Sintra is situated in the green hills north of Lisbon and Carcavelos. It’s a ‘must do’ day trip but is very popular and therefore best visited on weekdays when visitor numbers are fewer.
One of the most famous references to Sintra (or Cintra) as he called it, is by the poet Lord Byron, in his Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage to Portugal, written between 1812 and 1818. It’s a lengthy narrative and is not very flattering of Portuguese people, but needs to be put in context. Here was a young man, disillusioned with a life of pleasure and revelry, looking for distraction in far away places. Some consider it an expression of the melancholy and disillusionment felt by a generation weary of the wars of the post-Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras.
The title comes from the term childe, a medieval title for a young man who was a candidate for knighthood. The most frequently quoted Canto 18, follows:
Poor, paltry slaves! yet born midst noblest scenes –
Why, Nature, waste thy wonders on such men?
Lo! Cintra’s glorious Eden intervenes
In variegated maze of mount and glen.
Ah me! what hand can pencil guide, or pen,
To follow half on which the eye dilates
Through views more dazzling unto mortal ken
Than those whereof such things the bard relates,
Who to the awe-struck world unlocked Elysium’s gates?
The Poet Laureate, Robert Southey (1774 – 1843) was a renowned Portuguese and Spanish scholar and lived for a time in Sintra. He described the Sintra region as “the most blessed spot in the habitable globe”.
Modern Sintra is every bit as delightful as described above, and for suggestions on what to see there follow this Sintra Must Sees link.
How to get there
Sintra is easy to get to from Carcavelos. Driving there will take approx 45 mins and car parking is plentiful and inexpensive.
Trains to Sintra can be taken from a number of stations in or near to Lisbon e.g. Alges and (beautiful) Rossio.
You can also catch buses from outside Estoril (418), Cascais (417) or Alges (149) train stations -all on the Lisbon to Cascais coastal train route.
If you don’t mind adding an extra 20mins to your journey, take bus 403 from Cascais. This takes you along the coast road, past Cabo de Roca (the westermost point on the continent of Europe, which the Portuguese poet, Camões, defined as “where the land ends and the sea begins”), and then inland via tiny villages and narrow, winding roads, to Sintra.