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.
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).
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.
In the historical center, you can visit the 1000-year old National Palace of Sintra (below) for a mere €8.50.
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!
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.
Now how can you tell me this isn’t the stuff of fairytales?