The cave-like convent of Capuchos
Charming and rather eerie at the same time, this cave-like hermitage was carved from rock in 1560. It’s where Franciscan monks lived until 1834, and where visitors now have something of an “Alice in Wonderland” experience, going through rooms of shockingly tiny dimensions.
The building’s rustic simplicity, with just cork lining the walls for isolation (which has given it the nickname of “Cork Convent”), shows the austerity of the monks, who focused on spirituality and spent their days praying and meditating. It’s a contrast to Sintra’s extravagant palaces, and part of the experience is imagining the lives of the men who lived here.
Originally named Convento de Santa Cruz da Serra da Sintra (“Convent of the Holy Cross of the Sintra Mountain”), it was founded by a nobleman as the fulfillment of a vow that he had made to his father, who was the Portuguese viceroy of India. After his travels in Asia, he wanted a place that followed the ideals of the Order of St. Francis of Assissi, meaning the search for spiritual perfection and the renouncement of the pleasures of earthly life.
The convent is perfectly integrated into the natural environment, incorporating gigantic granite boulders into its construction. Outside it had a vegetable garden, while inside it was divided into tiny chapels, a kitchen, a library, a nursery, and just eight cells with stone beds and not much else. Eight monks lived in it at a time, and despite the humble conditions, one of them is reported to have lived up to the age of 100, which was almost unheard of at the time.
In 1873 it was bought by Francis Cook, who also acquired the Monserrate Palace nearby, and it became property of the Portuguese State in 1949. The original construction remains intact, and was restored in 2001, when it opened to the public.
A typical visit lasts about one hour, and it’s never crowded, as this is one of Sintra’s least visited attractions.
How to Get to Convento dos Capuchos
Located 7km (4.5 miles) west of the center of Sintra, the Capuchos Convent can’t be reached by public transportation. You’ll need a car, following road N375 and the signs.
Admission and Tickets to Convento dos Capuchos
An adult ticket to Capuchos Convent is €7.00, and for children up to the age of 17 and seniors over the age of 65 it’s €5.50. There's a 15% discount with the Lisboa Card.
It opens every day, from 9:30am to 8pm in the spring and summer, and from 10am to 6pm in autumn and winter. The last admission is one hour before closing time.
The convent’s isolated location means there are no other attractions in the surroundings. However, if you’re driving, you’re just about a 10-minute drive from the Monserrate Palace.