With its rippling mountains, dewy forests thick with ferns and lichen, exotic gardens and glittering palaces, Sintra is like a page torn from a fairy tale. Its Unesco World Heritage–listed centre, Sintra-Vila, is dotted with pastel-hued manors folded into luxuriant hills that roll down to the blue Atlantic.
Celts worshipped their moon god here, the Moors built a precipitous castle, and 18th-century Portuguese royals swanned around its dreamy gardens. Even Lord Byron waxed lyrical about Sintra’s charms: ‘Lo! Cintra’s glorious Eden intervenes, in variegated maze of mount and glen’, which inspired his epic poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.
It’s the must-do day trip and, if time’s not an issue, has enough allure to keep you there for several days.
Sintra has become quite popular in recent years, and it's hard to escape the tourist masses (especially in the summer). Go early in the day mid-week to escape the worst of the crowds.
If arriving by train, go to the last stop – Portela de Sintra – from which it’s a pleasant 1km walk (or short bus ride) into the village.
Best places to stay in Sintra
Weekend getaway: Sintra, a Royal favourite
Looking for a short European break where you can immerse yourself in the local history and culture? This week we're bringing you Lonely Planet Magazine's choice of five great destinations where you can do just that...
Sintra destination guides
Lisbon Super Saver: Lisbon Sightseeing Tour and Sintra, Cascais and Estoril Coast Day Trip
Combine a morning sightseeing tour of Lisbon with an afternoon exploring the Estoril Coast, Cascais and the romantic mountainous region of Sintra.
Sintra Day Trip from Lisbon
Immerse yourself in the beauty of the mountainous region of Sintra on this day trip from Lisbon. With your guide, visit the fairytale-like Pena Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy a traditional Portuguese lunch in Sintra (included) and have free time to explore the village or visit Sintra National Palace.