After two weeks of brilliant sunshine, our run of good weather had come to an end. We were down to our final two days in Portugal and still needed to get to Sintra. We left Lisbon on the train and headed west. I’ll share more about Sintra in a future post, but the highlight for me was definitely the Monserrate Palace and its gardens. Even the overcast skies couldn’t take away from the beauty that we found here. When you enter the property you have lots of options of where to go first. We chose to start with some of the gardens, and what spectacular gardens they are!
In 1540 a chapel was built on the hill here and dedicated to Our Lady of Monserrate. This chapel, destroyed by the Lisbon earthquake in 1755, later became the site for the building of the palace which began in 1790. Sir Francis Cook, a wealthy English textile merchant, bought the palace and grounds in 1856 and began restoration of the building and construction of the gardens. Today as you meander through these gardens you will find waterfalls, ponds, grottoes, a variety of plants from all over the world, and the ruins of a fake chapel, based on one that was once here .
We had a lot of fun exploring the ruins and snapping pictures from all different angles.
The false church front was especially picturesque with the foliage surrounding it.
The landscaped gardens have a definite English feel to them, with both manicured lawn areas, and seemingly wild areas. The plants have been selected so that there is something in bloom all year round.
Now on to the Palace. With a mix of Moorish, Indian, and neo-Gothic design elements it really is spectacular. Although small in comparison to other palaces that one might visit, it is still very grand. Francis Cook had the palace renovated over a period of five years to make it “a house that would be visited twice a year, for periods of about a month.” Walk around outside first and admire the details that have been added to the tops of the columns and the archways.
Inside you will find ornately decorated corridors that connect the three towers to the outside doors. Take time to marvel at the amount of marble used and the intricate designs found here.
The main dome of the palace is probably the highlight of the palace. Made with a Moorish design it is truly spectacular.
Unfortunately the palace has had all of its furnishings and art collections removed. Today the empty rooms have photographs and information of the history of the palace and the gardens. Outside the front of the palace you will find the Triton fountain…
…and the Indian Arch that was purchased by Sir Francis Cook in 1857.
It was unfortunate that the sun did not shine for our day here, as I can only imagine how beautiful the gardens and palace building would be with the blue sky as a background.
Within the park area you will also find a coffee shop/restaurant and a small gift shop. One of the nice things we found about spending time here was the lack of crowds…although that might change soon as this is a hidden gem! If you do travel to Sintra you should definitely make time to include the Park and Palace of Monserrate.