If you’re looking for a romantic break, explore an off-beat destination where nature can work its magic. Forget the cheesy postcards and hearts, reconnect with your partner by hiking together or exploring a laid-back hilltop town. Sintra, located 18 miles from Lisbon, Portugal makes for a lovely atmospheric getaway. The UNESCO World Heritage town has been an inspiration for poets and artists with its lush countryside, natural beauty and architecture.
Pena Palace, Sintra Mountain
The former residence of Portuguese royalty and UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the world’s best examples of 19th century Romanticism (reflected in its multi-coloured exterior) and it has a terrific view. The influences of the Manueline and Moorish styles of architecture are clearly visible. The palace was built to be visible from any point in the Pena park.
The Park of Pena has several gardens and landscaped areas spread over 85 hectares, featuring native and exotic plant species originating from the four corners of the earth. There are waterfalls, ponds, lakes and fountains. The two buildings at the main entrance possibly once formed part of the entrance to the estate of the Hieronymite Monks and they reflect the romantic inspiration of King Fernando II. Also, at 529 m above sea level, Cruz Alta, the stone cross, is situated at the highest point of the Sintra hills.
Cabo da Roca
Cape Roca is the westernmost point, not just of Portugal but of the entire European continent. Enjoy a panoramic view of the Serra de Sintra and the coastline. A fort at Cabo da Roca in the 16th century played an important role in guarding the approach to Lisbon. The lighthouse still serves as a warning beacon for shipping. The headland is part of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.
Coastal bliss: Estoril and Praia Guincho
While in Sintra, head to Guincho beach, considered as the best surfing beach in Portugal and is set in a wild and rugged landscape. Also visit, Estoril, a stylish Portuguese beach resort. It is thought that the Estoril Casino was the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s first James Bond book Casino Royale.
National Palace of Sintra:
The original Moorish Palace became the property of the Portuguese Crown after the conquest of Lisbon by Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal, in 1147. The vertical arrangement of its spaces, adapting to the terrain, the intimate organisation of the interior courtyards, outdoor spaces where you can hear the sound of running water; the arched windows, glazed tiles with rich geometrical patterns are features that highlight the Moorish links.
Quinta da Regaleira
This 20th century building is the former residence of the Viscountess of Regaleira situated in the town of Sintra. Its four-hectare park, with its mysterious tunnels, labyrinths, grottoes and ‘initiation wells’, makes it an ideal playground for couples.
Getting there: Lisbon to Sintra is a quick 45-minute train journey. Take the Sintra line from Rossio (city centre) or Oriente (Parque das Nações).