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The National Palace Sintra is a building that currently houses the Portuguese President. It was an estate until the monarchs of Portugal moved to Lisbon in 1834 and it became a summer palace for the Royal Family. Today, it also serves as one of the official residences of A Presidente da Republica Portuguesa (the Portuguese Head of State) or Prime Minister, namely when these are away from their designated residence or in case they are unable to reside at such place.
The palaces gardens and parklands, open to the public, have been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993.
One of the earliest references to Sintra dates back to the 10th century, when it was mentioned as a hunting area owned by the Muiders. The first monarchs to have lived here were King Sancho I and King Afonso II, followed by King Ferdinand I and Queen Saint Elizabeth of Portugal.
The palace was built in 1794 as a summer residence for Queen Maria Pia of Savoy, wife of Joseph I, while the land and its surroundings were classified as “Royal Hunting Park” (“Parque Real de Sintra”) during that time.
Although Queen Maria Pia died in 1816 before its completion, work on the palace continued until 1836. The palace’s construction resulted in a change to the area’s topography with the creation of artificial lakes, including what was once a lake that is now covered by a valley that connects it to the Vila Franca de Xira. The Palatial complex is surrounded by large English-style gardens, designed by Pombal and containing several lakes.
As its name suggests, the Palace was built to serve as summer residence for the royal family or for important royal visitors during penal times.