When planning my first visit to Lisbon, visiting Sintra often appeared in my research. But I found few references to Quinta da Regaleira at that time. Anyway, we had only ten days to explore Portugal, and we had to leave visiting Sintra for another opportunity. When time is short, it is all about prioritizing!
Later, when I was already living in Portugal, I finally visited Sintra when my sister came to visit us with her family during the Carnival holidays. We were a big group (including three kids under nine years old and an elderly lady) and visiting more than one attraction on the same day seemed to be too much. We decided to focus on the Pena Palace, and Quinta da Regaleira has been left aside again.
By this time, I had already read some reviews on Quinta da Regaleira. They all mentioned how interesting it was and that it was a nice place to visit with kids.
A few months later, when a friend from Barcelona came to visit us, we found it was the right opportunity to go back to Sintra and finally visit Quinta da Regaleira.
We decided to go by car. It was a hot Sunday at the beginning of July and finding a parking spot in Sintra during the weekend is almost an impossible mission. But we hoped that everyone would rather be at the beach than visiting a palace in Sintra on a Sunday in the summertime. We were wrong! Sintra is crowded with tourists almost all over the year.
To sum up the story, my husband dropped us (me, my son and our friend) at the entrance of Quinta da Regaleira and went searching for a parking spot. Almost one hour later he got back, sweating and gasping, after walking up the hill under a scorching sun (yes, Sintra can be hot and airless). We finally managed to start our visit!
As I start walking around the garden, I wonder why I hadn’t visited it before. It is one of the most curious attractions in the region of Sintra.
The visit includes the main house, the palace and the garden. All the buildings that are part of the property have a peculiar style. Roman, Gothic, Renaissance, and Manueline elements are all mixed, resulting in unique architecture and style.
An attentive visitor will find picturesque elements decorating fountains and towers. Esoteric symbols and references to the Knights Templar, the Masons and dark alchemy are supposed to be present in the design of this place.
The highlight of the visit is hidden under the ground, the Initiation Well. A kind of inverted tower measuring around 27 meters that is supposed to be used by the Masons for initiation rites.
We entered in the top of the well and went down through the spiral stairway that leads to the bottom.
As you go deeper, the air gets fresher and more humid, as if you were in a cave. The only light comes from the top. Each level you climb down, it gets darker and darker. It doesn’t matter if you look up or down. The view is amazing!
Once at the very bottom, we got out through the galleries and tunnels which link the well to other parts of the Quinta. We didn’t know very well where those dark tunnels would lead us. We just followed other visitors and after a while found a light at the end of the tunnel (literally)!
The whole experience was exciting and intriguing! A mix of anxiety for being in a dark tunnel under the ground and fascination for that place took over me. It is the most interesting spot in Quinta da Regaleira, not only for adults but also for kids.
Among the palaces and monuments of Sintra, I would dare to say that Quinta da Regaleira is the best one to visit with kids. Most of the visit is outdoors, which means kids spend energy and don’t get bored.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to read about all the mysticism related to Quinta da Regaleira before our visit. It is the kind of place that the more information you have about it before you visit it, the more you will enjoy it.
Some smart tips: – Avoid driving to Quinta da Regaleira by car as there are few parking spots near the attraction. Whenever possible, prefer taking the train from Lisbon to Sintra, and then using local transports to get you there (local buses, taxis, uber, or the tuk-tuk services). – Tickets can be bought online. – Check the official site for hours and tickets. https://www.regaleira.pt/en/destaques/e-tickets/ – Wear comfortable shoes. – Don’t forget to bring a hat and use sunscreen as most of the visit is outdoors. – For visit with kids, remember taking a small flashlight to give them before entering the Initiation Well. They will enjoy lighting up the way through the dark tunnels.