The attractive, verdant town of SINTRA warrants at least a day of anyone’s itinerary, though two or three days would allow you to make the most of its fabulous surroundings. The cooler air of the hilltop town made it the preferred summer retreat for Portugal’s royalty; over the years it has also attracted the rich and famous, and inspired countless writers, including Lord Byron (who begins his epic poem Childe Harold in “Cintra’s glorious Eden”) and Gothic-novel writer William Beckford. It was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1995 because “the cultural landscape of the Serra and the town of Sintra represents a pioneering approach to Romantic landscaping that had an outstanding influence on developments elsewhere in Europe”.

The town’s historic centre spreads across the slopes of several steep hills. Dominating the centre of Sintra-Vila are the tapering chimneys of the Palácio Nacional, surrounded by an array of tall houses painted in pale pink, ochre or mellow yellow, many with ornate turrets and decorative balconies peering out to the plains of Lisbon far below. All this is highly scenic – though summer crowds can swamp its narrow central streets, and once you’ve seen the sights, you’re best off heading to the surrounding attractions up in the hills. Easiest to reach are the Castelo dos Mouros and the extraordinary Palácio da Pena – both visible on the wooded heights above town – or the lush gardens of Monserrate, though you’ll need a car to see the Convento dos Capuchos.

Sintra’s annual festa in honour of St Peter is held on June 28 and 29, while in May the Sintra Music Festival puts on classical performances in a number of the town’s buildings, including the Palácio Nacional. The end of July sees the Feira Grande in São Pedro, with crafts, antiques and cheeses on sale.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Portugal features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

6 reasons why you should visit Portugal in 2018

6 reasons why you should visit Portugal in 2018

Portugal is less than three hours’ flight time from the UK, while flights from the US are generally available for under $500. Moreover, once you get there, it…

04 May 2018 • Matthew Hancock insert_drive_file Article
Your Portugal itinerary: 4 road trip ideas to explore the country

Your Portugal itinerary: 4 road trip ideas to explore the country

Portugal is having a real purple patch right now. It’s one of the safest and least expensive countries in Europe with a balmy year-round sunny climate. Your d…

03 May 2018 • Matthew Hancock insert_drive_file Article
An expert’s guide: the best places to stay in Porto

An expert’s guide: the best places to stay in Porto

Porto’s cityscape of narrow streets and stepped alleys spreads up the steep slopes of the Douro river to a centre full of broad squares, Neoclassical building…

02 May 2018 • Amanda Tomlin insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right