Only half an hour outside Lisbon lies one of the most fascinating sights of this already spectacular area of Portugal: Sintra. Set atop craggy ridges lies the palace that looks down on the town below. Centuries ago the Moors fortified the area leaving the Castelo dos Mouros to look down on the town. The Palácio Nacional da Pena with an even loftier view is also not to be missed.
But, whether high or low, every vista is outstanding.
The Moorish Castle is one of this area’s outstanding sights. Begun during the Moorish occupation, it continued to grow under the auspices of the later Portuguese monarchs. King Joao I began a large expansion effort in the late 1300s that continued well into the 1880s.
Be sure to visit the Palácio Nacional de Sintra, too, with its distinctive huge white chimneys. Inside lie many more interesting sights. The Magpie Room (Sala das Pêgas) shows just one example. The ceiling is festooned with these chatty birds, said to represent the many fawning courtiers to the royal court.
The Sala das Armas shows yet another example of Lisbon’s love of fine ceramic tile. It also displays many fine shields from the 16th century. Covered with coats-of-arms from every line, they are a lesson in history at the same time they show the high art that touched even warfare.
Sintra grew to its present position as a tourist attraction in the early-19th century, even attracting such notable visitors as Lord Byron. The area soon fell under the romantic gaze of Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, husband of Queen Maria II.
In 1840, collaborating with the Prussian architect Eschwege, he produced the Palácio Nacional da Pena. Displaying a mixture of Bavarian and Manueline architecture, the interior sports an eclectic variety of furnishings and numerous paintings, many by the royal Ferdinand himself.
But even the surroundings themselves are a delight to visitors.
Near the westernmost point of Europe, this section of Portugal enjoys warm sunshine and cool Atlantic breezes. The whole atmosphere, reflected in its people, is one of relaxation and enjoyment. They have much to enjoy.
Not far away is the casino in Cascais. Just a few minutes from it is the famed nightclub, Coconuts, where many of the locals gather to party the night away.
In addition, there is a Formula One racing track near Estoril. Here, visitors can catch one of the internationally famous races. From one section of the course one can see one of the many outstanding beaches in the area. At night, the neighborhood comes to life in the numerous bars that dot the shoreline.
When touring Lisbon, be sure to visit Sintra and take advantage of all it has to offer.
Sintra is easy to reach from Lisbon via bus or train. But for those who really want to see all the area has to offer, a rented car is the ticket.