If you’re looking for a town straight out of a fairytale, visit Sintra, which is less than a half hour from Lisbon, or 20 minutes from Cascais, in Portugal. Famous for its European Romantic architecture, Sintra has charmed its visitors for decades, as well as guests of our cooking vacations such as our Lisbon Food Tour and our Lisbon and the Algarve tour, with its castles, natural forest, and ruins.
The stunning landscape architecture also plays a role in Sintra’s fairytale qualities. For one, in the early 1800s, Ferdinand II acquired a monastery and turned it into the stunning Pena Palace, which features a conglomeration of styles, including Romantic, Manueline, and Gothic. He also commissioned gardens to surround this lavish property, and today visitors can meander around the regal park that was influenced by the British landscapes of the 18th and 19th centuries. Part of the park’s unique charm is that native and non-native plants – from as far away as Australia – live side by side.
Yet, Pena Palace is just one attraction of many in this unique town that was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the 1990s. The historical center dates back to the 15th and 16th centuries when it was ruled by the Moors. Evidence of the town’s Moorish past can be seen in the Moorish castle at the outskirts of the city. Another place worth visiting is the Sintra National Palace, where you’ll feel like you’re stepping back in time.
So there are plenty of attractions, but what should visitors eat? Local dishes typically feature grilled fish, veal, as well as lamb and pork “Mercês” style. For dessert, try the traditional cheesecake known as “queijadas di Sintra.”
By Liz Hall
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