While most people base themselves in Lisbon when visiting Portugal, nearby Sintra, once the summer home of kings and aristocrats, is a more relaxed alternative to the busy city. Sintra is close enough to Lisbon– a quick thirty minutes via taxi– that it’s easy to pop into Lisbon for dinner, but come back home to the natural beauty of this UNESCO heritage site.
Sintra Luxury Stay: Penha Longa Resort
We loved the expansive grounds of the Ritz Carlton-owned Penha Longa resort, set over a 500 acre national park in the Sintra mountains. With a nineteenth century palace, golf courses and full-service spa on site, there is plenty to do without ever leaving the hotel.
Don’t miss: the incredible breakfasts and evening drinks on the patio. One evening, we came home with a pile of delicious cheeses and the staff stocked us with a blanket and tableware so we could have our own picnic on the grounds.
Skip: The hotel’s concierge recommendations. We asked for restaurant recommendations in Lisbon and the concierge staff suggested only obvious tourist spots. Do your own research.
Sintra Luxury Attractions: Palaces and Gardens
There are several attractions worth seeing in scenic Sintra. We list our favorites here:
Quinta da Regaleira (Regaleira Palace and Gardens)
Visit Quinta da Regaleira not for the palace (circa 1697), but for the insane grounds– practically a playground for adults. Walk the garden path to find winding stone towers, secret passageways, bridges, and gorgeous structures hidden in the trees. Don’t read too much about Quinta da Regaleira in advance– it’s fun to be surprised here. This was our favorite attraction in Sintra, a top Smart Luxe pick.
This faded pastel castle is a crazy mishmash of styles (from Arabic to Victorian), with plenty of photo friendly features like crenellated turrets and Moorish arches. Those without a fear of heights can walk the narrow paths around the turrets. The views are amazing no matter where you stand.
The ruins of this 9th century castle are a great option if you’re feeling like a hike.
Sintra Palace Palácio Nacional de Sintra
In the center of Sintra,worth a stroll through to check out the ancient kitchens and interesting art on the walls (and painted ceilings).
Sintra Luxury Shopping: Unique Antiques
Sintra (Smart) Luxury Dining at Tulah’s:
We all loved our lavish lunch at rustic Tulahs. The restaurant will keep bringing out olives, cheese and bread– sample only the ones you want. We of course wanted to try everything– including the gooey cheese here that was our favorite of the entire trip. Prices at Tulah’s incredibly reasonable, making this a bargain luxe pick.
Have you been to Sintra? What are your favorite tips?