Sintra is both a town and a municipality in the Lisbon Coast/aka Estoril Coast region of Portugal. Its spectacular setting, 28km from Lisbon, houses a Royal Palace, used by generations of Portuguese royalty prior to the 1910 revolution. The surrounding hills are surmounted by the remains of the Moorish Castle and by the nineteenth-century Pena Palace. Historic Sintra is an heritage patrimony site declared by UNESCO.
In addition to the Sintra Mountains and Sintra-Cascais Nature Park, the parishes of the town of Sintra are dotted by royal retreats, estates, castles and buildings from the 8th-9th century, in addition to many buildings completed between the 15th and 19th century, including the Castelo dos Mouros, the Pena National Palace and the Sintra National Palace, resulting in its classification by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1995.
The earliest documents describe a built-up town in the 11th century by the Arab geographer Al-Bacr. The Moors built their castle atop a nearby promontory around the 8th-9th century. When Afonso Henriques finally captured Sintra (after the fall of Lisbon) in 1147, he ordered the construction of the Church of Sao Pedro de Penaferrim, within the castle walls.
Sintra is located at the foot of the Sintra Mountains, 18 kilometres east of the Atlantic Ocean. Some areas of the municipality close to Lisbon are essentially residential suburbs already in conurbation with Amadora, Odivelas.
With a population of approximately 33000 inhabitants, the town of Sintra falls in the middle of the three civil parishes: Santa Maria e Sao Miguel, Sao Martinho and Sao Pedro de Penaferrim. These parishes have been the centre of demographic and economic growth during the late 20th century, primarily influenced by the influx of tourism into the region.
The best bet is to take the bus around town and walk from the bus stops to the attractions. Parking is abysmal and on a holiday weekend Sintra can be absolutely packed with cars and people. If you must drive to Sintra, park in one of the several parking lots below the town center and walk up into town.