Escape of the Week: Sintra, Portugal

Written by on December 13, 2011 in Escapes - 50 Comments

A quick train ride from Lisbon lies the hilltop town of Sintra. It’s a quaint little town that conjures up memories of times when fairytales were quite possibly real, with its maze-like cobblestone streets, castles and palaces.

Once the summer home of Portugal’s kings, today Sintra offers a place for history buffs to roam the streets and explore all of the town’s nooks and crannies. There are the homes and streets that show evidence of a long life …

 

For the traveler seeking a place to rest their feet, there are cafes to enjoy the fresh air and scenery.

In the center of town, there are plenty of options for culture. The most popular option (and largest) is the sprawling Palacio Nacional de Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a medieval royal palace that is a focal point of Sintra.

There are also views of the Atlantic Ocean. On a clear day, it is very possible to imagine seeing all the way across to the other side of the world. (My favorite view is actually at a Chinese restaurant near by the train station.)

At the top of the town, there are the eighth century ruins of Castelo dos Mouros and Palacio de Rena. You can reach them either on foot (it’s a good 3 km hike up to the Castelo and another bit to the Palacio) or via bus (buy a day pass) to the top of the forested peak.

In Sintra it isn’t uncommon to find someone with their head jutting from an open window, taking in the sights and sounds of the world outside.

This friendly man stopped me on the street below and asked me to take his photo …

And then, there is my favorite thing to do — wander around the maze of narrow cobbelstone streets, taking in the homes awash in bright colors … and the display of clothing drying on lines strewn between windows and buildings.

Getting there: From Lisbon, hop on the train (there’s one every 15 minutes) to Sintra at Rossio station. The ride is about 40 minutes and shouldn’t cost more than a couple of euros.

Sadly, I was sick when I visited Sintra, so there was no hiking up to the ruins. Have you had a chance to visit Sintra? What was your experience?

Traveling ’round? If you want to check out another city where fairytales echo in your mind, check out Edinburgh. Stay at a hotel in Edinburgh’s city centre and head out to explore the magic of this gorgeous Scottish city.

About the Author

Diana Edelman is a travel writer and expat currently residing in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In 2010 she quit her job in PR to go on a solo backpacking adventure and tackle her 30-Life-Crisis. After seven months abroad, journeying throughout Europe and Africa, she returned to America and relocated to Las Vegas. Following a year-long stint back in PR, she once again quit her job to follow her dreams; this time her journey took her to the elephants and Elephant Nature Park where she is involved with raising awareness about responsible elephant tourism. Recently, Diana was named a finalist in the Destinology Travel Bloggy Awards for travel writing. She has been a regular contributor to Viator and recently served as the Las Vegas contributor for OneTravel.com and CheapOair.com. Her work has appeared in print and online, including The Huffington Post, Matador Network, Travel + Escape, Vegas Seven, World Nomads and more.

50 Comments on "Escape of the Week: Sintra, Portugal"

  1. Camels & Chocolate December 13, 2011 at 11:58 pm · Reply

    Portugal is my favorite country IN THE WORLD. This is making me itch for a return visit, as I haven’t been since 2006!

  2. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures December 14, 2011 at 8:51 am · Reply

    I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about Sintra! Love your pics and now I’m itching even more to visit Portugal.

  3. walkingon travels December 14, 2011 at 10:38 am · Reply

    I am a big fan of Sintra. I went way back before I was married and had a kid tagging along. Next time I head back to Portugal I want to do an overnight in SIntra. There is so much to see. Plus the hubby will need at least a day to explore the Pena Palace. Now there is a crazy colorful wonder. I still marvel at the pictures.

    • The Adventures of D December 14, 2011 at 1:26 pm · Reply

      I would love to do an overnight there! What’s it like being there with a wee one? I find Portugal to be extremely photogenic! Like Prague, I could snap a million photos!

  4. Bret @ Green Global Travel December 14, 2011 at 12:40 pm · Reply

    I used to date a Portuguese girl, and I’ve longed to visit the country ever since. Was Sintra your favorite town in the country? Beautiful photos, especially the ones of the laundry against the colorful backdrops..

