Monserrate Palace seen from its great lawn
Monserrate Palace is one of the best examples of 19th-century European eclecticism. It was first a Gothic Revival mansion built in 1790 by an English merchant, and ended up being home to novelist William Beckford (known as the wealthiest young Englishman of his time, who fled Britain after a homosexual scandal), and later to Sir Francis Cook (an English millionaire and art collector), with both transforming the building into its current appearance.
The Oriental-style interior of the palace
The name Monserrate dates back to a time when a local friar visited an abbey in the Montserrat mountain in Catalonia, and upon returning to Sintra had a chapel built on this site. Francis Cook acquired the chapel in 1856, and turned its surroundings into one of the most exotic gardens of the Victorian era.
The palace mixes different styles, from the neo-Gothic to the neo-Moorish, and is topped by a dome inspired by the Duomo in Florence. It’s surrounded by a lush park with a remarkable botanical collection, with species from around the world, waterfalls and lakes, many of them created by Beckford and Cook.
A carefully-restored ceiling in the palace
There’s a rose garden, Mexican and Japanese gardens, and a great lawn across from the palace, which is accessed through an octagonal hall with a series of Gothic arches and marble columns. From there, visitors can see the rest of the Oriental-style interior, which includes a library, a chapel, and a music and billiard room, all featuring intricate details on the walls and ceilings. The original furniture is gone, but a visit is worth it for the exotic architecture, and the music room is sometimes a stage for cultural events.
A waterfall in the garden around the palace
The building was bought by the Portuguese State in 1949 and nearly became a ruin, until a major restoration in 2000 returned it to its former glory. The park is now part of the European Garden Heritage Network.
Like other monuments in Sintra, Monserrate looks like a fairy tale, and the park takes visitors around the world through its exotic species from different origins. That made it the perfect setting for a scene in the NBC miniseries "Gulliver’s Travels," starring Ted Danson.
Visiting Monserrate Palace
A visit to Monserrate Palace and its gardens can take anywhere between one and two hours, depending on how much exploration you do around the park. The map provided with the admission ticket is a useful guide.
The location away from the historic center of town means that Monserrate is never too crowded and is much quieter than the other famous palaces in Sintra.
How to Get to Monserrate Palace
Monserrate Palace isn’t within walking distance of the center of Sintra (unless you think you might enjoy a 1-hour walk through nature), so you need to take bus 435, which departs from a stop by the train station.
If you have a car, you may park it on the lot by the entrance.
Admission and Tickets to Monserrate Palace
Admission to Monserrate Palace and its gardens in €8.00 for adults and €6.50 for children (up to the age of 17) and seniors (those over the age of 65). There's a 15% discount with the Lisboa Card.
Opens every day -- at 9:30am in the spring and summer, and 10am in autumn and winter. It closes at 7pm in the spring-summer season and at 6pm in the autumn-winter season. The last ticket is sold one hour before closing time.