Sintra, around 35km from Lisbon, with castles and palaces that seem to come straight from fantasy books is often called a fairytale village. Named after the moon goddess by the Moors, with its lush and exotic foliage it is not surprising why it has charmed the world’s greatest poets, philosophers, aristocrats and conquerors.
Due to its beautiful landscape, Sintra was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the most imposing buildings to the most whimsical structures, Sintra tour shows you how man-made development can also enhance nature’s beauty.
The mix of Roman, Arab and Portuguese designs on the castles make them the most admired not just throughout Europe, but in the world.
Sintra has two national palaces, Palácio da Vila and Palácio da Pena, besides other less prominent but equally beautiful and historically important ones.
Palacio da Vila (Town Palace)
Palácio da Vila stands at the center of the village, with its twin chimneys, that are considered iconic landmarks of Sintra. Built by the Moors and later integrated with Manueline features by its succeeding Portuguese royalty occupants, the palace is the best preserved mediaeval royal palace in Portugal, having been inhabited more or less continuously at least from the early 15th up to the late 19th century.
King Afonso V was born (1432) and died (1481) in the Palace. Afonso V’s successor, King John II, was acclaimed King of Portugal in the Palace of Sintra.
A sad story associated with the Palace is that of the mentally unstable King Afonso VI, who was deposed by his brother Pedro II and forced to live without leaving the Palace from 1676 until his death in 1683.
Around Palácio da Vila the streets and squares are dotted with venues for shopping and dining, and also museums that house prominent historical artifacts: the Regional Museum, Museum of Modern Art and Toy Museum.
The Pena Palace, standing on top of a hill overlooking the whole village, is most admired due to its beautiful interior design, although the outside beauty of the palace, the Pena Park, with ponds, exotic trees and fountains is something very special, an unforgettable beautiful landscape!
The palace was originally built in the middle ages, serving as a chapel and subsequently used as a monastery. During the 19th century Dom Fernando II, the King Consort, known as the ‘artist’ king commissioned the German architect Baron Von Eschwege to carry out restorations works to make it his summer palace. In 1910, with the declaration of the Republic, the palace became a museum.
Down the hill from Pena Park is the Moorish Castle. Its high location offers breathtaking views of the surrounding land.
Moors Castle (Castelo dos Mouros)
The Moors built the Castelo dos Mouros in the 8th or 9th century. When Afonso Henriques (lst king of Portugal), with the aid of Crusaders, recaptured Sintra in 1147, much of the castle was destroyed. Only four square towers, the battlements, and the ruins of a Romanesque chapel survived.
Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira is another not-to-be missed site in Sintra. Medieval and mythological symbols adorn the villa, while secret caverns and an initiation well make the lovely garden more mysterious and fascinating.
Across Regaleira is the Seteais Palace, a neo-classical structure that is now a five-star luxury hotel. Following the same road from Seteais is the Palace of Monserrate, a small palace with Neo-Gothic and Indian architecture.
Cabo do Roca, 18kms from Sintra, is the westernmost point of Europe. The place is a cliff overlooking the ocean, with a lighthouse, offering amazing views of sunsets over the Atlantic Ocean.
Nearby beaches are Portugal’s finest: Praia da Adraga topping the list as BBC’s top 20 European beaches, Praia Grande, and Praia das Maçãs, all with clear waters and fine sand.