Sintra, Portugal

General Information

Regional secretariat

Cultural Landscape of Sintra

Registration Year


Historical function

Monastery and royal summer resort.

Location and site

In the province of Estremadura, the Serra of Sintra, a narrow chain which is rich with vegetation and topped with granite peaks, extends between Lisbon and the Atlantic coast. At the foot of the Serra and on its north flank, the city of Sintra enjoys an exceptional climate.

Urban morphology

In the mountain as in the city, the architecture, the gardens and parks, and the natural surroundings of Sintra make up a harmonious ensemble. The urban square adjacent to the Royal Palace provided the basis of the network of narrow and irregular streets sprinkled with smaller squares; this network opens up towards the periphery where the vegetation is more abundant. Streets with stairways facilitate access on the slopes.

Royal palaces, monasteries and hermitages punctuate and dominate this romantic landscape, which links a taste for rare floral species with the solitude of the mountainous topography and the richness of the architectural heritage. The combination of styles (Moorish, Gothic, “Mudéjar,” “Manueline,” Baroque, and Italianate) and their exotism often evoke history as well as legend. Villas surrounded by gardens, some of which are audacious in inspiration, integrate harmoniously with the ensemble.

Registration criteria

Criterion (ii): In the 19th century, Sintra became the first centre of European Romantic architecture where this new sensitivity was displayed in the use of Gothic, Egyptian, Moorish and Renaissance elements and in the creation of parks, blending local and exotic species of trees. Ferdinand II (1836-1885) thereby developed romanticism in a splendid form that was unique in the Mediterranean region.

Criterion (iv): The landscape is a unique example of European Romanticism with the cultural occupation of the northern slope of the Serra that has maintained its essential integrity as the representation of diverse successive cultures, as well as the associated flora and fauna. […] The villas and quintas with their gardens and parks that cover the major area of the property correspond to a clearly defined landscape designed and created intentionally by people through landscape design.

Criterion (v): The cultural landscape, with its local and exotic vegetation, forms a continuing and organically evolved landscape, which has been sustained by painstaking restoration and preservation projects. […]

Historical reference

  • As part of the territory of the Roman town of Olisipo (later Lisbon), Sintra had been inhabited as early as the 2nd century B.C. by Romans.
  • During the Muslim period (713-1147) Sintra appeared in geography documents (Al-Bakri, 11th century, and again in the 13th century) as dependent upon Lisboa and a major urban centre after that city.
  • During the Muslim period (713-1147), Sintra appeared in geography texts (Al-Bakri, 11th century, taken up again in the 13th century) as a dependency of Lisbon and the second major urban centre after Lisbon.
  • During the reign of John I (1385-1433), the military conquest of Ceuta marked the beginning of Portugal’s great maritime era. In Sintra, work was undertaken at the royal palace; this continued into the 15th and 16th centuries. Aristocrats erected splendid villas in Sintra and on the slopes of the Serra. The palace was one of the principal resorts for the court.
  • Under the Spanish administration (1580-1640), the court abandoned Sintra. In the 19th century, the King-Consort Fernando II transformed a monastery into the Palace of Pena. With the return of the court, Sintra witnessed its heyday. The qualities of its site attracted wealthy people and artists.





M. Basílio Horta

Ville de Sintra

Largo Dr. Virgílio Horta
Sintra, Portugal

[email protected]

Ms. Marta Castelo Branco

Gabinete da Presidência
Câmara Municipal de Sintra

Largo Dr. Virgílio Horta
Sintra, Portugal

[email protected]