The low down:
Walking into Sintra is like walking into a Grimm’s fairytale. Hidden atop a lush forested mountain with cobbled streets and birdsong, you half expect Cinderella to appear around the corner. Formerly a summer retreat for the Kings of Portugal, this earthly paradise is now accessible to peasants and students alike. It is classed as a UNESCO world heritage site, and day trippers flock on the train from nearby Lisbon.
Flights with Easyjet to Lisbon from £60 return. Train from Lisbon to Sintra: 45-minute trip, £1.50 return.
Where to stay:
The Two Squared Hostel is an conveniently economical and central place to rest weary feet, with private rooms from a mere £15 pp/pn.
Three of the best:
>> Although there is no pumpkin carriage from Sintra station, bus 434 comfortably carries visitors up the steep hill to marvel at the Palácio Nacional da Pena. The younger and more charming of the two palaces, it will instantly cast aside memories of its ugly sister, the Town Palace at Sintra’s centre. Enjoy the stunning views from its many turrets and onion domes. The magic about the place can only be enhanced by inexpensive wine, so stroll down to the palace gardens with a pre-purchased bottle or three.
>> Adventurous souls will find the lure of the Moorish castle ruins well worth the challenging hike. Follow the winding stone pathway along a mountain top before disappearing into the clouds. For those wary of breaking glass slippers, horse drawn rides can be taken, but at €60 a trip, it’s best left to royalty.
>> If you’re looking for your Prince Charming, you can get your beer goggles on in the livelier bars along Rua das Padarias. The locals are friendly, just watch out for frogs.