Sintra’s perfect symbiosis of natural surroundings and architectural heritage prompted UNESCO to classify it as a World Heritage site for its cultural landscape in 1995. The town has always attracted artists and writers from all over the world and was particularly popular during the Romantic era of the 19th century.
Poets, such as Lord Byron, who described it as a “glorious Eden”, and Portuguese writers such as Eça de Queiroz have written about its unique charm and the magical atmosphere created by the mist that often shrouds the town.
Sintra is exuberant in all senses of the word. The combination of natural riches and magnificent monuments bestows on it extraordinary beauty. The vast area that is classified by UNESCO includes the historic town centre, including the Paço Real (the Royal Palace), which is one of the most important monuments in the region. To take a walk through the historical centre is to journey through a magical world filled with rich detail, which is surrounded and watched over by the majestic Serra de Sintra. The town also features unique parks and gardens, which are a true mecca for botanists, with special highlights being the Parque da Pena and the Jardins de Monserrate.
Perched on top of one of the sheer peaks is the fairy-tale Palácio da Pena, which is the most notable example of Portuguese Romantic architecture. Its recent restoration returned the original colours to the exterior, making it stand out even more in the surrounding greenery. Built on the ruins of the Nossa Senhora da Pena Hieronymite monastery, the palace dates back to 1839.
The attractions of Sintra are not limited to the historic centre. The Sintra region has been inhabited since ancient times, as shown by the many archaeological finds in the area. It is not far from the coast, which enjoys some of the most beautiful Atlantic beaches and, further south, a dramatic coastline featuring the Cabo da Roca cliff, the westernmost point of the European mainland, described by the celebrated Portuguese poet, Luís de Camões, as the place “where the land ends and the sea begins”.