugal, being inhabited more or less continuously from at least the early 15th century to the late 19th century. It is a significant tourist attraction, and is part of the cultural landscape of Sintra, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The history of the castle begins in the Moorish Al-Andalus era, after the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in th ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Sintra, Portugal

Quinta da Regaleira

Quinta da Regaleira is an estate located near the historic center of Sintra. It is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO within the 'Cultural Landscape of Sintra'. Along with the other palaces in the area such as the Quinta do Relógio, Pena, Monserrate and Seteais palaces, it is considered one of the principal tourist attractions of Sintra. The property consists of a romantic palace and chapel, an ...
Founded: 1904 | Location: Sintra, Portugal

Castle of the Moors

The Castle of the Moors is a hilltop medieval castle built by the Moors in the 8th and 9th centuries. It was an important strategic point during the Reconquista, and was taken by Christian forces after the fall of Lisbon in 1147. It is classified as a National Monument, part of the Sintra Cultural Landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During the second half of the 12th century, the chapel constructed within the walls ...
Founded: 8th century | Location: Sintra, Portugal

Quinta do Relógio

Quinta do Relógio is an estate located near the historic center of Sintra. It is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO within the 'Cultural Landscape of Sintra'. Along with the nearby palaces such as Seteais Palace and the Quinta da Regaleira next to it, it is considered one of the tourist attractions of Sintra. The property consists of a romantic palace and chapel, and a park. The estate, or qui ...
Founded: 18th century | Location: Sintra, Portugal

Monserrate Palace

The Monserrate Palace is an exotic palatial villa located near Sintra, the traditional summer resort of the Portuguese court. It was restored in 1858 for Sir Francis Cook, an English baronet created Viscount of Monserrate by King Luís I. The design was influenced by Romanticism and Mudéjar Moorish Revival architecture with Neo-Gothic elements. The eclecticism is a fine example of the Sintra Romanticism, along with othe ...
Founded: 1858 | Location: Sintra, Portugal

Seteais Palace

The Seteais Palace is now a luxury hotel, restaurant and a tourist attraction included in the Cultural Landscape of Sintra, listed as World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Seteais Palace was built between 1783 and 1787 for the Dutch consul Daniel Gildemeester, on lands granted by the Marquis of Pombal. The consul chose to build his house on the border of an elevation, from which the vast landscape around the Sintra hills co ...
Founded: 1783-1787 | Location: Sintra, Portugal

Igreja de Santa Maria

The parish of Santa Maria de Sintra dates back to the time of Portugal’s foundation as a nation, when Dom Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, conquered Sintra from the Moors. At that time, a small chapel was built here, later reconstructed in the 13th century by the prior Martim Dade. The great earthquake of 1755 caused serious damage to the church, but the original Gothic portico survived, displaying the ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Sintra, Portugal

Convent of the Capuchos

The Convent of the Frairs Minor Capuchin, popularly known as the Convent of the Capuchos, is a historical convent consisting of small quarters and public spaces located in the civil parish of São Pedro de Penaferrim. The convent was founded in 1560, consisting of eight monks that arrived from the Convent of Arrábida. Between 1578 and 1580, the Chapel of Santo António was constructed, along with the erection of a wall ...
Founded: 1560 | Location: Sintra, Portugal

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle is a Norman castle, founded in 1093. It survived many changes of ownership and is now the largest privately owned castle in Wales. It was the birthplace of Henry Tudor (later Henry VII of England) in 1457.

Pembroke Castle stands on a site that has been occupied at least since the Roman period. Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury founded the first castle here in the 11th century. Although only made from earth and wood, Pembroke Castle resisted several Welsh attacks and sieges over the next 30 years. The castle was established at the heart of the Norman-controlled lands of southwest Wales.

