by Jennifer Prince

How to spend a perfect weekend in Sintra, Portugal

A mere 45-minute train ride northwest of Lisbon, Sintra is a fairy-tale town full of history, lies close to the coast, and has been named a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Whether you have business in Lisbon or are heading south from Porto, this small town packs a punch and makes an ideal weekend trip.

Friday evening

For arrivals via train, stop by the Fountain of Armes for a quick photo op. Covered in quintessential Portuguese tiles, it gives visitors their first glimpse into the Moorish influence on the city.

Once arriving in the centre, peruse the whitewashed exterior of the Palácio Nacional de Sintra. Explore the intricacies of the interior if you arrive before closing time.

For dinner and drinks, head to Romario de Baco. Stay until closing and enjoy the fruit of Portugal’s vines at its wine bar or head to Byron Bar after for traditional music and cocktails.

Saturday morning

Cafe Saudade, known for its coffee and bakery, is good for hearty breakfast. For something on-the-go, stroll the historic centre and grab a pastéis de nata, the nation’s favourite custard tarts.

For those feeling ambitious, it’s the perfect time to hike the Santa Maria Trail to the Castelo dos Mouros. To have a more relaxing morning, hop on the 434 tourist bus or take a taxi.

Next door to the Moorish castle is Palácio Nacional da Pena, the highlight of a visit to Sintra. The whimsical palace is known for its yellow and orange walls with facades of blue tiles.

Saturday afternoon

Back in the centre, stop at Tascantiga for a late lunch, and take advantage of the outdoor seating to indulge in some people watching. Enjoy the tapas-style menu and signature wines.

Spend a relaxing afternoon perusing the plentiful shops of the old centre. Skip the kitschy souvenirs, and search for paintings by local artists or vintage Portuguese tiles to take home.

Saturday evening

No trip to Portugal is complete without Fado music. For dinner, drinks and music find Sinistra restaurant and nightclub behind the train station, open on Friday and Saturday nights.

Another option is to venture to the coastline to see the sunset. Restaurante Nortada (noted with a Michelin Plate) offers freshly caught seafood and looks over beautiful blue waters.

Sunday morning

Hire a taxi and head to Angra for breakfast. Gaze at the Atlantic while you eat on one of the terraces, and then meander along the coastline to put your feet in the sand.

After breakfast, head to Quinta da Regaleira. From magnificent stone walkways and turrets to underground pathways, the site truly is a wonderland.

Sunday afternoon

Return to the historical area, where you can take your pick of the quaint cafes, or pop into Tulhas for lunch, a cosy converted warehouse to dine on traditional Portuguese fare.

After lunch, take time to explore your interests. The Museu Anjos Teixeira is full of sculptures or the News Museum focuses on journalism.

A bit outside the centre is the Museu das Artes de Sintra, one of the largest private collections of contemporary art in the world.

As you prepare to leave Sintra, retrace the walk to the train station. Stroll down the art-filled, tree-lined pathway reflecting on this mythical town filled with culture.

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