Consider Sintra for your holiday in 2019, and discover a land touched by history, and blessed by natural beauty. Nestled in the foothills of Portugal’s Sintra Mountains, there’s a distinctly mystical feel to this ancient town. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, the town is ensconced among lush green forestry, in the shadow of rugged peaks and rolling hillsides that taper out to the azure waters of the Atlantic in the west.
Sintra’s unique charms and breathtaking beauty have attracted visitors across the centuries. Turreted palaces and castles serve as monuments to a noble past. A stroll through the cobbled streets or perfectly landscaped gardens offer architectural reminders of the town’s rich and varied history.
Lisbon may be less than 20 miles to the east, but Sintra is a world apart from the bustling pace of the capital. A dreamy backdrop for a romantic getaway, a haven for history buffs, and the perfect base for a family holiday adventure.
Most popular hotels in Sintra
Arribas Sintra Hotel
Sintra, Lisbon Coast
At a glance
- Time Zone: GMT +
- Average flight time: 2h 45m
When to go
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A famous retreat of the Portuguese nobility, Sintra is renowned for its array of palaces and elaborate, romantic-era buildings that blend into the scenic, mountainous backdrop. A holiday to this part of the world will give you a chance to indulge the senses and expand the mind. Enjoy woodland trails and vistas offering jaw-dropping views to the sea. Or explore the rich history of the region, its Moorish ruins, and Franciscan monasteries.
Discover the lavish, early 20th-century opulence of the Quinta da Regaleira. This five-storey palatial residence flaunts flamboyant design and gardens of haunting beauty. Lose yourself in the intricate pathways, the stunning foliage, and beautiful statues and ornaments.
Towering above the town, the majestic charm of Pena Palace may be the jewel in Sintra’s crown. Built upon the ruins of an ancient monastery, Pena appears to be straight out of a fairytale. Ornate domes and towering turrets of pastel hues jut proudly from the surrounding forestry. It’s a fantasy setting for one of Portugal’s most endearing historical landmarks.
There’s plenty of culinary delights on offer on a Sintra holiday. Walk among the narrow, cobbled streets of the town and you’ll discover an appealing variety of both contemporary and traditionally styled cafés and restaurants.
Hearty dining can best describe the signature style of Sintra cuisine, with plenty of variations on traditional, rural Portuguese dishes covering tables throughout the town and surrounding region. Typical to the country, you’ll find a blend of cosy bistros offering the ideal setting for romantic evening meals and the chance to relax with a bottle of the local red wines. Or, for a less formal, communal style of dining, you can indulge in local tapas dishes, washed down with a cold beer.
And, harking back to its heritage as a hotspot for royalty and the aristocracy, Sintra can also offer a plentiful choice of sugary treats and pastries when the time comes for a spot of holiday indulgence.
The fairytale surroundings provide Sintra the perfect backdrop for a scintillating family holiday. There’s plenty to delight and enthral within the old town and surrounding area. The fantastical ramparts of Pena Palace, and the grounds of The Castle of the Moors, for instance, are always popular sites of interest and exploration for young and old.
Sintra is an ideal base for the family holiday, offering a chance to explore the riches of the region. A haven for lovers of the great outdoors, enjoy picturesque treks into the mountainside forests. Just a short drive or tram ride will take you to the stunning sandy beaches of the Atlantic coast, for long, hot days at the seaside. And this is all less than 20 miles from the vibrant entertainment on offer in Lisbon, including the always-popular Oceanarium.
Action & Adventure
If you love the great outdoors, you’ll love Sintra. Head beyond the streets of the Old Town and you’ll find yourself in an environment of woodland trails and rugged mountain walks.
Central to the abundant natural adventures available for an active holiday, is the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. This area of stunning natural beauty is best discovered on foot – so pull on those hiking boots. Take a trek from Sintra itself, letting the forest and mountain paths give way to coastal trails and the imposing cliffs at the Western edge of Europe’s mainland. For hikers, ramblers and outdoor adventurers, it’ll truly be an experience to cherish.
Dropping down into the beaches and the Atlantic waters along this spectacular coastline offer further opportunity for adrenaline action. The rolling breakers of Praia Grande makes it a perennial favourite for surfers from across the globe, and the beach regularly hosts events and tournaments. Every beach and cove offers a variety of sea-based fun and fishing excursions.
Sintra may be a town of exquisite beauty and rare historical interest, but it also serves as a base for some of the best adventures and outdoor activities anywhere in Portugal.
Not only does a holiday to Sintra offer the perfect mountain retreat, full of enchanting attractions and stunning scenery, it also serves as an ideal base for those in need of some sun, sea, and sand.
A short drive, or tram ride, from the town centre, through stunning hills and valleys, brings you to Portugal’s Atlantic coast. A coastline of rare beauty and surprising choice – choose from vast stretches of golden sands, tiny fishing coves and rocky shorelines in the shadow of looming clifftops.
There are different beaches for different tastes. Relax and indulge yourself at traditional resorts such as Colares, with its bars and restaurants lining the elegant promenade. Or explore the hidden gems and tranquil waters of Adraga or Ursa, which is a favourite with naturists. Meanwhile, the more active may head towards the expansive sands and towering waves of Praia Grande, a favourite spot on the European surfing circuit.
It’s fair to say that Sintra is not a holiday destination for the wild party animal. It’s a town offering a more sedate, yet sociable kind of nightlife. That’s not to say that the place shuts down after dark, however.
Within the town you’ll discover a handful of cafés and bars offering a place to wine, dine and entertain into the night.
The bars and restaurants of Sintra offer a somewhat sedate, convivial affair with an evening’s entertainment typically centred around your meal, and good conversation over a bottle or two of the local wine selection. A relaxed vibe in keeping with the elegant, rural charm of the region.
If you’re seeking to inject a more hectic night out to your experience in Sintra, then you may wish to consider a trip to Lisbon. A 30-minute drive away, the nation’s capital city offers a considerably more vibrant and eclectic mix of late-night clubs and bars to add a bit of big-city pace to your holiday.
A World Heritage town and former retreat of royalty, Sintra is the perfect setting for couples in search of a romantic getaway.
A place to stroll hand-in-hand through quaint, cobbled streets. Discovering hidden bistros, cafés, traditional shops and villas swathed in pastel shades. Meander among the floral beauty of the palatial gardens, and soak in the opulent majesty of the palaces and the historic charm of the ancient ruins.
With Sintra as your base, you can easily hop in a car and explore the region and its charms. From the culture and vibrancy of Lisbon, to the beaches of Colares and its glorious Portuguese sunsets. Then return to town for a peaceful evening of fine dining, a bottle of the local wine, and a chance to unwind, enjoying the company of your loved one.
At the heart of the Sintra experience is the richness of its culture and history. It’s a centre for romantic architecture from the 19th century, when Ferdinand II blended Gothic, Renaissance and Moorish styles to convert the ruins of a monastery into a castle fit for a king.
And it’s in this blended style that we get a glimpse of the town’s long and rich history. From a Moorish outpost, to a favourite retreat of Portuguese aristocracy dating back to the Middle Ages, to the popular tourist destination of today.
The National Palace of Sintra sits proudly in the Old Town, its twin conical chimneys prominent on the skyline – it’s a national monument and a beacon of Sintra’s place in Portugal’s regal history. With the Pena Palace and the Quinta da Regaleira, its cultural identity is visible to all. However, hidden within these old-world structures you’ll find artwork and artefacts that span the ages. From the Franciscan ruins to collected works of modern 20th-century art, the museums and galleries offer glimpses into history that lovers of art, history and culture will relish.