Travel

A Little Stroll Around a Land of Fairytales

Casa dos Penedos, Sintra

Famous writers (infinitely more talented than me) have raved about Sintra for the last couple of centuries. Lord Byron, speaking of this UNESCO world heritage site, called it his “glorious Eden” back in 1809. Located 30 minutes from Lisbon, this town is a magical place to wander around: from romantic 19th century architecture to impressive landscapes, there’s so much to absorb. Sintra is the kind of place where you imagine fairytales are set.

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Azulejo tiles along the streets of Sintra

So it was with both awe and curiosity that I walked down streets lined with beautiful blue, yellow and white azulejos (Portuguese tiles) trying to explore the sights of Sintra. The narrow, hilly streets wind up and down the lush, green mountain. Along the way, you’ll find hidden treasures such as old fountains, mini waterfalls along hiking trails, or even a beautiful wooden door (below).

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Oh, what’s this on the side of the road? A mini waterfall!

 

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I’m obsessed with the detailing on this door – stunning!

 

When you arrive at the historical center, you’re surrounded by tiny stores and restaurants. Here, you can buy typical foods and local craft goods, or enjoy a meal and drink as you rest from all the walking.

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Buy some tiles, cork products, or other Portuguese artisanal products from the many little shops

In the historical center, you can visit the 1000-year old National Palace of Sintra (below) for a mere €8.50.

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National Palace of Sintra from the outside, with its distinctive double chimneys

Whilst the town center is busier and more touristy, it still has some little areas that are a bit quieter. In Sintra, you can look in every direction and spot something beautiful. In this case, I stopped for a good 15 minutes at a belvedere, admiring all the houses on the hillside and their small orchards. As I breathe in the cooler air of the mountain and take in the view, I couldn’t be more envious of those home-owners!

belvedere in Sintra

View from a belvedere – how great is the view from these houses?

 

Houses in Sintra

The traditional red roofs of Portugal; windows overlooking the mountainside.

 

Belvedere and church, Sintra

Detail outside a church, at the belvedere

 

Sintra architecture

My future home…? (Spot the National Palace in the background!)

If the sights below you captivate you, you may even forget to look up. That’s where you’ll find green hills dotted with castles, palaces and manor houses of all colors. Each one is from its own period in Sintra’s history, and they tell a story that has taken 11 centuries to make. Amongst the many historical buildings a few really stand out: Palácio da Pena, Castelo dos Mouros, Palácio de Monserrate, and Quinta da Regaleira are all so different and all worth visiting.

Sintra, Moorish Castle

In the background: the 10th-century Castelo dos Mouros; in the foreground: historical Sintra, with pillory

 

Casa dos Penedos, Sintra

Casa dos Penedos

Now how can you tell me this isn’t the stuff of fairytales?

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