Sintra: Visiting the National Palace

The National Palace of Sintra dominates the town of Sintra because of its two white towers. Which, turns out, aren't towers but conical chimneys located in the palace's kitchen. I wasn't expecting that! The chimneys rise 30 metres above the kitchen so you're easily going to spot them when you're exploring the town.

Located in the centre of the town, the National Palace of Sintra is a mish-mash of architectural styles as the palace has been extended over the centuries. The Royal Chapel (pictured below, top) is the oldest surviving part of the palace, dating back to the early 14th century.  

There's been a residence on that site since around the 10th century, with the majority of the palace added between the 13th and 16th centuries, though changes happened beyond then. Like with Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle, reconstruction work had to be done after the 1755 earthquake.

Inside the palace are some incredible rooms - and also some incredible tiles. Portuguese tiles - known as azulejos - have often been used over the centuries to tell stories, especially back when few people could read or, if they could read, back when they didn't have ready access to books. 


But it's not just tiles that stand out at the National Palace of Sintra - make sure you look up in rooms like the Swan Hall and the Magpies Room. These great halls were added by King João because he wanted somewhere to receive his guests; both have hand-painted swans and magpies on their ceilings, funnily enough. The magpies are said to represent gossipy courtiers. 

The most impressive room though is the Coat of Arms Room (Sala dos Brasões). The ceiling displays the coats of arms of all the Portuguese noble families whilst the walls are decorated with those gorgeous blue tiles telling stories from the 1700s. It's quite something. 

Adult tickets cost €10, €9.50 if bought ahead online, and you'll likely spend one to two hours at the National Palace of Sintra. We were there an hour because, even though we visited at the weekend, it was very empty (COVID-19 times). It was definitely an hour well spent in Sintra though. x

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