Nestled in the foothills of the Sintra Mountains on the Lisbon Coast, just a day trip away from Portugal’s capital city, Sintra presents a spectacular setting of verdant hills, sprinkled with pretty villas, royal retreats, palaces and castles dating as far back as the 8th century. Prized by the Romans, Moors and Portuguese royalty, Sintra’s beauty even enchanted the famous poet, Lord Byron, to write of it in a personal letter, describing it as the most beautiful village in the world.
Sintra’s hills make walking an effort, but the rewards are worth it. For those who don’t wish to walk, there are buses that stop near all of the city’s attractions such as Pena’s Palace, a fantastical castle reminiscent of Germany’s Neuschnwanstein. Built in the mid-1800s and serving as a summer retreat for the Portuguese royal family, Pena’s Palace is surrounded by forested parklands containing exotic trees, plants and flowers. Additionally, the Regaleira Palace and Gardens offers stunning architecture and intriguing Masonic symbols. Also not to be missed are the impressive ancient ruins of the Castle of the Moors crowning the city’s highest hill, and the romantic Monserrate Palace with its subtropical gardens. For an interesting diversion, the Toy Museum houses more than 20,000 toy items spanning history back to ancient Egypt.