A couple’s guide to Sintra – Portugal’s most romantic city

You don’t have to travel far to find a romantic destination that’s a little unusual. Surprise your loved one on Valentine’s Day (or on an anniversary!) with a trip to Sintra, just 18 miles northwest of the Portuguese capital, Lisbon. It’s the perfect place for romance with its sunny climate and intimate atmosphere.

Romantic things to do in Sintra

Nestled in the foothills of the Sintra Mountains, the former royal sanctuary of Sintra is surrounded by forest walks and filled with UNESCO-listed palaces and pastel-coloured villas. Take a romantic horse-drawn carriage tour around the cobblestone streets and see the highlights of this heritage city. You’ll be introduced to turreted castles, clock towers, grand palácio, parks and gardens designed for strolling hand-in-hand.

Cultural attractions in Sintra include the Jewish Quarter with its wonderful delis. Take a table at one of the family-run cafés and sample the sweet local delicacies such as queijada, made from cheese, eggs and sugar, or the pillow-shaped almond pastry called a travesseiro. The latter are known as “heavenly pillows” and local bakers claim they hear heavenly singing when they make the pastry, and that fairies sprinkle them with stardust! Whatever the secret, they certainly melt in the mouth and taste divine!

Pena Palace

Sintra highlights

The Sintra National Palace is a dramatic building covered in the elaborately decorated tiles that the Portuguese are known for.

Just outside Sintra, the 19th century Pena National Palace is another gorgeous former royal residence and a wonderful example of 19th century Romanticism. However, the original palace was built by the Moors and the courtyards with water features and surmounted arches around the windows still reflect the designs of the original Moorish craftsmen.

Fairytale interiors enchant visitors on a tour of the furnished rooms while outside there are far-reaching views of the surrounding area from this hilltop location. Occasional swirling mist simply adds to the charm. Ride around Pena Park in a horse-drawn carriage ride which takes you from the Lakes Valley to the Chalet of the Countess of Edla with its famous Lace Room. Another surprisingly peaceful park to explore is the Quita da Regaleira, a four-hectare estate with tunnels, mazes, grottos and water features.

Moorish castle scenery

The latest attraction which embraces timeless romanticism and mystery is the Sintra Myths and Legends. Couples travel through time and space as they interact with Sintra’s glorious history at this Historical Centre. Learn more about the heritage of this old city as you journey through 17 different sets which make full use of multimedia technology, 3D imagery, holograms and kinetic experiences to weave magic into Sintra’s past. The virtual experience starts on top of Sintra Mountain with a narrator telling the Legend of the Five Peaks of Sintra. Other tales and historic events unfold as you progress through this 21st century museum.

Getting to Sintra

It’s easy to fly into Lisbon and enjoy a scenic taxi ride or 45-minute train ride along the Sintra Line from Lisbon city centre to Sintra Oriente (Parque das Nações) in the heart of the old city.

Golfers will enjoy a stay at the luxurious Ritz-Carlton in Sintra, but for more romantic accommodation check out the Tivoli Palacio de Seteais, a former 18th century palace with outstanding service and a luxury spa.

Lake, Pena Park