There are two main reasons why people travel to Portugal: great food and great sun. It’s easy to just head to the beach and forget that there’s more to the country than that. Sintra is a good example of something that should be on all tourist’s list of things to see in Portugal. If you pick a car hire in Lisbon, you can be in this charming fairy-tale town in under half an hour. Here are some of the things you should see there.
1. Quinta da Regaleira – If you’re only seeing one single thing in Sintra, make it this. Built in the late 19th century, this beautiful estate is what happens when money and taste come together to make something hauntingly beautiful. The palace itself is elegant, and mysterious, but the interest of the estate lies on the grounds. Luxuriant vegetation lines the walkways and strange symbols greet the visitors who venture across the park. There are several mysterious tunnels and Caves just waiting to be explored, and even an Aquarium embedded in a rock.
2. Palácio da Pena – Perched on top of a hill overlooking the valley, this Romanticist palace resembles something out of a Disney movie. It’s lovely and colourful and for a split second you’re quite sure that there’s a princess locked on a tower somewhere, just waiting to be rescued. The Palace is surrounded by the Pena Park, a charming forest where trees from around the world grow, and where travellers can wander in peace, basking in the quiet atmosphere of that wooded heaven.
3. Palácio de Seteais – If there is something Sintra doesn’t lack it’s palaces. They’re almost everywhere you look. The neoclassical Seteais stands in stark contrast against the Romantic Pena Palace: Sense and Sensibility. Seteais Palace has been used as a luxury hotel since the 1950s, and its restaurant is famous for the quality of its food.
4. Palácio de Monserrate – Monserrate Palace was built by order of Sir Francis Cook, an Englishman who King Louis of Portugal made Viscount of Monserrate. Moghul inspiration can be seen in many of the details, something unique in Portugal. Lord Byron visited the Palace and talked of its beauty in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.
5. Castelo dos Mouros – The only castle in a land of palaces, the Moorish Castle is a ruined medieval castle on top of a hill overlooking the town. The chapel is still recognizable and the locations of the castle provides a wonderful view of the surrounding area.