Seductive Sintra

Sintra colours

A few years ago – 4, to be exact, I had some time to kill in Lisbon after long days of meetings. As luck would have it, I more or less stumbled upon Sintra. I’ve been meaning to share a few photos of this gorgeous town ever since. Better late than never, eh?

Sintra is under special protection by UNESCO for being the first centre of European Romantic architecture, and for its parks and gardens which have influenced landscape architecture throughout Europe. The town is a deliciously quirky blend of Gothic, Renaissance, Moorish and Egyptian architecture.

As if that isn’t enough, this lucky town also has beautiful natural surroundings, all green hills. With its extravagant architecture, lush landscape and perhaps most of all, its colours, Sintra is simply seductive.

I’m not the only one fascinated by this Portuguese town. About 200 years before me, British poet Lord Byron visited Sintra. His thoughts:

I must just observe that the village of Cintra in Estremadura is the most beautiful in the world.

Sintra has been home of numerous Portuguese monarchs through the ages, and is naturally brimming with weird and wonderful palaces. The pièce de résistance is probably the dreamy multi-coloured Pena Palace rising on a peak above town. Then, there’s the Quinta de Regaleira and Montserrate palaces, both with splendid gardens, the enigmatic Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle), and more. Many of them are wondrously wacky and mysterious, and often shrouded in mist.

Easiest to see is Palácio Nacional de Sintra, the Royal Palace with the peculiar conical chimneys, in the town centre:

However, what I liked best weren’t the palaces and grand official buildings, but the brightly coloured houses, the public art, the fantastic fountains, the streets and stairways. What first caught my eye (and imagination) was this wonderful house in the hills:


But what was it? I had no guide in Sintra, and simply didn’t think to ask anyone then. Later, it took quite a bit of searching. The photo-sharing site flickr has a few pictures, but most are just named ‘pink house in Sintra’. Major travel sites like Lonely Planet, official tourism sites like GoLisbon, blogs; none that I found mentioned this house. And no wonder, perhaps – this is not a small palace or even a public building. Thanks to Virtual Tourist I finally found a little information. Casa dos Penedos is a privately owned house, and not a tourist attraction. Isn’t it fabulous, though? Look at how it seems to grow out of the hill itself. I love the towers, the colour – and just imagine the views.

When I visited, large eye-catching sculptures were set up along the walkways around town:
Sintra, public art Sintra, public art

My favourite part of Sintra was the everyday houses and shops, the narrow alleys and stairs. And the colours.

Sintra colours

Sintra Sintra

Sintra, stairs Sintra, city centre

Sintra practicals

  • Sintra is a super day trip from Lisbon and getting there couldn’t be easier. Trains leave from Lisbon’s Rossio railway station every 15 minutes (30 minutes on weekends) and the journey takes about 40 minutes. Round trip tickets are only 4 euros.
  • The town centre of Sintra is a 15-minute walk from the railway station. Getting to many of the palaces requires a bit of a steep uphill walk (or a bus from the railway station). The views alone are magnificent, so very worth it even if you don’t enter the palaces.
  • I visited in October and had the town mostly to myself. I imagine it’s quite busy in summer though, so I’d plan accordingly – maybe even spend a night there to better feel the atmosphere.

Have you been in Sintra?

unesco logo

The Cultural Landscape of Sintra is UNESCO World Heritage site.
Here are more UNESCO World Heritage sites around the world.



31 Responses to “Seductive Sintra”

  1. Davide 8 April 2013 1321 #

    I was lucky enough to visit Sintra too and I loved it!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 8 April 2013 1327 #

      Fabulous place, isn’t it…

  2. Ana (Ana Travels) 8 April 2013 1817 #

    We visited Sintra a year a go, in winter. I absolutely loved it. My favourite place was the Moorish castle. The views are astounding. And you’re right, it’s an easy train ride from Lisbon.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 April 2013 1640 #

      Winter would be very interesting. A whole different atmosphere, I imagine, especially if there was snow.

  3. Darren 8 April 2013 2051 #

    I love the pictures! I’ve not visited Sintra myself yet but it looks really tranquil.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 April 2013 1644 #

      It was very tranquil in October.

  4. Bobbi Lee Hitchon 9 April 2013 1115 #

    LOVED Sintra. I visited five years ago and remember thinking that it was the most romantic place on earth.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 April 2013 1644 #

      Romantic and quirky and quite extraordinary.

  5. Shalu Sharma 9 April 2013 1538 #

    Quite a nice place. Although I have not heard of this place before, it looks fabulous. Must visit.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 April 2013 1645 #

      Hope you do.

  6. Sofie 10 April 2013 1211 #

    Lovely pictures!
    I’m planning a road trip in Portugal this summer and Sintra is already on my list.
    So looking forward to visiting!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 April 2013 1646 #

      I’d like to do a road trip in Portugal. Lots of it I haven’t yet seen.

  7. Salika Jay 10 April 2013 1341 #

    I haven’t been to Sintra but looks quite interesting. I love the sculptures and colorful buildings.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 April 2013 1646 #

      I loved that, too 🙂

  8. Jenna 10 April 2013 2158 #

    Portugal is #1 on my travel wish list. I can’t wait to go there and visit Sintra and all the other beautiful places there.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 April 2013 1630 #

      Your artistic eye will appreciate Portugal, Jenna.

  9. Kieu ~ GQ trippin 11 April 2013 0525 #

    I’m dying to visit Portugal!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 April 2013 1629 #

      Hope you get a chance to soon 🙂

  10. Sojourner 11 April 2013 2222 #

    great information! i’m going to lisbon in may. i will definitely visit sintra- thank you!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 April 2013 1629 #

      You’ll have a great time, I’m sure. May is a good month to visit Portugal.

  11. Christina 11 April 2013 2341 #

    That’s an easy enough day trip from Lisbon. Great stuff. Love that picture of the stairs with all the flower pots 🙂

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 April 2013 1628 #

      Very easy 🙂

  12. Andrea 12 April 2013 1625 #

    I was a little bored with Sintra – not sure why…but it is very beautiful. Then we wanted to see the Moorish castle and the fog rolled in and spoiled the views (even a foot in front of us!) But the coast of Portugal here is very nice

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 April 2013 1628 #

      I find these things often depend on my mood on a particular day – and the people one is with.

  13. Cathy Sweeney 13 April 2013 1958 #

    Glad you decided to share these photos — never too late! I love a diversity of styles and architecture in places. The colorful buildings really make Sintra look captivating.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 1 May 2013 1000 #

      I thought the colours were an important part of Sintra’s charm.

  14. Andrea 14 April 2013 0202 #

    I adored Lisbon and had not nearly enough to time to properly explore what other treasures Portugal offered. Your photos are lovely, and I too loved how colourful this country is!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 1 May 2013 1002 #

      Thanks. I’m going to Lisbon again in a few months on a business trip – and I’ll definitely add a few extra days to explore more of the surrounds. So many interesting and curious little corners in this country.

  15. Andrew Graeme Gould 30 April 2013 1908 #

    Portugal is a country that’s really high up on my current travel list, Sophie, and I’ve heard of Sintra. And how beautiful it looks in your photo series here.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 1 May 2013 1003 #

      Thank you, Andrew 🙂

  16. Cecília Cabral 4 August 2014 1550 #

    Great article about Sintra and amazing pics! 😉

    If you allow me I would like to introduce to you and your readers, who maybe one day will come to Portugal, our website where you can find several informations about Lisbon area and the Silver Coast region and where you can also find holiday rentals, one of them in Sintra!

    Best regards

Leave a Reply