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 side trip from Lisbon, which many do in a day, but this can feel rushed and, if time’s not an issue, there's more than enough allure to seize you here for a few days.