The town of Sintra in Portugal is known as the fairytale town of Portugal, and with very good reason. Palaces and villas are scattered over the hills of the township, giving this town the appearance of a place from another time.
Located east of Portugal's capital city of Lisbon, Sintra is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The palaces in the hills are simply a delight with their ornate Egyptian, Moorish, Gothic and Renaissance architectural features.
The Portuguese Royal Family spent their summers at Sintra between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries, and built the Sintra National Palace for that purpose. The palace has incorporated Gothic, Manueline and Moorish features in its construction, and is the best preserved Medieval palace in Portugal.
Enjoying wonderful views of the town and countryside is the Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle) which dates from the ninth and tenth centuries. Much of the original fortress was destroyed in 1147, when the Crusaders defeated the Moors to recapture Sintra, but there are still 450 metres of walls complete with battlement towers to be seen.
The Pena Palace, or Palacio da Pena, was built on the site of a monastery which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1755. In 1838 construction was begun by King Ferdinand II. The Pena Palace is built upon one of the hills of Sintra, and on a clear day can be seen from Lisbon.
Sintra with its natural and heritage values
Sintra has long enjoyed the adulation of those who have been fascinated by its natural and heritage values, and the Romans named it "Cynthia" after the Goddess of the Moon. When the Moors took over they added to the monumental heritage with palaces and castles, and many fountains around the township. When Sintra became the summer residence of the Portuguese Royal Family they were followed by aristocratic families who built mansions and villas, adding further to its built heritage.
Many have fallen in love with Sintra over the centuries, and in the eighteenth century, Lord Byron declared that the town was "perhaps in every respect the most delightful in Europe". Robert Southey declared it to be "the most blessed spot on the whole inhabitable globe".
There are a number of museums in and around Sintra. The Sintra Museum of Modern Art houses art by such notable artists as Picasso, Lichtenstein, Miro and Andy Warhol. The Ferreira de Castro Museum contains books and art belonging to the Portuguese writer Ferreira de Castro, and there is even a toy museum by the name of Museo do Brinquedo, which houses everything from dolls to toy trains. Moving further afield there are more museums which contain exhibits including many ancient artifacts.
Sintra is located right in the centre of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park and the natural beauty of the area combined with the stunning monumental heritage have combined to make its popular appeal almost inevitable.