A favorite summer retreat for the kings of Portugal, Sintra and nearby Cascais make a dreamy honeymoon destination any time of year. The hilltop town of Sintra, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, enchants visitors with its old-world charm, while the coastal town of Cascais provides cosmopolitan verve.
For convenience and luxury while touring the area, base yourself at Tivoli Palacio de Seteais, a five-star castle hotel tucked into the mountainside of Sintra, approximately an hour by car from Lisbon Airport. A haven for such luminaries as Brad Pitt, Kylie Minogue, and Johnny Depp, the hotel and its thirty rooms and suites is sumptuously outfitted with 18th century-style furnishings, including rare tapestries, frescos, paintings, and porcelain. The Seteais restaurant, overlooking gardens filled with camellias and lemon trees, tantalizes guests with refined Portuguese and international cuisine. For couples it can arrange a candlelit dinner with live harp or piano music.
To fortify your explorations around Sintra, duck into Piriquita café famous for its tender, flaky Portuguese sweets, including queijadas (tiny, cinnamon sugar-glazed custard tarts), and travesseiro (pastry pillows filled with almond cream). Then, it’s onto the area’s glorious palaces, beginning with the pink and yellow Palácio Nacional da Pena, set in a park and featuring a ballroom with four life-sized turbaned men holding giant candelabra and an Arab Room with trompe-l’oeil frescos.
The Palácio Nacional de Sintra, dating back to the 10th century, shows strong Moorish architectural influences—horseshoe-shaped arches, courtyards, and decorative tile work—as does Castelo dos Mouros built in the 8th century with views over the old town.
Quinta da Regaleira and Palácio Nacional de Queluz are two more lovely palaces. The former is a fairytale-like structure built in 1904 with gorgeous gardens and sculptures; the latter is a 17th century, pink, Rococo confection filled with mirrored ballrooms, crystal chandeliers, and stunning murals.
Beyond palaces, Sintra has numerous cafes, boutiques, and pottery shops tucked along little cobbled lanes to explore on foot. It also has the Sintra Museum of Modern Art housing works from artists such as Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock.
For a more urban adventure, head to Cascais only fifteen miles from Sintra. This former fishing village soared to fame when the royal family began to retreat there in the early 20th century. Now, it attracts wealthy Lisbon residents and visitors eager to sample its charming beaches, shops and many restaurants tucked in and around the historic center, such as Restaurante Casa Velha, known for its just-caught seafood, like grilled bass. Porto de Santa Maria also specializes in seafood dishes, including grilled sole and shrimp with rice.
Cascais also appeals to golfers, since there are almost a dozen golf courses in the area. Yachters appreciate the town’s spacious harbor, while high rollers relish Casino Estoril, one of Europe’s largest casinos near Palácio Estoril, a five-star hotel, where scenes for the James Bond film, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” were shot.
For honeymooners eager to visit a romantic Portuguese resort, quaint Sintra and modern Cascais offer double the pleasure, double the romance and double the fun.
> Written by Victoria Abbott Riccardi