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.