Sintra Travel Guide

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Sintra Travel Guide

Sintra Local History

Sintra is one of the oldest towns in Portugal. When the crusaders captured it in 1147, they fought bitterly against the Moors firmly entrenched in their hilltop castle, the ruins of which remain today. Writers have sung Sintra's praises ever since Portugal's national poet, Luís Vaz de Camões, proclaimed its glory in Os Lusíadas (The Lusiads).

It was called "glorious Eden" by Lord Byron when he and John Cam Hobhouse included Sintra in their 1809 grand tour. The town is situated on a hillside and the old birthday-cake villas are covered with tiles coming loose in the damp mist.

The luxurious vegetation that covers the town include camellias for the romantics, ferns behind which lizards dart, pink and purple bougainvillea over garden trelliswork, red geraniums on wrought-iron balconies, eucalyptus branches fluttering in the wind, lemon trees in groves, and honey-sweet mimosa scenting the air. It has been said that some who visit Sintra fall under its spell and stay forever. Sop, be warned!

Sintra Attractions

Top Attractions

Palácio Nacional de Sintra - Largo da Rainha Dona Amélia, Sintra Tel (21) 910 6840. The Sintra National Palace was a royal palace until 1910 and was last inhabited by Queen Maria Pía, the Italian grandmother of Manuel II, the last king of Portugal. This was a summer palace of Moorish sultans long before the arrival of the crusaders under Afonso Henríques. The original palace was torn down, and the Moorish style of architecture was incorporated. The structure is now a mixture of styles, with Gothic and Manueline predominating.

Glazed earthenware tiles line many of the chambers and are said to be among the most beautiful in Portugal. The palace is rich in paintings and Iberian and Flemish tapestries, but the place will be best appreciated as you wander into a tree- and plant-shaded patio and listen to the water gurgling in a fountain. The palace opens onto the central town square. Outside, two conical chimney towers form the most distinctive landmark on the Sintra skyline. Visiting hours are Thursday to Tuesday 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm. Admission 3€ adults, 1.50€ children 14 to 25, free for children under 14.

Palácio Nacional de Pena - Estrada de Pena, Sintra Tel (21) 923 73-00. Pena perches above Sintra on a plateau about 450m (1,476 ft.) above sea level. The ride up the verdant, winding road through the Parque das Merendas, is part of the fun of visiting the castle is. The inspiration behind this castle in the sky was Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. He approached a fellow German, Baron Eschwege, to help him build his fantasy. A sculpture of the baron is visible if you look out from the Pena toward a huge rock across the way. In the early 16th century, Manuel the Fortunate ordered a monastery for the Jerónimos monks built on these lofty grounds.

You can visit a preserved cloister and small ogival chapel. Queen Amélia was the last royal occupant of the palace. Pena has remained much as Amélia left it, making it a rare record of European royal life in the halcyon days preceding World War I. Visiting hours October to May, Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm; June to September, Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 6.30pm. Last admission is half-hour before closing. Admission 5€ , 3.50€ children 6-17, free for children 5 and under.

Castelo dos Mouros - Location Calçada dos Clérigos, Sintra Tel (21) 923 73-00. The Castle of the Moors was built sometime between the 8th and 9th centuries in a position 412m (1,351 ft.) above sea level. Scandinavian crusaders besieged and captured it from its Moorish occupants in 1147. Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the royal consort responsible for Pena palace, attempted to restore the castle in the 19th century. He was relatively unsuccessful. A guide will send you in the right direction from the parking area.

You will have a panoramic view of Sintra, its palace and castle, and the Atlantic coast is panoramic from the royal tower. Hours daily June to September 9am to 8pm; October to May 9am to 7pm. 3€ adult, 2€ seniors and children 6-17, free for children under 6.

Special Events - From June to early August, the Sintra Festival (Tel (21) 910 7117) attracts many music lovers. The best interpreters from today's international music scene present a program which consists entirely of a piano repertoire from the romantic period. The concerts, about eight in all, usually take place in the region's churches, palaces (Palácio da Vila, Palácio da Pena, and Palácio de Queluz), parks, and country estates. Each concert costs 20€ to 25€ , but the price depends on the event. The tourist office will have more details.

