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Sintra: When you step into a fairytale

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Wilson Jone |
Sintra
Europe   Small paradise in the middle of Portugal

There are towns described as "It's a fairytale!" but you'd have hard time finding something like Sintra, a city in Portugal that fits that description as closely as it gets. A gorgeous romantic feel at every corner makes it a perfect wedding destination.

Monserrate PalaceSintra is located in the Lisbon Region in Portugal, very close to Lisbon to be an excellent destination for a one-day trip. It is set amidst the hills of the Serra de Sintra. Those pine-covered hills and climate that's a bit cooler than other parts of Portugal made Sinta a destination for the nobility and elite who built palaces, mansions and decorative gardens. The main archictectural style is colourful Romanticism and without exaggerating too much we can say that Sintra is the finest example of that style in Europe. No surprise there as it is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Sintra buildingsBuilt on crossroads of the culture, that architecture finds its roots in ancient cultures, yet closely connected to the 19th century design styles and trends. What's makes Sintra unique is that it is a small town but full of decorative and colorful buildings, tourist attractions, and national monuments - there are fourteen of them in this small town. Although this is an example of the 19th century building, here you can see a range of interesting things: from ancient castles that barely stand there to extravagant palaces.

Central city squareThe most charming part of Sintra is the city center filled with cobbled streets with traditional house, shops and cafes located around the National Palace. This small town is extremely popular so it's maybe not a good idea to visit it during summer when hordes of tourists are all around. Another advice would be not to go to Sintra by car because the city streets are narrow and there is not much parking space, and you will make many stops to take some nice photos. The slower pace horse-drawn carriage ride through romantic scenaries is perhaps the best introduction to the town.

Palacio NacionalThe styled Palacio Nacional, a fine example of Gothic, was the residency of the Portuguese nobility between the 15th and the 19th century. This is also the very center of the city easily recognized by two tall chimneys visible from afar. On the other side of the spectrum, if we may say so, is the Castelo dos Mouros, a ruined castle above Sintra dating back to the Moors period. The forest is all around it now but back then it was a perfect place for castle with its position above the Atlantic Ocean, the Lisbon Estuary, and Sintra itself.

Pena PalaceThe Pena Palace deserves much of your time, no doubt about it. That beautiful colourful palace, a fine example of the Romanticism style is painted and tiled with vivid colours, guarded by statues of mythological creatures. Its fascinating interior looks exactly as it was back in 1910 when the elite of Portugal left the country running away from the revolution. And around it everything is tranquility: the Parque da Pena, excellent viewpoints, walkways in the shade of trees and even - hidden lakes.

Ancient tram rideSince Sintra is within the Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais with the lush forests hills all the way down to the coastline, the hills are the ideal setting for walking, hiking, cycling, and rock climbing with excellent views. We also recomment Parque Natural de Sintra, the place that's not so crowded with visitors but its wonderful views from the Peninha Sanctuary and the Cruz Alta viewpoint are worth it. You can also take a ride on the ancient tram from Sintra to the resort town of Praia das Maçãs.

Quinta da RegaleiraBack in the town, it's time to explore secret tunnels! Hidden within the range of the Quinta da Regaleira, a beautiful palace near the city centre, the stately house features lush gardens, fortified walls, strong towers, secret tunnels, and two wells, the larger one contains a 27-meter spiral staircase with several small landings. If you want to explore the town more, you can take a tourist bus service that travels in a loop and connects the city centre with the hills to reach the Moors Castle. The bus departs every 15 minutes and the €5 ticket is money well spent.

Guincho beachTo bring your visit to a perfect end, head to the west to the Sintra National Park, a wild area with big cliffs but also vast beaches. This is the most westerly point of Europe, the point "where the land ends and the sea begins". This is also the place where you can find Guincho beach, one of rare places in Europe ideal for surfing. Not to mention Penha Longa Resort for those of you who like golf, pools and world-class meals. All those beauties of Sintra are just 40 minutes by train from Lisbon, visit them all to round your stay in this fairytale city.


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