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 …

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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 centuryΒ 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.

50 comments

  1. 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.

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    1. 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!

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  2. 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 πŸ™‚

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    1. Hi Shez! I do recall you. πŸ™‚ 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.

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  3. 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.

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  4. 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.

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

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

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  6. 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!

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  7. 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.

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    1. 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.

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