Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra, Portugal

Quinta da Regaleira, just outside Lisbon, Portugal, is one of the weirdest, most enchanting places i’ve ever been. At first glance, anyone can appreciate the manicured gardens and intricately detailed architectural features. Looking more closely, a curious observer can delve into a world of esoteric symbolism, marvelously displayed with ostentatious grandeur, yet remarkable subtlety. It was designed, i would later find out, by a Milanese architect for the eccentric Portuguese playboy who originally owned the property. At the time of my visit, the home and gardens had passed through the hands of a few owners before settling into the possession of the government and opening to the public.

I heard about this place from a friend in Lisbon. Only half an hour outside the city, my friend Pedro and i were intrigued enough by the stories to venture out and see it. Unfortunately, we were slow departing the place where we were staying and arrived in Sintra with only a few hours left in the day. Nevertheless, we immediately located our destination and went inside. Mindful of time, we didn’t take the guided tour, but i did purchase a book about the history of the place, with fabulous photos and illustrations, but written in Portuguese.

We had only a couple hours to wander around, but could easily have spent an entire day… or longer.

From winding pathways studded with pagan statues, to underground cave labyrinths, to a mysteriously tiled chapel, this place was overwhelming in its abundance of masterfully created ritualistic structures and ornamentation. All i could do was gape at the opulence, taking photos for future perusal. It was the kind of place where you can just sense that Something Interesting used to happen. Perhaps frequently. The detailed history of Quinta da Regaleira is something i will have to explore further at a later date.

If you are ever in Lisbon, detour to Sintra, and visit this place. It is a marvel for any fan of architecture or esoteric studies to devour.