Travel Insider: The Misty Magic of Sintra and Colares

Palacio da Vila in Sintra

One one of my favorite places in all of Portugal is Sintra, an amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site just outside of Lisbon. The town has its own microclimate, where the cold Atlantic winds hit the hot Portuguese plains to create clouds, even in summer. It is said “Sintra is where the winter goes to spend the summer.”

Before King D. Carlos  made swimming and the beach the fashion at the turn of the century, the Portuguese elite used to spend their summers in the cool hills of Sintra. That’s why there are so many magical palaces of every possible architectural type. While the landmark neoromantic Pena Palace is not my cup of tea, I adore the Palacio da Vila with its very romantic late medieval rooms, patios, kitchens, and Portuguese tiles.

The palace is in the main center of town, where you can walk to see the sites and have a delicious “travesseiro” pastry at the Cafe a Periquita, which is a timeless tradition.  My husband took me straight there the first time we visited Portugal together in 1987.

Casa Branca sells some of the finest linens in all of Portugal.

Also in the center of town, I love the linens at Casa Branca and have had all my metal tables and garden furniture made by Sr. Antonio, a talented metal artisan whose shop is nearby. The restored Lawrence’s Hotel is where Lord Byron stayed when he was in Portugal.

The beautiful grounds of the Palacio de Seteais Hotel are the perfect setting for our Fall catalog.

Just outside of town, on the lovely road to Colares, is the Hotel Palacio de Seteais, where we photographed the current catalog. I have pictures of my husband there as a boy wearing handmade Portuguese sweaters. The Seteais (seven sighs) is named after a rock where legend has it that a woman lept to her death and her cries  reverberated seven times.

The Quinta da Capela Hotel.

Drive from there to the picturesque town of Colares, and pass by the Quinta da Capela hotel with the most beautiful small chapel in this part of Portugal. It’s where my son Patrick was baptized (as was the grandfather of his Godfather, over 100 years before).   Quinta da Capela is one of three  exquisite houses that belong to the same family. It is my idea of heaven.

In Old Colares, make sure to see the lovely church, bandstand, and square. The restaurant Colares Velho is in an old pharmacy that still has the original apothecary bookcases in lovely yellow Portuguese pine. Visit Francoise Baudry and her antique shop in her house, then on to Almocageme, with its impeccable weekends-only roadside market, where we used to go every week to purchase all of our  produce,  jams, bread, fruit, vegetables, and eggs.

From Almocageme, it’s a lovely drive down to the little gem of Adraga Beach nestled in the cliffs. My entire family loves its fantastically simple seafood restaurant. Then  drive to Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in Europe, and the delicious Refugio da Roca, which is particularly cozy in winter when they hang monkfish on long metal skewers above your table and a fire is burning in the background.

From Cabo da Roca, drive back torward Guincho beach, a paradise for surfers and winsurfers and the place my husband and children learned to swin in the freezing Atlantic waves.

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