Unmissable things to see and do in scenic Sintra

Gorgeous views from Sintra by flickr user azwegers

When it comes to travel to Portugal, a visit to the beautiful town of Sintra is the icing on the cake. What’s so magical about this place is that it blends incredible natural scenery with gorgeous buildings – it really does feel like somewhere taken straight from a fairytale.  It’s the kind of place you won’t ever want to put your camera down.

I went to Sintra during a stay in Cascais (a coastal town fairly near Lisbon) a few years back, and I’ve been dreaming of returning ever since. Centuries ago, it was used as a summer residence by kings and noblemen, while later it became a firm favourite among writers like the famous poet Lord Byron.

The historic centre of Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (something that won’t surprise you when you see it!), but there are heaps of amazing spots to visit in the surrounding area to take travel photos. I’ve compiled a list of my favourites below; hopefully, it’ll give you some inspiration for your own trip.

Parque Naturel de Sintra-Cascais

When I visited Sintra, Parque Naturel de Sintra-Cascais was where I started off. Since it’s home to the westernmost point of the European continent, Cabo da Roca, it’s a really nice place to begin your adventure. If you do come here, make sure you remember to head into the visitors’ centre and request your diploma, which declares you’ve been to Europe’s most westerly spot. It’s a little cheesy, perhaps, but it’s lots of fun and a nice keepsake!

Sintra, Portugal by flickr user peter_curb

Castelo dos Mouros

For me, the Castelo dos Mouros was the highlight of the trip. This huge Moorish castle sprawls over two ridges of the Sintra mountains, and you can walk all the way along the walls, which crawl through and look out over some absolutely mind-blowing scenery.  This is a spot where you’ll want to make sure you have an extra battery charged in your camera.

We spent a few hours picking our way up and down stone steps and peeking out over the top of towers, and it was definitely time well spent. At points, it does feel incredibly steep, so beware if you haven’t got a head for heights!

Convento dos Capuchos

Built in 1560, the Convento dos Capuchos was constructed to house 12 monks – not that you’d know that from the size. The defining characteristic of this place is that its cells, where the monks lived, are absolutely tiny, with long, narrow doors that leave you pretty certain living here wasn’t much fun. That said, it’s a fantastic place to look around today, so it’s well worth including in your itinerary!

Arial views of Sintra by flickr user rinzewind

Palacio Nacional de Sintra

Sintra’s home to several palaces, but the Palacio Nacional de Sintra is a particular must-see, since its twin 33 m high conical chimneys have become a symbol of Sintra itself. It’s definitely the most striking building in the town, and it’s well worth exploring inside as well as out.

If you do, you’ll get the chance to see a lot of different decorative styles, thanks to its long history and Moorish origins. Another interesting thing about this site is that it’s also a good place to learn about azulejos, which are the decorative tiles you’ll see all over Portuguese architecture – they are even used a lot in metro stations.

Before you bid Sintra farewell, make sure you pick up some travesseiros. The town’s famous for its delicious sweet treats, and these puff pastry, gooey-filled concoctions are to die for. I’d eaten all of mine by the time I got back to Cascais and really regretted not getting more!

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