Quinta da Regaleira - Rua Barbosa du Bocage 2710-567 Sintra - Tel +351 219 106 650 This fantastic place hides fun for all the family. A truly magic day out that you won't forget any time soon... The leaflet that is handed to you on the way in does not do it justice at all, so just take your time to discover the treats this gothic fantasy holds. I won't give much away so not to spoil your experience, just go there and have the time of your life!
submitted by Ana Mason-Correia, 16/01/08

Sintra Shopping

Sintra Bazar - Praça da República 37 (tel (21) 924 8240), is where seven or eight different merchants maintain individual boutiques selling creative handcrafts. On the same street is A Esquina, Praça da República 20 (tel (21) 923 3427). This shop carries many hand-painted ceramics, some of which are reproductions of designs that originated between the 15th and 18th centuries. Almorábida, Rua Visconde de Monserrate 12-14 (tel (21) 924 0539), in front of Sintra Palace, sells Arraiolos carpets, lace, and intricately hammered copperware. An antiques shop close to the town center, worth a visit is Henríque Teixera, Rua Consiglieri Pedroso 2 (tel (21) 923-10-43). It carries sometimes dauntingly expensive furniture and accessories, including an exceptional collection of antique brass and bronze hardware.

Casa Branca - Rua Consiglieri Pedroso 12 (tel (21) 923 0528), is the shop to go to for linens. Inventories include embroideries from Madeira, the Azores, and the north of Portugal. Nightdresses and negligees, some of them with rich embroideries on silk or cotton, are particularly beautiful, often with provocatively flimsy décolletage.

Violeta - Rua das Padarias 19 (tel (21) 923 4095), stocks hand-embroidered linen tablecloths, towels, sheets, and bedspreads.

Sintra Restaurants and Bars

Sintra Restaurants

Tacho Real - Rua da Ferraria 4, Sintra Tel (21) 923 5277. Lisboans travel all the way from the city to enjoy the well-prepared meals served at this elegant and stylish restaurant. Set at the top of a steep flight of cobble-covered steps it takes a bit of a huff-and-puff walk to get there. The kitchen prepares wonderful fish and meat dishes, and some succulent poultry dishes. The two house specialties are fish filet with shrimp sauce and rice, and filet steak with cream sauce and mushrooms. Be sure to also try the bubbling fish stew. The fixed-price menu is a bargain and includes soup, a main course, dessert, coffee, and half a bottle of wine. The service is efficient and polite, and English is spoken. Hours Thursday to Tuesday noon to 3pm and 730pm to 10.30pm. Prices for main courses 8€ -19€ ; fixed-price menu 12€ .

Lawrence's Restaurant - Rua Consigliéri Pedroso 38-40 (In Lawrence's Hotel), Sintra Tel (021) 910 5500. This restaurant is described as the main focus of the hotel that contains it. It is fitted out in a tasteful interpretation of a late-19th-century decor and has welcomed diners including presidents, statesmen, diplomats, and actors, all of whom seem to appreciate the superb cuisine and graceful service. The menu changes frequently, but there it is always likely to include a sophisticated version of fish soup; black tagliolini with grilled octopus, squid ink, and fresh sweet basil; house-style codfish; and grilled filet of sea bass with a confit of leeks. Meat dishes include both venison and white veal, and a roasted magret of duck cooked on a roast spit, served with Roösti potatoes and wild berry sauce. Dessert may include a theatrical version of flambéed crepes prepared directly at tableside. Hours daily 12.30pm to 2.30pm and 7.30pm to 9.45pm. Main courses 13€ - 42€.

Cantinho de São Pedro - Praça Dom Fernando II 18, Sintra (21) 923 0267. One of the hillside village's finest dining choices is situated less than 2km (1 1/4 mile) southeast of Sintra, in São Pedro de Sintra. It's right off the main square, Praça Dom Fernando II, where the Feira da Sintra (Sintra Fair) is staged every second and fourth Sunday of the month. Here you will taste some of the oldest fair dating from the time of the Christian Reconquest. The pratos do dia (daily specials) are usually a bargain but save your appetite for the tasty specialties. They include velvety crepes stuffed with fresh lobster, and meltingly tender beefsteak in green pepper sauce. The dish of pork with clams in the style of the province of Alentejo remains the justifiably popular favorite. Hours daily noon to 3pm and 7.30pm to 10pm. Main courses 14€ -27€ ; 18€ tourist menu.

Sintra Bars & Clubs

Sintra is not a party town; the most intriguing soirées are private. A worthy bar in the center of town, where you might meet people from any country in Europe, is Adega das Caves, Praça da República 2-10 (tel. 21/923-08-48). The establishment is a restaurant that does a busy lunch trade.

After dark, it mellows into a likable bar and bodega, specializing in beer and Portuguese wine. It's open every day till around 2am. A nearby competitor is the Taverna dos Trovadores, São Pedro (tel. 21/923-35-48), which lies in the center of the tiny hamlet of São Pedro, less than 2km (1 1/4 miles) south from the center of Sintra. Popular and convivial, it incorporates aspects of an old-fashioned tasca (tavern) with a modern singles bar and it features recorded and (on rare occasions) live music, a long drink list, and a cross-section of residents from throughout the region.

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