    • The Adventures of D December 14, 2011 at 1:25 pm · Reply

      Honestly, I did not get much of a chance to experience a lot of Portugal. I was on a time crunch and was sick, so other than Sintra, I slept in Lisbon but didn’t get to enjoy it, had two nights in Lagos — a gorgeous but highly touristy town — and then two days in Faro, which I have no need to ever re-visit. I had planned on returning, at the least to Lisbon, before I came home, but sadly, my plans changed. There is this amazing beauty to Portugal … it isn’t as flashy as Spain, but has this air of romance and passion that I found intoxicating. I WILL go back and explore, for sure!

  5. Amy December 14, 2011 at 1:13 pm · Reply

    Sintra is one of my absolute favorite places in the entire world! I discovered it last May and just fell in love. If you ever get to go back, you must visit the Quinta de Regaleira! I wrote about our experience there – so magical: http://amyatmosphere.com/2011/05/17/115/

    • The Adventures of D December 14, 2011 at 1:23 pm · Reply

      Sounds good!! I know I will be back there eventually – I have a hike to do there! Thanks for the link, I will check it out!

  6. Dayna December 14, 2011 at 2:31 pm · Reply

    Wow!! I had never heard of Sintra, but these photos are so tempting! Thanks for the escape. :)

  7. Shez December 14, 2011 at 3:06 pm · Reply

    Hello Shez from twitter hope you’d recall me. The pictures are beautiful they just remind my home town. Specially I like that guy picture who stopped to take his picture. really nice stuff :)

    • The Adventures of D December 14, 2011 at 5:49 pm · Reply

      Hi Shez! I do recall you. :) Thank you for the kind words! The man who wanted me to take his photo was really interesting … according to him he had just woken up from being in a coma and his family used to own the palace.

  8. Shanna Schultz December 14, 2011 at 5:51 pm · Reply

    Portugal is on my list, and this post might have bumped it up a couple spots. Looks beautiful!

  9. Sophie December 14, 2011 at 7:32 pm · Reply

    Sintra is such a treat and your photos are beautiful. Reminds me I should get mine together :)

  10. Bobbi Lee Hitchon December 14, 2011 at 9:20 pm · Reply

    Gorgeous photos! I was in Sintra about 5 years ago, but went on a tour and only saw the castle, which was amazing. But now I wish I got to see the town. You’re right in that it will have visitors thinking fairy tales really do exist. I remember thinking to myself that day, “This is the most romantic place I will ever visit.” Still hasn’t been beat. Would love to visit again, but spend more time there next time.

    • The Adventures of D December 15, 2011 at 1:52 am · Reply

      It is a super romantic place. I would love to go back there with someone I’m in a relationship with. Wake up looking over the Atlantic, a picnic on the grounds of the castle … sigh.

  11. Marko December 14, 2011 at 10:30 pm · Reply

    Sintra is like a city of lord of the rings, is fantastic. I post in my web something photos: http://www.satelliteview.org/photos/Sintra regards.

  12. Bobbi Lee Hitchon December 15, 2011 at 12:56 am · Reply

    Great write-up! I visited almost 5 years ago on a tour, but only got to see the castle, which was gorgeous. I didn’t realize the town was just as good, Makes me want to go back!!! You’re right in that Sintra makes visitors feel like maybe, just maybe fairy tales do come true.

    • The Adventures of D December 15, 2011 at 1:51 am · Reply

      Thank you!! :) The town is really charming. We just wandered the streets, climbing stairs, making quick rights and lefts, and seeing where it took us!

  13. Christy & Scott December 15, 2011 at 1:35 am · Reply

    Ahh.. I’m looking forward to seeing Portugal next year. This town looks like a great place to take photos!

    • The Adventures of D December 15, 2011 at 1:50 am · Reply

      It, like the rest of the places I visited in Portugal, are definitely very photogenic! Enjoy!!

