Sintra, a picturesque Portuguese town is situated on the dewy pine-covered slopes of the Serra de Sintra, a mountain range located towards the west of Lisbon. The cooler climate makes Sintra the perfect place for a summer getaway for the rich and famous of Lisbon and you can find a wide range of historic buildings and summer houses here. Sintra-Vila, the city center of Sintra, has been ranked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is full of multi-colored manors that open out to beautiful hills and enchanting landscapes. It is a must-visit destination for those visiting Lisbon, and most travelers offer Sintra the customary day trip. Bookmundi recommends you to stay a while, explore its mysterious sights and try your luck at searching for the ‘glorious Eden’ as described by Lord Byron in the 18th century. A word of advice. Sintra tends to become incredibly crowded during the weekends, so mid-week explorations are probably the best.
How to Get There
Sintra is well connected to Lisbon by a number of train services that depart from the Rossio Station. Visitors can also drive down to Sintra or take a bus to get to town. Most attractions of Sintra are spread across the steep hills in the area, but one can easily catch a tourist bus from the Sintra station and explore most major sights.
The lands of Sintra offered shelter to primitive men, Arabs and the Romans before they were transfixed by the charms of romanticism. Sintra saw human life very early and has been a region that attracted men since the late Neolithic times. Although it came under the hands of the Romans around the year 30 B.C., it mostly flourished under the Arabs. After a brief period as the second most important city in the region, Sintra was again affected by several conquests and attacks. It finally saw a long period of peace in the 12th and 13th centuries, after the first Portuguese king, Afonso Henriques managed to take control of the Moors castle. Much like its history, the city sank once again into the darkness of the 14th century plague and a major earthquake in the year 1755. Reeling for decades from the aftershocks of one calamity after the other, the town finally managed to blossom after the advent of Romanticism, and soon emerged as the ultimate destination for romantics around the world.
The Palaces of Sintra
The biggest draws in town are those three beautiful and elaborately designed palaces. The Monserrate Palace, the National Palace and the Pena Palace present breathtaking architectural beauty and a range of historic relics and artifacts that really blow your breath away.
The goth-inspired National Palace is the longest inhabited palace in the country with a history that dates all the way back to the medieval ages. Its exteriors present a simple whitewashed façade and gothic arches, but also add a touch of romanticism with those two dominating chimneys extending over the palace kitchens. The interiors of the palace are far more striking. They reflect the various tastes and styles of the dynasties that occupied the palace and are full of all kinds of medieval treasures. The Swan and Magpie rooms are the two most artistic rooms in the palace.
Pena Palace is a beautiful palace that was built by an art-loving king in the 19th century and its designs reflect his love for the opera. The exterior is full of extravagant carvings and beautifully painted walls and the interiors are the way they were under the Portuguese monarchy.
The Monserrate Palace is basically a stately home that presents a beautiful blend of Arabic and Indian architectural designs located in the midst of a traditional English garden. The palace still hosts most of its original art collection and the gardens are home to close to 2500 species of plants, divided according to different zones.
Hiking in Sintra
Sintra might not be blessed with a national park, but the Pena Park offers an ideal substitute. The park covers the grounds surrounding the Pena Palace and is home to a number of exciting trails that wind their way through the pine-covered regions of the Serra de Sintra. The most popular trail is the one that leads to the statue of King Ferdinand II, located on a rocky outcrop that overlooks the palace.
Beaches in Sintra
The Guincho Beach is the most popular beach in Sintra. Sure, we presented the same beach in our Cascais guide, but when the best surfing beach in the country is located in close proximity to both towns, we really don’t have a choice, do we? Guincho is wild, rugged and powerful, and therein lies its beauty. There’s a constant breeze and it is perfect for adventure lovers.
Other Things to See and Do
Quinta da Regaleria is an architectural and historical wonder that you must not miss out on while in Sintra. This neo-Manueline wonder was created by Luigi Manini for Antonio Monteiro, the Brazilian coffee tycoon. The villa boasts of breathtaking Venetian glass mosaics, outstanding frescoes and beautifully carved fireplaces. While in Sintra, you might also want to visit Cabo da Roca, a place that was considered to be the end of the world until the 14th century. Cabo da Roca is the most westerly point of Europe and is famous for its jaw-dropping views and magnificent walks. Walk along the wind-blown landscapes and treat your eyes to tantalizing views of the raging seas and dramatic scenery. The best time to visit Cabo da Roca is just before sunset, for the sunset views on offer are nothing short of magical.
When to Visit
Sintra boasts of a beautiful climate that makes it a year-round destination. It is far cooler than Lisbon during those hot summer months thanks to the prevailing winds and its elevation and is best enjoyed during the spring or autumn season, when the surrounding greenery is at its beautiful best. Like Cascais, Sintra winters tend to be unpredictable and it is best to avoid the city during the winter months.