If you ever have the opportunity to visit Lisbon, you must without question visit Sintra. The town in the municipality of the same name is close to the fabulous capital of Portugal but on the other hand, feels a world away.
With a UNESCO World Heritage inscription, thanks to a peerless cultural landscape and architectural legacy, Sintra is supreme. Proximity to the Atlantic coast and awesome Sintra-Cascais Natural Park help of course. Here are ten must-see attractions to highlight on your visit.
10. Toy Museum
So a toy museum may not rank up there with one on natural science or modern art. Yet the Museu do Brinquedo, or Toy Museum, in Sintra is the kind of kitschy, strange attraction that makes holidays memorable. The collection of vintage toys is actually quite meticulous.
One superb reason to make the trip from Lisbon to Sintra is a necklace of remarkable Atlantic Ocean coastline. The most popular beach destinations in the area include Grande, Magoito, Maçãs and Adraga, though intrepid tourists can always investigate further to find that perfect quiet sandy oasis.
8. Queluz National Palace
The 18th century Queluz National Palace is not part of the UNESCO World Heritage inscription that spans many landmarks in Sintra. Nonetheless, the rare Rococo masterpiece is a superlative gem, with a bevy of state and private apartments to explore.
7. Cabo da Roca
It would be a shame to visit Sintra and miss out on the westernmost point of mainland Europe. With that in mind, you simply have to swing by Cabo da Roca just to tick it off your list. The scenic cape is a mere 42 km from Lisbon and 18 km west of Sintra proper. Cabo da Roca was known by the Romans as Promontorium Magnum but Portuguese poet Luís de Camões put it best when he wrote that this is “where the land ends and the sea begins”.
6. Pena National Palace
Sintra’s Pena National Palace has won many important honors over the years. The landmark is one of Portugal’s Seven Wonders. The oldest Romantic era palace in Europe is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The President of Portugal has use of the eclectic architectural marvel for state banquets, visits and the like. Simply put, Pena National Palace and indeed, Pena Park, are unlike any other national monument in the country.
5. Seteais Palace
This Neoclassical beauty is also part of Sintra’s official UNESCO inscription. As a luxury hotel and restaurant, Seteais Palace is much more of a tourist attraction than Pena for example. Thankfully however, original elements from the late 18th century remain brilliantly intact.
4. Quinta da Regaleira
The Quinta da Regaleira estate is a vital component of Sintra’s UNESCO worthy cultural landscape. Commonly known as the “Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire”, the vast early 20th century complex includes lakes, fountains, parks, grottoes, tunnels and of course, the main Romantic palace and chapel.
3. Monserrate Palace
Where other palaces display grand austerity, Sintra’s Monserrate Palace evokes the playful and exotic. Wholly eclectic, with hints of Mughal architecture, the late 19th century palace bears traits of the Romantic in a similar vein as Pena National Palace.
2. Castle of the Moors
Perhaps the most important UNESCO landmark in Sintra, the Castle of the Moors dates back to the 9th century. Like other Arab landmarks from the era, the Castle has a sundry and turbulent history. The final inhabitants of the remarkable relic were Sintra’s diminutive Jewish population, who ultimately fled the Castle in the 16th century.
1. Sintra National Palace
Sintra National Palace or Town Palace is a crown jewel and of course, UNESCO World Heritage landmark. With a history that dates back to the Umayyad conquest of Hispania, the palace has many impressive Mudéjar design features. Clearly, the National Palace must be one of the main reasons Lord Byron wrote this in 1809: “I must just observe that the village of Cintra in Estremadura is the most beautiful in the world.”