Sintra Tourist Attractions
The small city of Sintra (perhaps better known in English in the older spelling of Cintra) lies between Lisbon and the Atlantic on a promontory of land between two gorges on the north side of the wellwooded Serra de Sintra.
With its beautiful setting and equable climate it was an early choice as the summer seat of the Portuguese royal family. The beauty of the scenery, combined with the magnificent subtropical vegetation and the nearness of the sea, is almost beyond compare, making Sintra one of the loveliest spots in the Iberian peninsula, wholly justifying Lord Byron's description of it as "glorious Eden".Early in 1996 UNESCO included Sintra in its list of world cultural heritage sites. During the next few years increased efforts will be made to restore the town's unique architectural character and to ban private cars from the center in summer if possible.CityscapeSintra is centerd on the Largo Raínha D. Amélia with the imposing Palácio Nacional de Sintra on its northern side. In front of the Palácio stands a Late Gothic pelourinho which has been made into a fountain.In the Praça da República, on the southwest corner of the Largo Raínha D. Amélia, are the Igreja de Sao Martinho, originally a 12th C. church and subsequently much altered, and the Museu Municipal, the municipal museum, which holds the tourist information center as well.Past Parque Liberdade, or Liberty Park, the Igreja de Santa Maria (another much altered 12th C. church) and the Convento da Trindade, lies the Sao Pedro part of town, with the parish church, and the location of a big market which is held every second and fourth Sunday in the month.Immediately above the town, on its steep rocky mount, stands the Moorish castle which Afonso Henriques captured from the Arabs in 1147, and then, higher up, the Pena topped by its palace.
A good way of covering the relatively long distance between the center of Sintra and the Palácio da Pena is to take one of the horse drawn carriages. These can be found plying for trade in front of the Palácio Nacional de Sintra.
The main attraction, located right in the heart of Sintra, is the Palácio Nacional de Sintra. While the white exterior appears somewhat simple, the interior is lavishly decorated with unique theme rooms.
Castelo dos Mouros
From the south side of the town a road forks right and snakes uphill, with many hairpin bends, first through magnificent gardens and then parklike woodland. After about 3km/2mi a side road branches off to the left to the Moorish castle, the Castelo dos Mouros (alt. 429m/1,408ft). Ramparts and towers are still standing from the castle, which was originally built in the eighth or ninth C., recaptured in 1147 by Afonso Henriques and subsequently much altered. There is a splendid view of Sintra from the Torre Real. The inner courtyard has trees planted in the mid 19th C. for Ferdinand von Coburg-Koháry, consort of Queen Maria II.
On the Praça da República, several hundred yards southwest of the Palácio Nacional de Sintra, is the municipal museum, the Museu Municipal, with archeological and local history exhibits, as well as sacred art, together with a collection of pictures connected with Sintra.
A few hundred yards to the west of the Municipal Museum is the Toy Museum, with over 20,000 exhibits.The museum houses one of the largest toy collections in Portugal along with information specifying the origin and history of the toys.
During June and July there is a very popular series of piano recitals of works by the Romantic composers in the palaces in and around Sintra.
Feira Grande de Sao Pedro
Several towns and attractions of interest can be found outside the city of Sintra.
Palácio de Seteais
The Palácio de Seteais, or Palace of the Seven Sighs, is on the N 375 westward to Colares, just outside Sintra. It gets its name from the fact that the Treaty of Sintra, the surrender declaration of the French forces, was signed here in 1808. The palace was built in the last quarter of the 18th C. and extended early in the 19th. The triumphal arch (1802) commemorates a visit by Joao VI. The magnificent building is now a luxury hotel, with a gourmet restaurant. The entrance of the garden has a setting of lawns and lime trees.
Quinta de Monserrate
A few miles past the Palácio de Seteais, on the N 375, is the entrance to the Quinta de Monserrate, a Moorish looking villa built in the 19th century. Originally owned by an Englishman, Sir Francis Cook, it is now the property of the State. It is worth a visit if only to look round its lovely hilly park, where there is an abundance of tall tree ferns along with many other species of subtropical plants.
Convento dos Capuchos
The Convento dos Capuchos is 10km/6mi along the road to the Palácio da Pena southwest out of Sintra. The Capuchin monastery, in its woodland setting, was founded in 1560. On entering this remote monastery the visitor steps into another world. Some of the tiny monks' cells in which it was impossible to stand upright or to sleep fully stretched out are hewn out of the solid rock and were insulated against cold and damp with layers of cork.
A little road goes from the Convento dos Capuchos to Monte Peninha (489m/1,604ft), with good views over the Serra de Sintra and the sea. The small chapel perched up here was built in 1711 and is decorated with azulejos.
Map of Sintra Attractions