Sintra is renowned for its historic centre, wonderful parks and a glut of palaces, castles and other scenic wonders. One of the less visited aspects of the town is Estefania, the more modern and commercial section.
To call Estefania unattractive would be unfair; yes it does have more than its fair share of characterless modern buildings, many of which are occupied by phone shops, Chinese bazaars and some tacky clothes outlets, but it also has enough old buildings to keep it easy on the eye. It also has to contend with the fact that it is right next to one of Portugal’s most intensely picturesque areas.
There is a modern gallery and museum which plays to host to various exhibits throughout the year and is an interesting distraction from the vaulted arches, gregarious palaces and incredibly verdant parks of Sintra.
The train station lies between the old and the new so visiting both can be done in a day. You probably won’t spend long in Estefania but it’s a useful place if you need to top up your mobile, withdraw cash, purchase clothes/footwear or have a quiet drink away from the throng of tourists in Sintra’s Praca Republica.
There are a couple of hotels and the reasonably priced Hostel Econimica in the main pedestrian street (Av. Heliodoro Salgado).
Estefania isn’t the reason that people visit Sintra but it should not be overlooked. It has a heart of its own and perhaps benefits from the fact that the historic centre is so popular as the locals get to enjoy a more quiet time. If you find yourself in the area give it a look, don’t expect too much and see it for what it is; the ugly but polite sister of Sintra.
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