Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sintra was once inhabited by the Moors who dominated most of the Iberian Peninsula from the 8th century onwards. The Moorish castle ruins atop Sintra’s hill peak are testament to their long and successful stay.
After the Christian re-conquest of the area in the 12th century, Sintra became a home for Portuguese kings and queens who began a vibrant restoration and building programme of the original palace at the foot of the mountain during the 15th and 16th centuries. Today Sintra’s fascinating past can be seen clearly in the mixed architecture of the palace: a gothic, Islamic, Manueline concoction that results each room being different to the next. They tell a story of their era and uncover the rulers’ personalities in their detail.
I visited on a blue-sky day in early October, where shafts of sunlight pierced the palace walls and views of the sea were laid out below the Moorish castle ramparts. From medieval palace to Islamic fortress, here’s a story in pictures.