For more photos of the gardens, see Quinta da Regaleira Part 1 Pan’s Labyrinth
Timing Your Visit – Quinta da Regaleira
The best time to visit Quinta da Regaleira is just as it opens at 10.30 am. It’s not exactly a super early start to the day so should be manageable by most. It’s before the tour buses turn up, and most of the tourists are still finishing up breakfast.
If I had to do it again, I would head straight to the Portals of the Guardians, get a photo with no one sitting on it (hopefully!) then enter the tunnels, as this will take you to the bottom of the Initiatic Well, where you can also hopefully get a good photo sans other tourists.
From there, climb to the top of the well and get more photos. Then either walk down to the Unfinished Well (not such a rush on this as its not as popular/busy, nor as big), or head back up the hill and explore the paths at the top.
There are no major sites at the top of the Quinta da Regaleira estate other than the Grotto of the Virgin which wasn’t terribly impressive. The paths are fun to follow about though, as you come across some surprising holes in rocks (man-made with spiral staircases built in) or small ponds and former fountains.
At the mid level of the estate, Regaleira tower provides a great view over the lower half of the gardens, the Main House, and the monstrous Castelos dos Mouros and Palace da Pena high above in the Sintra Mountains. You could actually do Quinta da Regaleira, Palace e Parque da Pena and Castelos dos Mouros in the same day. I recommend that order: Regaleira is a nice relatively flat start and not a big venue compared to the other two. Pena closes before Mouros and the grounds are also much bigger. You can get lunch fairly easily at Pena too. There’s a cafe and a restaurant in the palace, although unsurprisingly, it’s not the cheapest place to eat. Good for a snack or coffee however.
I was a little saddened to see that the estate is not as lush and well looked after as I’d pictured. The water in the Lake of the Waterfall, and the Labyrinthic Grotto looked and smelled quite stagnant. English-style romantic gardens were incredibly popular at the turn of the last century, but they’re horribly ill suited to any climate not representative of England. The amount of water required to maintain them is inappropriate given that the area has been in drought for a few years. You see this quite a lot in Australia too.
While I can understand the garden situation, unfortunately a number of the structures, like the Balnearium Fountain, have seen better days, and the windows have been boarded up. It is clearly a ghostly apparition of its glory days. From my readings, it seems that the estate was not maintained at all well prior to its acquisition by the Sintra Council. A real pity as so much care was clearly taken in its build.
The chapel incorporates scenes from the Life of Mary, the Life of Christ, from the Templar Order, and from the Order of Christ (successor to the Templar Order in Portugal). A spiral staircase connects the chapel to the subterranean levels of the main house.
Main Gate Entrance
The ‘main entrance’ is actually not the ticket entrance at the time of my visit. The ticket office is around the corner and up the hill a bit at the old stable yards. The Main Entrance is in a great location to access the main house once you’ve completed the gardens. As with all the structures at Quinta da Regaleira, there is beautiful decoration on all surfaces.
Quinta da Regaleira Main House
If you enter the Main House from the Main Entrance (from the garden, across the bridge which is goes over the top of the ‘main entrance’) you’ll come to the the ‘basement’ of Quinta da Regaleira.
The lowest level has a verandah and path that leads into the chapel. It also provides some interesting information and architectural diagrams on the building of the house and gardens. There’s a refectory underneath the house, and (of course) a spiral staircase leading up to the main building.
Originally the lower levels (-1 and -2) were the kitchens, larders, scullery, boiler room and dormitory.
Hunting Room – Level 0
The Hunting Room is the main entrance to the house at the time of my visit. The ornate ceiling caught my eye, as did the fireplace depicting a statue of a Woodsman and his dogs.
Kings Room – Level 0
The Kings Room used to be the Billiard Room, and accessible from the Hunting Room via a very regal door. Within the Kings Room are paintings of 20 kings and 4 queens of Portugal. The timber ceiling is beautifully carved.
Hallway – Level 0
The hallway floor is covered in mosaics. Originally it contained a carved spiral chestnut staircase. This has been replaced with a much more tourist friendly (but less impressive) straight forward one with frayed carpet covering. The first and second floors originally contained the bedrooms and store rooms. They are now full of information on the house as well as small artifacts, paintings and pictures.
Rooftop – Level 3
The view from the top of the Panoramic Terrace is quite good. You’ll need to wait your turn as there’s a narrow spiral staircase leading to the top, and access is one at a time. Apparently, in the time of Carvalho Monteiro, the upper level was off limits to all but the owner, as it contained a private study that connected to an alchemic laboratory, as well as the roof top.
The best exit is via the main gate. This leads directly onto the main road. From here you can go back into town, or wander up and up to Palace da Pena and Castelos dos Mouros. Buses are also an option, but be prepared to wait a LONG TIME. If you can cope with it, the walk is likely faster and definitely more scenic.