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Why is it called the fairytale city? Discover the pros and cons of moving to Sintra and evaluate your choices!

Last Updated on October 6, 2023 by Laila Oliveira

Regardless of your reasons for moving to Portugal, if you want to get a taste of what it is like to live in a fairy-like destination, then living in Sintra could give you exactly that. Some people choose the country for the allure of over 300 days of sunshine annually, while others want to experience the relatively slow-paced lifestyle. Like any other destination, there are pros and cons of moving to Sintra. 

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Don’t lose the excitement yet! We’re here to help you evaluate your decision fairly. This article is your guide to living in Sintra but looking at it from all perspectives. Join us and get answers to questions most expats think about! 

How’s the climate in Sintra? Is the public transport well-connected? How intense are the language barriers for expats? There’s a lot to uncover. However, expats report that the pros often outweigh the cons, making Sintra an ideal place for most people from around the globe. That said, here’s a detailed breakdown of the pros and cons of moving to Sintra. Let’s get right in!

What is it like living in Sintra?

Living in Sintra can be a unique and charming experience. Sintra is a picturesque town located in the hills just outside of Lisbon. It’s known for its stunning natural beauty, historic architecture, and cultural richness.

Living in this destination is akin to stepping right into your dream fairyland. Sintra has historic buildings, including palaces, castles, and mansions, that appear to be coming right out of a medieval movie. The Palácio Nacional de Sintra is the most famous, but many others exist to explore.

The town’s proximity to Lisbon, the capital, gives you all the perks of living right in the capital without dealing with all the noise and chaos of busy city life. The lush, green landscapes, including dense forests, rolling hills, and stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean, are just a few reasons expats are choosing to move to this hidden gem in Portugal.

Who lives in Sintra?

With all that this town offers, you can expect it to be quite popular among expats and tourists. To give you some context, the expat population in Sintra accounts for about 11% of the population, according to data from Pordata.

This is impressive, considering the national average is just over 6%. Also, remember that the exact foreign population in the regions often tends to be larger than reported on paper.

Thanks to the pace of life, proximity to the capital, and natural beauty found in Sintra, this destination is quite popular among retirees and the working class, specifically those working there.

Pros of living in Sintra

As mentioned, Sintra is quite a popular destination in Portugal for expats; let’s discuss some advantages of living in Sintra.

Climate is mild

First, Portugal is known to be among the few countries in Europe with the best climate all year round. Sintra, just like the rest of Portugal, has a Mediterranean climate. This is characterized by mild, wet winters and warm, dry summers. 

Summers in Sintra are warm and relatively dry. Average high temperatures during this season typically range from 23°C to 28°C (73°F to 82°F). It can get quite warm, but it’s generally not excessively hot.

Winter, on the other hand, is mild and relatively wet compared to other parts of Europe. Average high temperatures range from 15°C to 17°C (59°F to 63°F), and lows rarely drop below freezing. 

While it can be rainy, it’s not uncommon to have clear, sunny days during the winter months. The mild temperatures and sunny weather make it ideal for outdoor activities such as swimming, hiking, and cycling.

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Well-connected to other cities

It is not uncommon to find some of the most beautiful destinations in the world too far from civilization. Some destinations will require you to go through many hoops and barriers, all in a bid to get access. Sintra is quite different, though. 

First, this town is just about 30 minutes away from Lisbon, where you will get direct access to some of the main transportation options for getting to and from Sintra.

Getting to Lisbon is either by road or by a swift train network, which is quite popular among residents and expats. From Lisbon, you can catch a train, bus, or plane to other towns within Portugal or any other destination worldwide. 

You don’t have to worry about having friends and family visiting you in Sintra. There are enough means of transport to get them right to your doorstep.

Proximity to Lisbon

Let’s face it: there are a lot of pros to living close to the capital. The amenities are better, and the overall city lifestyle is something that many people also love. As aforementioned, Sintra is about 30 minutes from Lisbon. This is very advantageous for anyone considering looking for active employment in the corporate world.

While living in the capital is often appealing, the busy city life might be overwhelming, particularly during the peak seasons when the town is full of tourists. Sintra gives you the perfect escape from all the chaos of the city without necessarily sacrificing all the benefits.

Among the pros and cons of moving to Sintra, this is a huge pro that can be a deal-maker for expats!

Surrounded by nature

Sintra is surrounded by nature and is renowned for its stunning natural beauty. The town is within the Sintra Mountains (Serra de Sintra), which are characterized by lush forests, rolling hills, and granite peaks. These mountains provide a beautiful backdrop to the town and offer numerous hiking and walking trails for outdoor enthusiasts.

If you are outdoorsy, you will love the beautiful gardens associated with historic palaces and estates. The most famous is the Quinta da Regaleira’s garden, with intricate pathways, grottoes, and underground tunnels.

Also, the Sintra region offers numerous opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing. Well-marked trails lead to various points of interest, including the Peninha Sanctuary and the Moorish Castle.

Whether you enjoy exploring forests, hiking along scenic trails, or simply taking in breathtaking landscapes, Sintra’s proximity to nature is one of its most appealing features.

Good quality of life

Although Sintra is situated relatively close to Lisbon, it offers a distinct lifestyle. To elaborate, Sintra is essentially divided into two parts: the historic old town, a well-known tourist hotspot, and the modern new town, which serves as the hub of activity.

In the new town, you’ll encounter all the modern amenities of contemporary living, such as shopping malls, multinational corporations, and recreational facilities, among others. Additionally, the streets of Sintra are quite walkable, making strolling through its narrow, winding streets a unique and enjoyable adventure.

