Sintra, Portugal was already a fairy tale dream. Colorful castles, eerie wells, ancient ruins, and a cute tiny village. After dragging ourselves from one Unesco World Heritage Site to the next, I still wanted more. I knew about a palace, hidden on a green estate, tucked away from most tourist buses and hordes of day-trippers. I wanted to see the Monserrate Palace in Sintra Portugal and I was not disappointed by this Fairy Tale Pink Palace. Join me as we tour the premises.
As the Monserrate Palace in Sintra is not as famous as the Pena Palace, I’d like to show you what the Monserrate Palace is like and why you should visit in, in my opinion. I also share practical tips on how to get there and make the most of your visit to this fairy tale palace!
The Parques des Sintra offered me complimentary tickets to visit the Monserrate Palace and Gardens. However, my enthusiasm and admiration is real and all opinions are my own.
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Sintra in Portugal is only 30 km (18 miles) from Lisbon. It is a small village and the gateway to the National Park of Sintra and Cascais. Many people visit Sintra on a day trip from Lisbon. As it is fairly close, this is a good option if you have little time. If you can spare a bit more, I definitely recommend to stay overnight as Sintra and the surrounding area is packed to the brim with Unesco World Heritage Sites, amazing scenery and ‘never seen before’ sights.
One of those remarkable sights is the not-so-well-known Monserrate Palace and Gardens. The stunning palace’s architecture is a careful mixture of Romanticism and gothic features with Arabic influences. The pink estate is situated on a green hill overlooking the surrounding area and a visit feels like a dream of long-forgotten childhood summers that you’re trying to hold on to. I absolutely fell in love with the Monserrate Palace and would like to share it with you!
Going back for more than a 1,000 years, the site that is now the Park Monserrate, was once home to a chapel for the lady of Monserrate. Later, the grounds were private property but turned to ruins after the 1755 earthquake.
But the beauty of the place attracted many visitors already. Among them, Lord Byron who wrote about Monserrate Sintra and later Francis Cook purchased the property. Together with a landscape artist, he redesigned the grounds and built the Monserrate Palace, which we can still enjoy today.
The current Monserrate Palace was built in Romanticism style with a strong referrence to the Islamic architecture. The Cook family used it as their summer residence. Since 1949, the Monserrate palace and gardens belong to the Portuguese state. Since 2000 the Sintra Park spruced up the estate and it is now possible to visit again. For me, it was one of the (many) highlights of our 2 days in Sintra. Read what I found so fascinating about Monserrate Palace.
Monserrate Park & Gardens
We arrived in Sintra that afternoon. After dropping off our luggage and hiking all the way up the hill to see Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle, I was absolutely dead. My energy levels were drained and I felt like I’ve seen enough stunning architecture and most certainly couldn’t possible walk up another bloody hill. For the past 3 days, we had nothing but rain in Lisbon and this day didn’t start any different.
Monserrate Sintra: a must visit
But as the day progressed, the thick dark clouds made way for some thinner clouds and some patches of blue across the sky. As we reached our rental car, we contemplated what we’d do for the rest of the day.
My curiosity won over my exhaustion. We were only in Sintra for 2 days. Tomorrow we’d wanted to visit the Quinta da Regaleira and we’d be on our way north to discover more of Portugal.
It was basically now or never to visit the Monserrate Palace and Gardens.
Park Monserrate Gardens
We drove back to Sintra and navigated along twisting roads to Monserrate estate. We parked our car and it turned out we had a little over an hour to visit the place. Not a whole lot of time, but I’ll take it. We walked through the park’s gardens and my boyfriend, an avid gardener and fauna friend, was estatic. We descended next to a waterfall and admired the thick bush and overgrown trees.
I directed us to Monserrate Palace first (I’m evil like that). I know we’d lose too much time in the gardens if it would be up to my boyfriend. That would leave us with too little time to explore the palace, so hurry up! Let’s move it to the palace! If you have more time, I definitely recommend exploring the gardens first and then visit the palace.
Once we arrived to the Monserrate Palace it was me who was estatic. Pastel pink hues across the building’s facade. Loads and loads of details and the sun was dipping behind the trees, casting a soft glow across the premises.
I instantly fell in love with the palace. The soft shades of pink on the roof, the lime stone rounded walls and the mix of Gothic windows and Islamic architecture. I was skipping around like a kid in a candy store.
We entered through the main hall and I was further amazed. This was a building like I’ve never seen before. Forget about traditional architecture and well laid out floor plans. The Monserrate Palace is made up of long hall ways (with brilliant vantage points!) and round rooms on each end. In the middle of those hallways, the giant staircase spirals towards the sky. It draws all the visitor’s attention towards the pink glass of the dome.
