Where to Stay
Sintra’s allure is about dipping into its decorated past. Originally the 18th-century residence of the Dutch consul, the Hotel Tivoli Palácio de Seteais (doubles from $860, including breakfast) opened as a hotel in the 1950’s. A Neoclassical building with frescoed rooms, gilded antiques, and famous guests (Catherine Deneuve; John Malkovich), the place had nevertheless seen better days. One year and 40 specialists later, none of the splendor suffered in favor of a meticulous restoration (complete with updated in-room technology and marble baths). Alternatively, the 17-room Lawrence’s (doubles from $346, including breakfast) dates back to 1764.
Where to Eat
About a 4 1/2-mile drive south of Sintra is the one-year-old Arola (dinner for two $120), part of the palazzo-style, Ritz-Carlton–run Penha Longa Hotel & Golf Resort. It’s the brainchild of Spanish chef Sergi Arola, and the menu highlights posh tapas (sea bass with Kaffir lime sabayon; black pork with São Jorge cheese). For traditional Portuguese cuisine, Tulhas Bar (dinner for two $43), on a wee street off the main drag, serves fresh grilled Portuguese river trout stuffed with bacon.
What to Do
In the 18th and 19th centuries, foreign and domestic royalty built over-the-top estates, such as the Quinta da Regaleira—now a museum and concert venue. Other manor houses, including Pena Palace and Monserrate Palace, are landmarks overseen by Parques de Sintra (351-21/923-7300; parquesdesintra.pt); they’re worth touring if only to compare the styles of the attached gardens (neo-Moorish, neo-Gothic, Orientalist). Don’t head back to Lisbon without stocking up on the local queijada pastry (made with goat cheese) at Pastelaria Piriquita (pastries for two $13).