Close to a lot of unspoiled beaches

Sintra is relatively close to several unspoiled beaches along the Atlantic coastline. The Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, which surrounds Sintra, encompasses a stretch of the coastline known for its rugged beauty and pristine beaches.

Some of the popular beaches around Sintra that you can explore include Praia da Adraga, Praia da Ursa, Praia Grande, Praia da Adraga, and Praia da Magoito. These unspoiled beaches in the vicinity of Sintra contrast the more touristy and crowded beaches in other parts of Portugal.

They provide opportunities for relaxation, swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying the coastline’s natural beauty. While this is true, it is also important to mention that some of these beaches are known for surfing because of the high waves. Therefore, check local conditions and safety recommendations.

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Safety

Everyone prefers to have the assurance that the country they are moving to is safe and peaceful. Any expat considering this region of the Iberian Peninsula will be delighted at the fact that Portugal is ranked as the 7th safest of the world’s safest countries, as per the Global Peace Index 2023.

Portugal maintains a lower crime rate when compared to many other European nations, and the same holds true for the fairy town of Sintra. The country has taken various steps to enhance the overall safety of its residents. 

These measures encompass heightened police visibility in tourist destinations, improved emergency response mechanisms, and reinforced security measures at airports and transportation centers.

English is widely spoken

English is not the primary language spoken in Sintra, as Portuguese is the official language of Portugal and the most widely used language in daily life. However, in larger cities like Lisbon and tourist hotspots like Sintra, English is widely spoken, and you are more likely to find a higher percentage of proficient English speakers.

In Sintra, which is a popular tourist destination, you should generally be able to get by with English for basic communication, especially in hotels, restaurants, and shops. For some, this tops the list when it comes to the pros and cons of moving to Sintra. Language accessibility is a big deal for some expats; hence, it makes sense.

However, learning some basic Portuguese phrases is always a good idea to enhance your overall experience and interactions with locals.

Cons of living in Sintra

Now that you know the major advantages of living in this destination, here is a quick breakdown of some of the few downsides you are likely to experience while living in Sintra.

Renting and buying property is a challenge

Sintra is a popular destination not just for expats but for locals as well. The charm and natural beauty this town has to offer draw many people, making the demand for housing go up significantly.

This high demand can drive up property prices and make it competitive to secure rental properties or purchase homes. Besides that, you should also remember that Sintra is one of the most expensive destinations in Portugal. This is where the affluent of the society choose to live. Therefore, you should expect higher property prices than other towns in Portugal.

Something else to note is that the historic town center of Sintra is small and, therefore, has limited space for new construction, which means a finite amount of housing is available. This can lead to a scarcity of properties, especially in the most desirable areas.

Tourist crowds

Sintra is indeed a popular tourist destination. And it can become quite crowded during the peak tourist season, which typically falls in the summer months. The town’s natural beauty, historic architecture, and cultural attractions draw visitors from around the world. 

While tourism has its advantages, such as boosting the local economy and providing a vibrant cultural scene, it can also have some downsides, especially for people who call this place home.

One of the immediate downsides of destinations with many tourists is overcrowding. Popular destinations and landmarks, such as Palácio Nacional de Sintra, Quinta da Regaleira, and Palácio da Pena, can get very crowded during peak tourist season. 

Navigating through the crowds may require patience. The increased number of visitors can lead to traffic congestion in and around Sintra, especially on narrow roads leading to popular attractions.

Before we move ahead, ask yourself, how have the pros and cons of moving to Sintra made you feel so far?

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Bureaucracy

The bureaucratic procedures in Sintra can be a drawback for the city, causing anxiety for foreigners and Portuguese residents. The paperwork and documentation processes are typically slow and time-consuming, often made worse by unclear instructions.

However, having a local guide or companion can be advantageous in navigating these processes.

We recommend gathering all the required information in advance and becoming acquainted with the processes before starting any tasks. This approach will save you a significant amount of time and prevent the need for return visits to address incomplete matters. While scheduling appointments may take a while, you’ll eventually become accustomed to it.

Misty climate

Relatively different from the rest of Portugal, you will notice that Sintra has a unique misty climate that you might not find in most destinations. This is particularly because of the geographical location of this small town.

Sintra is strategically situated at a high altitude and also has relatively higher humidity than most regions. The excess moisture in the air often causes foggy or misty conditions. This can be a disappointment for those who expect plenty of sunshine all year round. 

On the bright side, however, foggy conditions add to the mystic charm around this fairy old city of Portugal.

Public transport is not the best

Because you can easily get by on foot, public transportation is not so much a priority for residents of Sintra. Usually, the available means are meant for tourists and are often quite slow, especially if you need to get somewhere fast.

A good example is the retro tram, the Electrico de Sintra tram connecting Sintra to Praia das Maçãs. It is quite a charmer but perfect for sightseeing rather than a daily commute because it is slow.

Buses, on the other hand, are quite crowded. You could use private taxis or tuk-tuks, but are often quite expensive, and the expenses will quickly add up should you choose to use them regularly.

When are you moving to Sintra?

There you have it! A detailed breakdown of the pros and cons of moving to Sintra! We hope that this post has given you more information, especially if you are considering moving permanently to Sintra. To gain insight into other expats’ opinions, join our Facebook Group – All About Portugal For Expats.

Ask questions, share your findings, and clarify all that you need to. Connecting with like-minded people will help you understand whether this is the place for you.

If you require assistance in locating the ideal property, enrolling your children in an international school, or obtaining your visa, reach out to the experts at Viv Europe. Begin the process of planning your relocation today and witness your dream becoming a reality in no time!

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