The Quinta da Regaleira Palace is one of the most visited palace in Sintra. The palace is magnificent on its own, but the gardens are what will leave a memorable impression in your heart. Come along…
The History of the Quinta da Regaleira or the Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire
António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro, an eccentric millionaire built the Quinta da Regaleira Palace and its gardens at the beginning of the 20th century. The architect in charge, Luigi Manini, was also a professor of stage design, and together with Monteiro, they created the Quinta da Regaleira, combining Gothic, Egyptian, Moorish, Manueling and Renaissance styles while inserting numerous mystic references to alchimie, the knight templars and freemasonry. Such a mix of architecture styles sounds like an awful lot! But it truly works and they clearly managed to create a unique work of art!
The Quinta da Regaleira Palace is part of the Cultural Landscape of Sintra which is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The gardens of Quinta da Regaleira: an initiatic journey…
As you enter the palace ground, you will feel drawn to explore the gardens, like a moth is drawn by light. Go ahead, loose yourself on the winding path, admire the vegetation and the constructions scattered around. A gazebo here, a tower there… some secret passageways await. Just look around and you may find one of the entrance to the tunnels, hidden in a grotto or behind a fountain.
Enter the Regaleira tower!
The West Grotto might be hiding an entrance to the tunnels…
The West tower is overlooking the tennis court.
The Portal of the Guardians is the central pavillon.
The Portal of the Guardian fountain might be hiding another entrance to the tunnels…
Climb up the towers to see the castle of the Moors
The gardens of the Quinta da Regaleira were styled to represent ancient secret orders with numerous symbols hidden in plain sight. The layout of gardens was to represent the quest for paradise, the initiatic journey to light and was inspired by the Divine Comedy by Dante.
… Or a giant playground?!
I know all of the above! But when I was there…. I mostly felt like I was on a giant playground for adults! It was just so much fun to explore! We climbed every single tower, we hid in the grottos, we explored every single path like we were on a treasure hunt!
Mr A. doesn’t have the same romantic views as I! 😉
When I wasn’t playing around, I could totally picture myself, wearing a fancy dress, parading gracefully in the gardens. For sure I would have been giving the appearance of not caring and yet, gauging every potential suitors, batting my eyes and smiling behind my fan. Seriously, those gardens were designed for courting, weren’t they!?!
A lot of private little areas where couples could hide to whisper love words in each other ears and maybe exchange innocent kisses. A lot of benches where you could rest, read a book, fake being busy while waiting for the most charming man to come and take your heart away… What it must have been like to be a young women at the beginning of the 20th century! (ok ok I know it wasn’t all roses and sunshine! but a girl can dream a bit, right!?!)
The Initiatic Well
As you walk up in the gardens, you will soon reach the lake of the waterfall. You may have found another entrance to the tunnels on your way there, but this is the one you should be using. Cross the lake on the little Japanese path and you will reach the tunnel on the other side. Advance slowly in the tunnel… feel the darkness, the atmosphere, your own fears… as you reach the bottom of the initiatic well, raise your head to see the light.
Now that you have defeated your demons and hell, you are entitled to climb up the stairs to the light and to heaven.
The Lake of the Waterfall and its Japanese pathway.
Let the darkness of the tunnels lead you to the initiatic well…
The initiatic Well from below. The blinding light after the darkness…
Note: the main well is 27m high and has nine platforms, which are said to be “reminiscent of the Divine Comedy by Dante and the nine circles of Hell, the nine sections of Purgatory and the nine skies which constitute Paradise.”
There is a second smaller well, called the unfinished Well, which is believed to have been built using Masonic principles.
The Initiatic Well from above
The Palace of Quinta da Regaleira
As you make your way back down, you should visit the palace of course. After having such an amazing time in the gardens, it didn’t feel necessary but I’m glad we visited anyway.
The entrance of the Palace pictured above and the hunting room which served as a dining room below
The Renaissance hall and its fireplace
The first floor, with the hunting room and the Renaissance hall was the best part. The other floors were slightly too dark and part of them were closed when we visited. They were probably some renovation going on. Nether-the-less, visiting the palace was like the cherry on the cake. Or maybe the cake, we had with our tea at the café, was the cherry on the cake! 😉
Don’t forget to visit the Chapel!
The technical bits:
The official website: www.cm-sintra.pt
You can walk to Quinta da Regaleira from the Sintra center or take the tourist bus.
Best time to visit: Spring and autumn to enjoy the vegetation. Early in the day or late, like other sites in Sintra!
You know the drill: wear comfy shoes! You might get slightly wet in the well and the tunnels.
If you want to know more about the Romantic architecture of Sintra, check out my post on the Pena Palace.