Merging History and Fantasy in Sintra
Sintra, Portugal is often called a fairytale village, and for one good reason. Aptly named after the moon goddess by the Moors, the place teems with castles and palaces that are so enchanting that they all seem to come straight from fantasy books. Its lush and exotic foliage also add to the bewitching ambiance of the place. It is indeed not surprising why so many people are enamored of the place. In fact, it has charmed the world’s greatest poets, conquerors, aristocrats and philosophers, making this fantasy-like village a genuinely historical place.
Given its fantastical landscape, Sintra Portugal region was chosen a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the most imposing buildings to the most whimsical structures, Sintra proves how man-made development can also enhance nature’s beauty. The village’s ancient palaces and huge castles beautifully brought about gardens of local and exotic greenery – making this place one of the most truly magical must-sees in Portugal.
Sintra, Portugal: Palaces are the Point
Visitors then and now have always been awed by the magnificent palaces in Sintra Portugal region. The mix of Roman, Arab and Portuguese designs on the castles make them the most admired not just all throughout Europe, but in the world.
Sintra has two national palaces, namely Palácio da Vila and Palácio da Pena, along with other less prominent but equally beautiful and historically important ones.
At the center of town stands the town’s foremost building, the Palacio Nacional with its twin chimneys that are considered iconic landmarks of Sintra. Built by the Moors and later integrated with Manueline features by its succeeding Portuguese royalty occupants, the structure became a whimsical and delightful castle that has been immortalized by many tourist snapshots.
Visitors may also enjoy shopping and dining within the area. Around the Palacio Nacional are streets and squares dotted with venues for shopping and dining. Also surrounding the Palacio Nacional are museums that house prominent historical artifacts. These are the Regional Museum, Museum of Modern Art and Toy Museum.
The other significant structure in Sintra, the Pena Palace, stands on top of a hill overlooking the whole town. Artists and architects from different eras and disciplines have contributed to the extravagant, overwhelming designs inside the castle and its exteriors. While the Pena Palace is most admired due to its beautiful interior design, the outside beauty of the palace is also one thing that visitors should not miss to explore. Matching its pastel façade is a magical garden fronting it, the Pena Park. With ponds and black swans, exotic trees and fountains, visiting this place is like stepping into an enchanted meadow.
Down the hill from Pena Park is the Moorish Castle, with a fortress that hugs the mountain’s curves as it climbs upwards. Its high location offers breathtaking views of the land.
The Quinta da Regaleira is another not-to-be missed site in Sintra. Accessible from Pena through a wooded road, this villa and garden looks as if designed by a fairy. Medieval and mythological symbols adorn the villa, while secret caverns and an initiation well make the lovely garden more fascinating.
Across the Regaleira is the Seteais Palace, a neo-classical structure that is now a five-star luxury hotel. This transformation, however, isn’t only one of its kind. In fact, a number of ancient manors and villas in Sintra Portugal region have already been appropriated as places of accommodations for tourists who flock to the town, especially during summer.
Following the same road from Seteais is the Palace of Monserrate , a romantically small palace that is unique for its blend of Neo-Gothic and Indian architecture.
Indeed, with all these places to visit in the town, it is not surprising why many people are enchanted by this place.
Nearby Sintra, Portugal
Sintra is a perfect point of origin for a trip to the best beaches and mountain views in Portugal. The Cabo do Roca, 18kms from the village, is the westernmost point of Europe. Marked by a lighthouse, the place is a cliff overlooking the ocean, offering one of the best views of sunsets in the country.
Nearby beaches are Portugal’s finest, with Praia da Adraga topping the list as BBC’s top 20 European beaches, Praia Grande, and Praia das Maçãs. These beaches all boast of clear waters, fine sand, and modern resorts and facilities that will suit every taste and budget.
Sintra village can be reached via train or car from Lisbon. For getting around, tourists can choose between whole day bus passes, taxi, or car rental. Visitors can also tour around the town by riding a horse-drawn carriage.