About Sintra







Pena Palace


Parque da Pena

Palácio Nacional de Pena




Castle of the Moors  

Sintra Town Centre

Castelo dos Mouros   Sintra National Palace, Railway Station

ABOUT Sintra:

Population: 378 000
Region: Lisbon
Area: 319.23 km²
Year visited: March 2019

Sintra is a small city and a national park, Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais (Sintra National Park), less then an hour by train from central Lisbon. The town itself has only about 30 000 inhabitants, but the municipality has 378 000. Sintra is part of the Greater Lisbon region and the Portugese riviera. Sintra is one of Portugal's most popular tourist destinations, because of the picturesque green mountains, fairy tale castles and ruins. Sintra is a small hilly town, consisting of smaller villages, with a railway station, where you probably will arrive from Lisbon's Rossio Station. Sintra is one of Portugal's wealthiest cities and is known for the Bilderberg Meetings and the Open de Portugal. There are many sights in the town itself but most palaces and castles are situated in the mountains and hills surrounding the city.

Pena Palace (Palácio Nacional de Pena), a colourful fairy tale looking castle, is the most common reason to go to Sintra. To get there you have to take a local bus up the mountains. The views from the yards around the castle, that stands on a high hill in the Sintra Mountains, are incredible. On a clear day you can see Lisbon. The style is a mix of romanesque-revival and neo manueline, painted in yellow. red and grey. The castle was built in 1834, so it is much newer when you might think. It was built in medieval style, inspired by castles in Germany, after an idea by prince Ferdinand, later king. Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege was the main architect. King Ferdinand and Queen Maria II were much involved in much of the design, that included symbolism. The history of Pena Palace begun in the middle ages, when a chapel to Our Lady of Pena was built. Pena is a national monument, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. It is sometimes used for state occasions by the president of Portugal. There is a large beautiful park, Parque da Pena, surrounding the palace. The interior of the castle, that can be visited (but we did not), is more traditional in its style, a large contrast to the exterior with its colourful vaults, tiles and terraces.

The castle's gardens and park, Parque da Pena, is situated on the hills surrounding the palace. The park features beautiful ponds, trees and animals. Many exotic non-Portugese species have been planted to create a fairy tale environment. Within the park are the highest peaks of Serre de Sintra (the Sintra Mountains). Among the sights are small lakes with birds, an Islamic pavilion and a statue of King Fernando II, overlooking the palace.

Castle of the Moors (Castelo dos Mouros) is the ruins of a hilltop medieval castle in Moorish style, that can be seen from Pena, and overlooks the Iberian peninsula. It is also a national monument and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was an important defense point for the Moors during the reconquista (711-1492), before the castle was taken over by the Christians. Steep hills and stairs, with amazing views, as well as trees, greenery and flowers surround the castle ruins. It was constructed in the 8th-9th century by the Moors during the Muslim Iberia period. In the 16th century the castle was used by the Jewish. There is a chapel in the castle. A modern structure with labyrinth like corridors and open roof have been built at the entrance as the ticket office and lavatories. Steep stairs leed up to terraces where you find the most impressing viewpoint terraces.

As we visited Sintra as a daytrip, we only had time to discover the two attractions above. But there are also other interesting attractions.

Sintra National Palace (Palácio Nacional de Sintra) or Town Palace (Palácio da Vila) is a medieval royal palace situated in the town of Sintra. It was built in Moorish style by the Arabs. The interior have beautiful tiles.

Quinta da Regaleira. A property that consists of a romantic palace and chapel, and a luxurious park that features lakes, grottoes, wells, benches, fountains.

Palácio de Seteais is a neoclassical palace that is operating as a luxury hotel called Tivoli Palácio de Seteais Hotel. The palace, built in 1787, is a national landmark and a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site listing. Built 1787. It has baroque gardens and a triumphal arch built for the visit of King João VI of Portugal and Queen Carlota Joaquina of Spain

Palácio de Monserrate is a palatial villa, built in 1863, located near Sintra. It is the traditional summer resort of the Portuguese court. Eclecticism/Moorish style.

Pena Palace and Castle of the Moors were the ones we had time to visit on one daytrip. To visit all the important sights, several days are recommended. To get to the palaces and castles, you have to take a memorable ride from the railway station with a white local bus through up the mountains steep hills, and really winding, curvy roads.

The historic town center of the Vila de Sintra have many intersting romanticist buildings as well, and is very beautiful. Just as in Lisbon there are several tuktuks (small 3-wheeld taxis) driving around, almost desperately looking for tourists to drive around. Parts of Sintra have historical red and yellow trams for tourists, but we didn't see any.

Centro Cultural Olga Cadaval is a modern yellow/white art deco building that houses a cultural center, built in 1945. Igreja San Miguel is a church that looks more like a mansion then a church. Museu das Artes Artes de Sintra, is a large yellow/white art nouveaux building housing an arts museum, also in the town center. There are many other, smaller museums as well. There are several small town squares with historical buildings and surrounding parks and small leafy streets with stores, cafés and restaurants. The Town Hal (Câmara Municipal de Sintra) is a very beautiful art nouveaux building with a clock tower. Volta Duche is one of the main roads, passing by the Sintra National Palace and other sights. It is very hard to walk Sintra, since it is very spread out and hilly, so local transport is recommended.

Cascais, Estoril and Cabo da Roca are close tourist destinations, with rocks and beacehs, are even closer then Lisbon. Algueirão–Mem Martins (pop. 66 000) is a city that borders Sintra to the East, mostly consisting of similar looking modernist buildings.

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