Sintra, Portugal is swiftly becoming one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations. Eccentric palaces, misty forests, and stunning beaches draw enthusiastic crowds year-round. Sintra is home to some of Europe’s most unforgettable architecture. The ruins of a Moorish castle are adjacent to the esoteric palace of an eccentric millionaire. Visitors often feel as though they are touring a theme park populated by fantastical knights and wizards as they survey Sintra’s truly unique castles.
One of Sintra’s most celebrated buildings is the Quinta da Regaleira which was built by millionaire Antonio Augusto Carvalho Monteiro in the late 1800s. Finished in 1910, Quinta da Regaleira is steeped in mythology and esoteric symbolism. The castle features a hidden well which pays tribute to the Knights of Templar—a secretive group of Christians who ensured the safety of Europeans who traveled to the Holy Land during the Middle Ages. Quinta da Regaleira features ornate murals, sculptures, and stained glass windows that are unlike anything else that existed in Europe at the time.
The ruins of the Castle of the Moors—which was first constructed in the 8th century—allows visitors to climb a steep stone staircase that offers a stunning view of Sintra’s lush forests, green hills, and scenic coastline. Visitors can also spy nearby Pena Palace—a yellow and red palace perched on a hill which features rounded domes, turrets, and a breathtaking sculpture of a surly King Triton squatting in a seashell. Onlookers can tour the interior of Pena Palace, which is widely considered to be one of the most iconic castles in all of Europe.
No trip to Pena Palace is complete without a hike to nearby Cruz Alta. Cruz Alta marks the highest elevation in the Sintra Mountains. Visitors hike through a spooky forest that is often enveloped in fog in order to reach a stone cross that has been rebuilt several times since it was first erected in 1552. Cruz Alta offers a panoramic view of Sintra, Lisbon, and the royal blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Sintra is home to several noteworthy castles, monasteries, gardens, and museums, but many visitors are attracted to Sintra’s magnificent beaches. The water may be chilly, but the stunning jagged rock formations of Praia da Ursa make the frigid waters worth braving. Praia da Ursa’s triangular cliffs help tame the Atlantic Ocean’s powerful waves so that swimmers can float in peace without worrying about getting swept out to sea. It is a bit of a hike to reach Praia da Ursa, but beach enthusiasts will happily tell you that spending the afternoon strolling or sunbathing on the shores of one of Europe’s most beautiful beaches is certainly worth the climb.
If you have a passion for elegant castles, picturesque beaches, and ancient forests, a visit to Sintra is an absolute must. You’re guaranteed to view some of the most enchanting scenery in all of Europe when you spend the day wandering the hills of Sintra. No grand tour of Europe is complete without basking in the beauty of Sintra.