Earlier this year, we squeezed in a day trip to Sintra during our stay in Lisbon. After being swept off my feet at Monserrate Palace, we headed over to Quinta da Regaleira. We followed a lesser-known palace by one of the most popular ones. This magnificent 19th-century palace looks like something out of a vivid dream.

quinta da regaleira tower

Compared to Quinta da Regaleira, Monserrate Palace looked abandoned. We arrived at buses unloading dozens of people and a line for the ticket counter. If this is how it looks like during mid-March, I dread to picture this place in July! However, that didn’t deter us from enjoying this unique location.

To begin with, Quinta translates as villa, and this one was a personal residence until 1987. The lands of Quinta da Regaleira belonged to a few different families throughout its long history. But it was Antonio Monteiro who made it into the marvel we see today. Under the guidance of architect Luigi Manini, a former summer home was transformed into an intricate palace with elaborate gardens.

Overall, I felt like the central attraction here was the palace gardens, and not the architecture. While the palace is massive, only a small part of it is accessible to the public. What you get to see is amazing, as you would expect. Dating back to 1904, the palace is a wonderful example of Romantic architecture. Taking inspiration from Gothic and Manueline architecture, the end result is astonishing.

beautiful interior architecture at quinta da regaleira

The most fascinating aspect of Quinta da Regaleira is the Initiation Well. This inverted tower is 27 meters deep and has a spiral staircase. Supposedly, they used the well for ceremonial purposes. However, those are just assumptions because the real purpose is still unclear today. It’s even more confusing when you notice the bottom of the well depicting a compass. Aside from this one, there is a second Initiation Well on the grounds. Much smaller in size, it’s also known as the Unfinished Well.

There is an extensive system of tunnels with various entrances, including caves and grottoes. In a way, we felt like kids let loose to play hide and seek in the best location possible. Some spots will genuinely make you wonder if you should be there in the first place!

One of my favorite spots was the beautiful Portal of the Guardians. A splendid symmetrical edifice with two spiral staircases, you can climb up and enjoy the view. Across from it, you’ll notice the Terrace of the Celestial Worlds. I just love how these creative names only add to the mystery of Quinta da Regaleira.

portal of the guardians at quinta da regaleira

Rich in details, you can wander the grounds of Quinta da Regaleira for hours. With lakes, grottoes, fountains, and many fairytale-like constructions, the estate is brimming with magical corners. The gardens are immense and you can wander around freely or follow the indications. After all, you wouldn’t want to miss the famous well. Unfortunately, the well will probably constitute the least magical part of your visit. Regulated with guards, the traffic can only go one way and you’re encouraged not to stop on your way down.

On the other hand, you will find many enchanting locations all over the gardens. We spotted many unique benches and gazebos all over the estate. It was hard to put down my camera most of the time! Among the myriad winding paths, there is also a stunning chapel, similar to the palace in architecture. We spent a little over two hours at Quinta da Regaleira and it flew by so fast. I could’ve easily spent an extra hour just to ensure that I had seen everything.

All things considered, you must visit Quinta da Regaleira when in Sintra. The unique blend of Gothic, Renaissance, and Manueline architecture makes for the dreamiest scenery. Coupled with enchanting gardens, it’s a genuine escape from reality. I’d love to return here one day, all alone and early in the morning, just to soak it all in once again. Until then, I hope these inspire you to discover this original place for yourself!

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Brigita Soldo

Travel Photographer · Creative Content Creator · Vintage & Sustainable Fashion Advocate

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