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Famous for its colourful fairytale castles and dramatic mountain scenery, Sintra is infused with a sense of magic. Many people visit the town as a day trip from Lisbon, but if you're looking to spend more time here, the area has more than you can cover in a day. The west coast has rugged Atlantic beaches which are great for surfing, clifftop paths for hiking and lots of ancient buildings to explore – from Moorish fortresses to moss-covered Capuchin monasteries.
Hostels in Sintra are as eclectic as the town's scenery – you can stay in a charming 18th-century villa in the historic centre, a cosy and traditional beach house or an eco-friendly property in the mountains. On-site bars and common rooms offer plenty of space to meet new friends, while free Wi-Fi helps you plan your trip. Many Sintra hostels have outside space with views across to the iconic castles.
Many of Sintra's major attractions are in the Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais (Sintra-Cascais Nature Park). You'll find plenty of castles and monasteries to discover during the day, and by night the action is in Sintra town on the edge of the protected slopes. The cobbled streets are lined with grand manor houses with independent shops and cafés on the ground floors. Another popular area is Praia das Maçãs (Apple Beach) on the west coast, with a sandy cove and lots of waterfront seafood restaurants.
Sintra is known for its castles, and the most famous is the brightly coloured Pena Palace. After snapping a selfie with the distinctive red and yellow walls, it's worth taking a tour inside to see how Portuguese royalty used to live. Quinta da Regaleira is another fascinating palace, with underground caves and paths connecting the elaborate gardens. Sintra is also near Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of mainland Europe – it's 25 minutes away by car. At 150 metres above the sea, you'll have great views over the coastline.
The nearest airport is Lisbon Portela Airport, about 30 minutes away by taxi. By public transport, hop on the red metro line to Gare do Oriente (Oriente train station) from the airport, and catch a train to Sintra from there. As the town's palaces are quite spread out, the best way to see them all is to use the hop-on, hop-off bus. If you're feeling active, you can do it by bicycle instead.