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What to do in Sintra: a magical and unforgettable itinerary

Sintra is only an hour away from Lisbon by train and requires a moderate walk to Sintra's main attractions. Leaving the western suburbs of Lisbon and heading up to Sintra is like crossing into another world.

Nestled in the scenic central mountains of Portugal, Sintra is unlike anywhere else you've ever visited. And we'll tell you why.
Taking a day trip to Sintra is like visiting a theme park for architecture lovers.

Ideal for a day trip from Lisbon, Sintra is often described as a totally different world. Once a royal sanctuary, this area considered a Cultural Landscape - UNESCO World Heritage Site is filled with castles, palaces, parks, trails and above all breathtaking views. Sintra is an explosion of colour and architecture amongst the greenery of the hills.

So let's explore the best things to do in Sintra:

Pena National Palace

Recently voted one of the "7 Wonders of Portugal", Pena Palace was commissioned by King Ferdinand II in 1838 on the ruins of a former monastery.

The ostentatious Disney-style architecture and lofty setting are reminiscent of Ludwig II's Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, but Pena Palace is actually a few decades older, and was in fact the first romantic palace in Europe.

As was the fashion at the time, the palace brings together various historical styles, from Moorish to Renaissance, and is without doubt the leading exponent of 19th century Romanticism in Portugal.

It was built as a summer residence and has fascinating stuccoes and trompe l'oeil interior paintings, and the park has views that will amaze you.

Pena Palace also has an amazing collection of trees, over 2 000 species, from the four corners of the world, thanks to the microclimate that exists in this region.

Moorish Castle

Rising some 412 metres above sea level are the ruins of a majestic castle, shrouded in mist.

Built by the Moors in the 10th century and enlarged after the Reconquest, the Moorish Castle in Sintra can be seen from most of the town, reigning from above.

Its walls crown Sintra masterfully, and when the clouds clear, the views over the hill and valley of the Sintra Palace, and across the Atlantic are breathtaking.

The vertiginous walls of the castle stretch up the mountains and over the huge moss-covered rocks.

Quinta da Regaleira

Conceived by Italian opera set designer Luigi Manini, this estate and its fairytale gardens are the neo-Manueline extravagance of Brazilian coffee magnate António Carvalho Monteiro, also known as "Monteiro dos Milhões".

His wealth was channelled into the stunning Quinta da Regaleira, which is filled with small monuments reflecting Monteiro's fascination with the Freemasons, Knights Templar, divination, mysteries, and legends.

Quinta da Regaleira was born of a dream, but it is in the Quinta park that Monteiro's eccentric personality is best understood underground there is a system of tunnels and caves, all designed to confuse and enchant.

The "initiation wells" are one of the main tourist attractions of Sintra and one of the most fascinating places on the Quinta. These deep wells are lined with spiral staircases that take you deep into the earth for mysterious ceremonies.

Park and Palace of Monserrate

Monserrate is further away than the other palaces in Sintra and therefore doesn't get as many visitors. But that doesn't mean you should exclude it from your list of places to visit in Sintra.

The Park of Monserrate was designed in the mid-19th century for Sir Francis Cook, an English aristocrat, who was given the title of Viscount of Monserrate by King Luís I. The gardens were designed to take advantage of the microclimatic characteristics of the Sintra mountains, and the park has over 3,000 exotic species.

The Islamic influence on the Palace of Monserrate is undeniable, whether in the arches, the arabesque stucco of the staircase, or the ceiling of the magnificent music room, which today serves as the setting for dream weddings.

Traditional Sintra Sweets

Sintra is known for its typical sweets, where the queijada de Sintra (cheesecake from Sintra) stands out most clearly. The recipe for the queijada de Sintra seems simple, with just eggs, milk, sugar and cheese. The cheese replaces the butter and gives it a soft and smooth texture. Truly delicious!

Another sweet to accompany a coffee is the travesseiro de Sintra, whose recipe includes puff pastry filled with almond cream and eggs. We suggest a visit to Casa Piriquita in the center of Sintra.

Don't forget that visiting Sintra is like entering a fairytale, full of mountain landscapes, palaces, parks and enchanting places.

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