When William Rufus died, Arnulf de Montgomery joined his elder brother, Robert of Bellême, in rebellion against Henry I, William's brother and successor as king; when the rebellion failed, he was forced to forfeit all his British lands and titles. Henry appointed his castellan, but when the chosen ally turned out to be incompetent, the King reappointed Gerald in 1102. By 1138 King Stephen had given Pembroke Castle to Gilbert de Clare who used it as an important base in the Norman invasion of Ireland.

In August 1189 Richard I arranged the marriage of Isabel, de Clare's granddaughter, to William Marshal who received both the castle and the title, Earl of Pembroke. He had the castle rebuilt in stone and established the great keep at the same time. Marshal was succeeded in turn by each of his five sons. His third son, Gilbert Marshal, was responsible for enlarging and further strengthening the castle between 1234 and 1241.

Later de Valence family held Pembroke for 70 years. During this time, the town was fortified with defensive walls, three main gates and a postern. Pembroke Castle became de Valence's military base for fighting the Welsh princes during the conquest of North Wales by Edward I between 1277 and 1295.

Pembroke Castle then reverted to the crown. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the castle was a place of peace until the outbreak of the English Civil War. Although most of South Wales sided with the King, Pembroke declared for Parliament. It was besieged by Royalist troops but was saved after Parliamentary reinforcements arrived by sea from nearby Milford Haven. Parliamentary forces then went on to capture the Royalist castles of Tenby, Haverfordwest and Carew.

In 1648, at the beginning of the Second Civil War, Pembroke's commander Colonel John Poyer led a Royalist uprising. Oliver Cromwell came to Pembroke on 24 May 1648 and took the castle after a seven-week siege. Its three leaders were found guilty of treason and Cromwell ordered the castle to be destroyed. Townspeople were even encouraged to disassemble the fortress and re-use its stone for their purposes.

The castle was then abandoned and allowed to decay. It remained in ruins until 1880, when a three-year restoration project was undertaken. Nothing further was done until 1928, when Major-General Sir Ivor Philipps acquired the castle and began an extensive restoration of the castle's walls, gatehouses, and towers. After his death, a trust was set up for the castle, jointly managed by the Philipps family and Pembroke town council.

Architecture

The castle is sited on a strategic rocky promontory by the Milford Haven Waterway. The first fortification on the site was a Norman motte-and-bailey. It had earthen ramparts and a timber palisade.

In 1189, Pembroke Castle was acquired by William Marshal. He soon became Lord Marshal of England, and set about turning the earth and wood fort into an impressive Norman stone castle. The inner ward, which was constructed first, contains the huge round keep with its domed roof. Its original first-floor entrance was through an external stairwell. Inside, a spiral staircase connected its four stories. The keep's domed roof also has several putlog holes that supported a wooden fighting-platform. If the castle was attacked, the hoarding allowed defenders to go out beyond the keep's massive walls above the heads of the attackers.

The inner ward's curtain wall had a large horseshoe-shaped gateway. But only a thin wall was required along the promontory. This section of the wall has a small observation turret and a square stone platform. Domestic buildings including William Marshal's Great Hall and private apartments were within the inner ward. The 13th century keep is 23 metres tall with walls up to 6 metres thick at its base.

In the late 13th century, additional buildings were added to the inner ward, including a new Great Hall. A 55-step spiral staircase was also created that led down to a large limestone cave, known as Wogan Cavern, beneath the castle. The cave, which was created by natural water erosion, was fortified with a wall, a barred gateway and arrowslits. It may have served as a boathouse or a sallyport to the river where cargo or people could have been transferred.

The outer ward was defended by a large twin-towered gatehouse, a barbican and several round towers. The outer wall is 5 metres thick in places and constructed from Siltstone ashlar.

Although Pembroke Castle is a Norman-style enclosure castle with great keep, it can be more accurately described as a linear fortification because, like the later 13th-century castles at Caernarfon and Conwy, it was built on a rocky promontory surrounded by water. This meant that attacking forces could only assault on a narrow front. Architecturally, Pembroke's thickest walls and towers are all concentrated on its landward side facing the town, with Pembroke River providing a natural defense around the rest of its perimeter.