  14. Abby December 15, 2011 at 1:39 am · Reply

    Obsessed with these photo. So beautiful! I remember when you were on your way…

    • The Adventures of D December 15, 2011 at 1:50 am · Reply

      Awww, thank you! I remember sitting in the hostel in Lisbon and you telling me all about Sintra. Thank you :)

  15. Pete Heck December 15, 2011 at 9:11 am · Reply

    Looks pretty damn nice. That photo of the guy in the window made me laugh, especially since he asked you to take it :)

    If it wasn’t for us running out of Schengen days we would be in Portugal in 2 weeks. Oh well, another time.

    • The Adventures of D December 15, 2011 at 2:56 pm · Reply

      Schengen upsets me sooo much. I wanted to stay so much longer, but nooo. Fortunately, there are some great countries to kill those 90 days out! :)

  16. Andrew Graeme Gould December 15, 2011 at 12:45 pm · Reply

    I’ve heard of Sintra and am definately planning on visiting Portugal in the future, and so I had to see this post. Beautiful shots. I specially like those ones with the washing and people looking out the window.

  17. Erica December 16, 2011 at 9:54 pm · Reply

    I love the clothes on line! So quaint and cute!

    • The Adventures of D December 16, 2011 at 10:10 pm · Reply

      Thanks! I have similar photos from all over Europe. I love these shots!

  18. JoAnna December 17, 2011 at 2:53 pm · Reply

    It looks super romantic! I’ve always wanted to visit Portugal.

  19. Cole @ Four Jandals December 18, 2011 at 8:15 am · Reply

    We are going to head to Portugal next year for a surfing holiday. Will have to go to Sintra after all your beautiful photos.

  20. AlexBerger December 18, 2011 at 9:30 am · Reply

    Looks like a good workout =)

    • The Adventures of D December 18, 2011 at 11:40 pm · Reply

      Ha, it was. Would have been more so if I wasn’t sick and could have hiked around the grounds of the castle on the hill!

  21. Raymond @ Man On The Lam December 18, 2011 at 9:35 am · Reply

    I’ve been dying to get to Portugal. DYING I tell you! :)

    • The Adventures of D December 18, 2011 at 11:39 pm · Reply

      WELL, we should figure out when we can meet!! I’d hang out in Portugal with you in a hot minute! :)

  22. Tiago Costa December 20, 2011 at 12:12 am · Reply

    I just found your website going through the comments on hecktictravels, anf then I see “Escape of the Week: Sintra, Portugal” and I was WOW!

    It’s so nice to see so many compliments about Sintra, my hometown Lisbon and Portugal!

    Sintra is simply amazing, it’s very romantic but also very a mysterious place with a lot of histories, secret places… a trully gem!

    • The Adventures of D December 20, 2011 at 1:29 am · Reply

      Oh, I love it!! I’m glad you found my site and the post! Thank you for taking the time to comment! I think Portugal is so beautiful and very fascinating. I would love to know about your secret gems!! :)

  23. Leigh December 20, 2011 at 10:46 am · Reply

    Love your laundry and people shots.

    I was in Sintra years ago – though it seems like it was another lifetime. It was my first experience with dogs and roosters in restaurants – wonder if that’s still happening.

    • The Adventures of D December 20, 2011 at 8:46 pm · Reply

      Thank you! I didn’t see any dogs or roosters in any restaurants, then again, the only one I went to was the Chinese restaurant near the train station. It wouldn’t surprise me if there was at least dogs still hanging around.

  24. JoAnna December 26, 2011 at 12:43 pm · Reply

    I always love your door pictures the best. :)

    • The Adventures of D December 26, 2011 at 7:46 pm · Reply

      Aw, thanks!! I love them, too. I could do a million posts of just doors and windows from my travels. Am pretty sure there will some upcoming posts like that. :)

  25. turismo en Portugal February 24, 2012 at 5:41 pm · Reply

    Nice article and very cool photographs! Sintra is an amazing place :)

    • Diana February 26, 2012 at 12:18 am · Reply

      Thank you! I really liked it!

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