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Visiting Monserrate Palace and Gardens, Sintra, Portugal

By alison - June 18, 2012 (Updated: March 9, 2015)

This entry is part 9 of 24 in the series Portugal & Andalusia 2012.
Monserrate Palace, Sintra, Portugal

Monserrate Palace, Sintra, Portugal

The Romantic, Mogul-style, Monserrate Palace was the third and final palace we visited, in UNESCO designated Sintra, Portugal, and it seemed we saved the best for last.

Not only did the ornately carved interior of Monserrate exceed the beauty of the Sintra National Palace, we also enjoyed wandering through the stunning Monserrate Gardens as much as those at Pena Palace. The best part – there were very few other visitors.

Like Pena Palace, Monserrate was built on the site of a former chapel which was devastated by the 1755 earthquake. In 1790 Gerard de Visme built a neo-gothic palace on the ruined site. Three years later, William Beckford rented the site and began to lay out the extensive garden. But it was Sir Francis Cook, who acquired Monserrate in 1856, who made the palace and grounds what we see today.

Interestingly, all three of the men who shaped Monserrate Palace were English. De Visme was a merchant, Beckford was a writer and Cook was a textile millionaire. Over the years, Monserrate was visited by many famous and noble British, including poet Lord Byron.

Monserrate was about to get some more commonwealth visitors, in the form of 4 wandering Canadians.

When we first arrived at the palace gate we descend into the Monserrate Gardens nature trail. This first part of the garden is a wild woodland, dotted with follies and rare trees collected by Cook. It’s the type of place you can imagine trolls and fairies being at home.

The woodland garden of Monserrate Palace, Sintra

Wandering through the magical woodland garden of Monserrate Palace, Sintra

We then passed by a (fake) ruined chapel, being overrun by an Australian Banyan tree, and descend into the Mexican Garden. This area of the garden has undergone recent renovation and there is a plethora of newly established flowering plants here.

From there, we headed into the rose garden and were able to enjoy some of the early blooming varieties.

As we meandered our way through each of the different themed gardens, we were always within sight of Cook’s magnificent trees: a huge Norfolk pine, cork oaks, tree ferns, a ginkgo biloba and mourning cypress, among many others.

The Gardens of Monserrate, Sintra

Admiring the Gardens of Monserrate, Sintra

Finally we arrived at the palace lawn. From here we could see the dome of the main hall and the beautiful arched back porch.

Looking up at Monserrate Palace from the Garden

Looking up at Monserrate Palace from the Garden
Monserrate inside and out

Monserrate inside and out (clockwise from top): Wall carving detail, A cameo by my mom on the stairs, Bird of Paradise plants beside the palace, garden detail, the ruined chapel.

The interior of Monserrate Palace took our breath away. Every detail was ornate, without being over-the-top, like Pena Palace. There were both Moorish and Indian influences but they worked together to create a beautiful and cohesive design.

Monserrate it monochrome

Monserrate it monochrome (clockwise from top): The terrace, The Chimera – echoing the 2 guarding the front gate, looking down from the main hall dome, the gallery, plasterwork detail, the terrace

Stepping inside the palace, our first glimpse was of the main hall dome. And what a glimpse it was!

The Main Hall Dome

Looking up at the Main Hall Dome

From there, we headed down the gallery, a corridor connecting the three towers of the palace. The series of columns and arches made for a dramatic photo opportunity.

The beautiful gallery corridor

The beautiful gallery corridor

At the far end of the gallery is the music room, decorated with representations of the muses and the graces. It is topped by another striking domed ceiling.

The Music Room with its stunning domed ceiling

The Music Room with its stunning domed ceiling

At the opposite end of the palace is the entrance hall which opens onto the terrace and the Triton Fountain.

The Triton Fountain from the terrace

The Triton Fountain from the terrace

From here, we headed back to the palace gate, via another woodland path, passing by wisteria and several small outbuildings now used as a cafe and workshop.

Monserrate was definitely the highlight of our Sintra visit. The gardens were a quiet place to retreat after being in the crowded town centre and the palace was the most beautiful of the three we visited.

Monserrate Palace and Gardens

Monserrate Palace and Gardens – Our favourite stop on our tour of Sintra, Portugal

Sintra itself is well worth an overnight visit (at least) if you are in the Lisbon area.

Park and Palace of Monserrate

Admission

  • Adults 7€
  • Students and Seniors 6€
  • Children under 5 free

Opening Times

  • Park – 9.30am to 8pm  – last ticket at 7pm
  • Palace- 9.30am to 7.00pm – last ticket at 6.45pm

For more details, visit the Sintra Parks Website.

Stay tuned as our Portugal and Spain adventure heads into Andalusia. There will be more palaces, castles, and incredible places.

Love castles, palaces, and ruins like in this article? Us too! Don’t miss the full listing of Castles we’ve visited in Europe and beyond.

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Alison

Alison

Big Cheese at CheeseWeb
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of Cheeseweb.eu. She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She is currently slow travelling through Europe in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
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3 comments

  1. Comment by Johanna Bradley

    Johanna Bradley

    Johanna Bradley June 25, 2012 at 18:51

    Excellent overview of Monserrate, Alison. I hoped to visit last time we were in Lisbon, but ran out of time. Looking at this, it’s a must.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison June 25, 2012 at 19:07

      Thanks for stopping by Johanna! It really is worth the trip from Lisbon and it’s a quieter alternative to some of the popular palaces.

  2. Pingback: The Fairytale Palaces of Sintra: A Photo Essay

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