Like many visitors to Sintra, we came for the photographs and other-worldly castles that sit atop a mountain overlooking the sea. Despite three days of relentless fog and rain threatening to drown us, we fell head over heels with this adorable Portuguese village. As the moorish and pastel colored castles rose out of the fog before us, we were HOOKED. Most people hope to cram Sintra into a day trip. Even with three days to explore it felt like we were sprinting from one castle to the next. Locals say the best time to visit is May or September to beat the summer crowds and still have amazing weather. Here are just a few places and restaurants you can’t miss!
- Quinta de Regulara – the iconic moss covered well lives here with winding stone pathways and towers. A family lived here about 100 years ago and I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of lives they led. “Let me just take my morning walk through the moss and flower covered grounds of my sweet little backyard”. Casual.
- Pena Palace – Where do I begin? We were here on a foggy day and it was magical. The pastel colored structure sits atop a hill overlooking the coast of Portugal. It is a labyrinth of architectural wonder.
- Moorish Castle – Step back in time as you climb the over-sized stone staircases of this monument to Portugal’s Islamic history. From the top, you’ll see the mountains fall away to reveal the azure blue Atlantic in the distance. The climb, wind and views will definitely take your breath away.
- Ride in a Tuk Tuk up the mountain – I originally thought Tuk Tuks were a southeast Asian thing, however they are extremely popular in Sintra for tourists. And the guides are a wealth of local information!
- Cafe Saudade – This cute little Portuguese brunch cafe is tucked away on the main street from the train station to Sintra. Grab a table and linger over a cup of coffee and don’t forget to try a few of their fresh pastries.
- The Coast – The Portuguese coast line is iconic with its sheer golden cliffs that plunge to meet the cove beaches and turquoise water of the Atlantic. Every local I asked from Lisbon to Sintra claimed this area as one of their favorites in Portugal. Catch the tram from Sintra, spend a day wandering the cliffs and beaches, and try the fresh fish of the day at sunset from one of the many seaside restaurants.
- Sparrow’s Nest House – This charming two bedroom house is just a stone’s throw from the beautiful Sintra municipal building. Everything in Sintra is within walking distance and this place has a charm all its own. If it fits the bill, don’t pass up a chance to stay here. (FYI the palaces are on top of the mountains, so be prepared for a strenuous hike or a bus/cab ride to reach these).