After a quick visit upstairs, were we learned about the history of the Cook family, we continued downstairs. We roamed the hallways of Monserrate palace, one arch after the other. The light and the arches automatically draw you to the round rooms on either end.
Music Room at Monserrate Palace
As I reached the furthest end of the palace, I entered the Music Room. High ceilings, arched windows and the light pooring in from outside. I could see the family gather here for the summer. Lazy summer days, enjoyed with music, laughter and sunshine.
Rose Gardens and Fern Valley at Monserrate
Once we saw each room and admired the light at the Monserrate Palace, I felt the time was ticking away quickly. It was nearly closing time, so we made our way outside. We walked through the Monserrate gardens and were rewarded with some stunning views of the side of Monserrate Palace. The sky turned blue as the sun set for that day. This was the first time we had such blue skies and it felt like the perfect finish to this long day of exploring in Sintra.
As we visited the Monserrate Park in March, the Rose Garden was trimmed down to only a bunch of scrubs. It was amazing to see giant cacti in the Mexican Garden but we continued via the pond to the Fern Valley. We stumbled upon the overgrown mock ruin nearby.
This is a so called mock ruin. It was deliberate created to become a ruin and is now overgrown by the Australian rubbertree and the other vegetation.
Once we reached the gate, the gatekeeper kindly asked us to leave as we were the last ones. (#sorrynotsorry).
Practical Tips to visit the Monserrate Palace Sintra
As you might pick up from above story, I absolutely loved our visit to the Monserrate Palace. And I think you should visit it too when you like different architecture, are into palaces or look for great (Instagram!) photo opportunities. Monserrate Palace in Sintra got you covered!
But how to arrange your visit? We visited with a rental car and just drove up to the property. But I did some digging and found some other options for you to reach Monserrate Palace from Sintra.
How to get to Monserrate?
I just assume you already made your way to Sintra. You can easily reach Sintra by train on a day trip from Lisbon, but I advise to stay overnight.
Either way, Monserrate Palace is technically in Sintra (or at least part of the Sintra national park) but it is quite far (3,5 km) from the other sights.
- By Car: once in Sintra village, follow the signs for Parque Palácio de Monserrate. Or ‘Monserrate’. You can also type in your navigation: Monserrate Palace,27 10-405 Sintra.
- By Bus: from Sintra railway station, you can catch the 435 Scotturn bus. For more information on prices and tickets, follow the link.
- TukTuk: TukTuks are booming in Sintra. You’ll find them at every major sight in Sintra and you can join a tour and charter a private tuktuk to drive you around. Make sure to negotiate prices before you get in!
- Join a tour: there are hundreds of tours from Lisbon that will bring you to Sintra and include a number of sights and options to see in Sintra. I found a few that include a tour of the Monserrate Palace.
How to get tickets?
You can purchase your tickets to visit Monserrate Palace at the gate or online. If you buy them online, you’ll receive a 5% discount on the normal price. Normal adult prices at the moment are €8 with discounts for children and elderly. Find more about prices and buying online here.
How much time do I need to visit the Monserrate Palace and Gardens?
This is a difficult one. We were seriously pressed for time and could have spent much longer at Monserrate Palace and in the Gardens. We didn’t see all of the gardens and it was only March, so not everything was in bloom, otherwise we would have spend double the time.
The good side for me was that the Monserrate Palace itself it not packed to the brim with ancient furniture and relics and displays. Although very insightful, the building is the main attraction. The empty space almost accentuates the unique architecture of Monserrate Palace. Therefore, you’ll need approximately 1 to 2 hours to explore the palace and the gardens (depending on how many flowers and trees you’d like to photograph or how many selfies you’d like to take for your Instagram).
The park has different opening hours for summer and winter. Check online to be sure, but the park roughly opens at 9.30 am in summer and 10 am in winter. Closing time is at 7 or 8 pm in summer and 6 pm in winter.
Why Monserrate Palace is worth a visit in Sintra
All in all, our visit was quick and rushed. However, I’m glad we got to see the Monserrate Palace and her unique blend of architecture and the lovely gardens surrounding the palace. It was a bit of detour to reach the Park Monserrate from Sintra village, but in the end, it was worth our time and effort.
Where the Pena Palace in Sintra is bold and overwhelming, the Moorish castle is rugged and the Quinta de Regaleira is mystic. The Monserrate Palace is sweet and tranquil. Like a summer dream, you want to hold on to as long as possible. If you can squeeze it into your Portugal itinerary, I definitely recommend a visit to the Monserrate park and gardens.
Have you been to Sintra in Portugal? What was your favorite sight? Have you been to the Monserrate Palace in Sintra? What did you think of it? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you.