Sintra, Portugal

Sintra Portuguese:  is a town and municipality in the Greater Lisbon region of Portugal, located on the Portuguese Riviera. The population of the municipality in 2011 was 377,835, in an area of 319.23 square kilometres (123.26 sq mi). Sintra is one of the most urbanized and densely populated municipalities of Portugal and hosts several cities albeit the seat of the municipality is the town of Sintra proper. A major tourist destination famed for its picturesqueness, the municipality has several historic palaces, castles, scenic beaches, parks and gardens.

The area includes the Sintra-Cascais Nature Park through which the Sintra Mountains run.

The historic center of the Vila de Sintra is famous for its 19th century Romanticist architecture,

historic estates and villas, gardens, and royal palaces and castles, which resulted in the classification of the town as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sintra's landmarks include the medieval Castle of the Moors, the romanticist Pena National Palace and the Portuguese Renaissance Sintra National Palace.

Sintra is one of the wealthiest and most expensive municipalities in both Portugal and the Iberian Peninsula as a whole. It is home to one of the largest foreign expat communities along the Portuguese Riviera and consistently ranks as one of the best places to live in Portugal.

The earliest remnants of human occupation were discovered in Penha Verde: these vestiges testify to an occupation dating to the early Paleolithic. Comparable remnants were discovered in an open-air site in São Pedro de Canaferrim, alongside the chapel of the Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle), dating back to the Neolithic, and include decorated ceramics and microlithic flint utensils from the fifth century B.C.

Ceramic fragments found locally including many late Chalcolithic vases from the Sintra mountains suggest that between the fourth and third millennia B.C. the region (adjacent to the present village of Sintra) was occupied by a Neolithic/Chalcolithic settlement, with characteristics comparable to fortified settlements in Lisbon and Setúbal. The evidence discovered in Quinta das Sequoias and São Pedro de Canaferrim contrasts dramatically with those remnants discovered in the walled town of Penha Verde and the funerary monument of Bella Vista. Traces of several Bronze Age remains were also discovered in many places in the Sintra Mountains, including alongside the town, in the Monte do Sereno area, and a late Bronze Age settlement within the Moorish Castle dating to the 9th–6th centuries B.C.

The most famous object from this period is the so-called Sintra Collar, a middle Bronze Age gold neck-ring found near the city at the end of the nineteenth century, which since 1900 has been part of the British Museum's collection. Relatively close by, in Santa Eufémia da Serra, is an Iron Age settlement where artifacts from indigenous tribes and peoples of Mediterranean origins (principally from the Punic period) were also discovered.

These date from the early 4th century B.C., prior to the Romanization of the peninsula, which in the area of Foz do Tejo took place in the middle of the 2nd century B.C. Close proximity to a large commercial centre (Olisipo) founded by the Turduli Oppidani people in the first half of the first millennium B.C., meant that the region of Sintra was influenced by human settlement throughout various epochs, cultures that have left remains in the area to this day. The toponym Sintra derives from the medieval Suntria, and points to an association with radical Indo-European cultures; the word translates into "bright star" or "sun", commonly significant in those cultures. Marcus Terentius Varro and Cadizian Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella designated the place "the sacred mountain" and Ptolemy referred to it as the "mountains of the moon".

Part of the Roman Dam of Belas complex, showing the ventilation structures (foreground) and the remaining dam segment (background).

During the Roman occupation of the peninsula, the region of Sintra was part of the vast Civitas Olisiponense which Caesar (around 49 B.C.) or more likely Octavius (around 30 B.C.) granted the status of Municipium Civium Romanorum. The various residents of the region were considered part of the Roman Galeria and in the present village of Sintra there are Roman remains testifying to a Roman presence from the 1st–2nd centuries B.C. to the 5th century A.D. A roadway along the southeast part of the Sintra Mountains and connected to the main road to Olisipo dates from this period.

Roman Bridge of Catribana.
This via followed the route of the current Rua da Ferraria, the Calçada dos Clérigos and the Calçada da Trindade. Following the Roman custom of siting tombs along their roads and near their homes, there is also evidence of inscriptions pertaining to Roman funeral monuments, dating mainly to the 2nd century. The area around the modern town of Sintra, due to its proximity to Olisipo, the ancient name of Lisbon, was always profoundly interconnected with the major settlement, to the point that the Fountain of Armés, a 1st-century fountain in the village of Armés, Terrugem, in Sintra, has been built by Lucius Iulius Maelo Caudicus, an Olisipo flamen, to honour the Roman Emperor Augustus.

The Castle of the Moors, on the hilltops of Sintra
It was during the Moorish occupation of Sintra (Arabic: Xintara‎) that Greco-Latin writers wrote of the explicit occupation of the area of the town centre. A description by the geographer Al-Bacr, described Sintra as "one of the towns that [are] dependent on Lisbon in Al-Andalus, in proximity to the sea", characterizing it as "permanently submersed in a fog that never dissipates".

During the Reconquista (around the 9th century), its principal centre and castle were isolated by Christian armies. Following the fall of the Caliphate of Córdoba, the King of Léon, Alfonso VI received in the spring of 1093, the cities of Santarém, Lisbon and the Castle of Sintra. This followed a period of internal instability within the Muslim taifas of the peninsula, and in particular the decision by the ruler of Taifa of Badajoz, Umar ibn Muhammad al-Mutawakkil who, after hesitating from 1090 to 1091, placed his territory under the suzerainty of Alfonso VI when faced with the threat of the Almoravids. Afonso took the cities and the castle of Sintra between 30 April and 8 May 1093, but shortly after their transfer Sintra and Lisbon were conquered by the Almoravids. Santarém was saved by Henry, who Alfonso VI of León and Castile nominated Count of Portugal in 1096, to replace Raymond of Burgundy.

SINTRA | Best Places to Visit in Portugal

Sintra is deservedly one of Portugal’s greatest tourist magnets, with flocks of visitors coming to see the city’s historical and architectural wonders. The city also has a booming gastronomical culture, with dozens of restaurants and cafes tucked away. Here we give some suggestions of where to eat when you’re out and about in this wondrous little city.

Sintra is one of the most beautiful and most unique places in Portugal and is absolutely worth a visit. With fairytale-like castles and the most enchanting gardens, a visit to Sintra is worth your time even if you are coming from the other side of the world!