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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrSintra is an idyllic town located 28 km north of Lisbon. With its amazing vistas, mountainous terrain, and historic palaces surrounded by ancient forests, Sintra is a must-visit if you are headed to Lisbon.
Being one of the oldest towns in the country, Sintra has a medieval layout with narrow winding streets, steps, and roofed passageways throughout the city. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995.
The wooded hills of the Serra da Estrela Mountains were once the summer residence of Portuguese kings and aristocrats and after a trip to fairy tale Sintra, which Lord Byron called a “Glorious Eden”, you will understand why. But take heed, some of those who visit Sintra will fall under its spell and will want to stay forever. Filled with luxuriant gardens, it’s also a great spot for hearty walks. The main attraction, however, are its historical sights.
There are also many shops, art galleries, and small museums in the town of Sintra. If you have a sweet tooth, try the delicious cake 'pasteis de Sintra' at one of the various cafés in the town square.
For the art enthusiast, the Modern Art Museum is a must-see. It exhibits highly valued works of world-famous artists such as Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Miró, and Francis Bacon.
For a dip in the ocean visit Sao Juliao, Magoito, Macas, Grande, or Adraga.
What to See
Castelo dos MourosCastle of the Moors was originally created during the 8th and 9th centuries to help protect against the Arab occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. Conquered in 1147 by Afonso Henriques for the Christians, the castle was a major victory in the reconquest of Portugal. Today, the castle is in ruins, although it was restored in the mid- 19th century. It offers fantastic views of Pena, Quinta da Regaleira, and the city center.
Palacio da PenaPena Palace, a beautiful fairy-tale-style castle perched on a mountain top overlooking Sintra, is considered the finest example of Portuguese romanticism. It was built in 1854 by the flamboyant Fernando II on the ruins of an old monastery. The palace with Arabic minarets, Gothic towers, Renaissance cupola, sand Manueline windows is an architectural mix of various styles and influences. Inside is a rich and unusual collection of furniture, ornaments, and paintings. But it’s the gardens, covering over 200 hectares, that are the most fantastic. Following the footpaths, you'll come across statues of lions and nymphs, hidden follies and grottoes, tiled fountains, and water-lilies lakes.
Palacio Nacional de SintraThe palace is situated in the center of Sintra with the white-washed medieval façade overlooking the main square of the town. There has probably been a palace here since Moorish times, although the current structure dates from the late 14th century. The interior is a mix of Moorish and Manueline styles, with arabesque courtyards, barley-twist columns and with 15th and 16th-century geometric azulejo s. The highlights are the Sala dos Brasões, with remarkable ceiling panels painted in 1515 and the Sala dos Cisnes, an enormous reception hall with 27 gold-collared swans painted on the ceiling.
Quinta da RegaleiraThe Quinta da Regaleira is an extravagant mansion designed by Italian, Luigi Manini, creator of La Scala, at the beginning of the 20th century. Keep an eye out for mythological and Knights Templar symbols. One of Sintra’s most spectacular sights, with magical gardens full of tunnels, wells, caves, secret ways, and exquisite sculptures, is a must-see. Make sure you get a free map of the garden because it is big and you don’t want to miss out on things. The highlights are the rock-embedded Aquarium and the supernatural, spiral tunnel staircase. And don't miss the beautiful views of Sintra and the Castelo dos Mouros from the top of the Regaleira Tower.
- During the summer, Sintra gets very busy, so try to visit midweek.
- Good walking shoes are a must for walking around Sintra - many streets are steep and cobbled.
- One day may not be enough to see everything on your bucket list.
- Visit Cabo da Roca - the westernmost point of mainland Europe is only a 40-minute bus ride from Sintra.
Getting There & AroundThe best way to get to Sintra is by train. Take the Lisbon Metro to Rossio Station in the Baixa neighborhood, then board any train from Rossio in the direction of Sintra. The journey takes about 40 minutes. Buses also run from Sintra to other towns and cities in the region, including bus 417 to Cascais and bus 418 to Estoril.
Sintra is very much a city for walking, otherwise, you may miss out on some of Sintra’s most subtle treasures, such as the cafés, gardens, and statues. If you’d rather save your legs, bus 434 will take you to Pena Palace and Moorish Castel from the train station or town center. For Monseratte, Seteias and Quinta da Regaleira, take bus 435.
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Author: Ayda. Last updated: Sep 17, 2014