If you have one full day free when travelling around Portugal, you must visit the wonderful Sintra village and the fresh, green landscape of Serra de Sintra (Sintra's Sierra). Coming from Lisboa, the train takes about 40 minutes to get you there. The region is classed World Heritage Site by UNESCO due to its many buildings of medieval and XIX century Romantic architecture. Here are a few highlights of this beautiful refuge, also known as Monte da Lua, the Moon's Mount. Start your trip early in the morning to see as much as it can offer and explore its surroundings!
Sintra sits in a mountain covered with trees and vegetation, providing for spectacular viewpoints. It was the prefered summer residence for Lisbon's high class in the old days, and as such you'll find palaces, mansions and old hotels. But the very town is worth it aswell, its small streets are full of traditional shops, historic cafes and pastry shops - where you can find the famous 'queijadas de sintra'-, hidden fountains and squares, following the slopes of the mountain. Everywhere you look there is lush vegetation. A place many writers adored (Almeida Garrett, Eça de Queiroz, Lord Byron, Hans Christian Andersen), in Sintra there is always the sense of a romantic ambiance around you.
Besides the streets of the old village, there is much to see. The Palácio Nacional de Sintra is right in the center of the village, in a large square with a lovely view. It was occupied by moors and different portuguese kings. The historic palace has a variety of rooms that show different renovation periods and styles. The main attraction are the huge chimneys coming from the kitchen, a true symbol of the village. Don't miss the guided tours!
The Castelo dos Mouros is visible from the town square in front of the national palace. To get there you have to climb a part of the Serra (or take one of the buses!). A moorish stronghold from the VIII century, it has a long wall with multiple spots that make spectacular viewpoints of the village below, the region surrounding it and the coast line not far from here. Also, when the weather is right, one can even get a glimpse of Lisboa in the distance. Besides the walls and towers, there are many spots to visit inside the castle.
On the highest hilltop sits the colorful Palácio Nacional da Pena. You can also get there by foot or by public transport. It's a big, stunning romantic castle, actually the first of its kind in Europe. It was built in the beginning of the XIX century, by the king Fernando II and the german arquitect Baron von Eschwege. The building mixes neo-manuelin, neo-gothic, neo-arab styles and also shows many other influences. The portuguese discoveries of the XV century are very present in its ornaments. There is much to be seen here, so be prepared to stay for a while!
The Quinta da Regaleira is an old, peculiar palace and garden full of esoteric meanings, reflecting the interests and ideologies of the original owner, Carvalho Monteiro. There are plenty of characteristics, signs and symbols that could be related to Alchemy, Masonnry, the Knights Templar and Rosicrucianism. The whole area is full of beautiful hidden caves, brigdes, lakes and gardens of fresh vegetation.
Last but not least, Sintra region's beaches. Leaving the old village every 30 minutes there's a small tram that can get you to two of the beaches in the region: Praia Grande and Praia das Maçãs. Apart from those, there are also Praia da Adraga and Praia do Magoito worth checking out, and in between the two you can find a small, beautiful beach village built on a cliff, Azenhas do Mar. It's a marvellous place to end the day, watching the sunset and the atlantic sea.
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