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Travel to UNESCO World Heritage site, Sintra-Vila, just a 40-minute train ride away from Portugal’s Lisbon, and submerge yourself in a fairy-tale town full of thick verdant forests, rolling hills, whimsical gardens, culture + history galore as well as the crowning factor – a myriad of brightly coloured, romantic castles. No wonder Byron once referred to Sintra as “glorious Eden”.
Europe’s greatest treasure trove of 19th-century Romantic architecture, Sintra’s cobblestone streets lie eighteen miles from Lisbon, a journey into the past and a playground for your imagination.
Not far from the rolling blue waves of the Atlantic, Sintra is a melting pot of influences. Celts once worshipped their moon god here, Moors built a palace in the middle ages, and 18th-century Portuguese royals came here to spend their summers, cool amidst the mystical gardens, avoiding the heat of Lisbon’s fiery sun.
Situated in the beautiful Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais, Sintra is a candy shop of colourful palaces and castles, brimming with Islamic, Portuguese, Gothic and German Romantic architecture.
The most famous palace in the area is the German Romantic Pena Palace, which sits atop a hill brimming with floating towers, ornamental buttresses and gargoyles, and stands as a sky-high patchwork Disney castle of bold yellow, red and pink hues, a still life setting sun.
There is also the striking National Palace of Sintra, built by the Moors in the Middle Ages and expanded by several kings over the centuries. It offers a mix of influences from Mudéjar (an Islamic style) to Manueline (a highly ornate Portuguese style), and is rivalled in influence only by the 1789 Palace of Monserrate, an eclectic fortress that boasts Gothic arches, Indian alabaster panels, Moorish stucco work, and East Asian porcelain.
The forest, National Park and gardens surrounding Sintra’s architectural gems are also treasure troves to be admired, boasting hidden tunnels, fairy-tale grottoes and mystical symbolism throughout, as well as botanical gardens that hug tight flora from far-flung lands, including Mexico and New Zealand.
What with all the walking you will be doing you may be in need of a quick energy boost - opt for the local queijadas, Sintra’s version of Lisbon and Portugal’s famous pastel de nata, made with a sweet cheese filling.
Travel is easy - a regular 40-minute train from Lisbon’s Rossio station to Sintra station, this is a day-trip you really don’t want to miss, especially when mixing it up in Portugal’s colourful hub of cultured cool.
For more on all things Lisbon travel, have a peek in our Travel Journal at our Lisbon Design Guide and at must-see architectural dream, Lisbon’s MAAT, as well as at our Culture Kids Edit for more inspiring hotels of a similar vibe.