Insider's Guide to Sintra, Portugal

Your best tips when traveling to this quaint, affordable, and timeless town.

If tree-lined cobbled streets dotted with romantic stone villas and intimate restaurants sounds like a good time (all set against a backdrop of a Disney-worthy 19th-century pastel colored castle), you need to head to Sintra, Portugal. Portugal's tourism industry has been slowly growing for several years for good reason. It has all the old-world charm of more well-traveled cities like Paris and Rome—and half the crowds. It's also far more affordable. You can easily get away with spending $100 per day on food and accommodations (if you use Airbnb—hotels will run you a bit more) without feeling like you're penny-pinching.

Sintra is one of the many charming towns that are just a short, inexpensive train ride away from Lisbon. A round-trip will cost you around five euro. Once you get there, everything is within walking distance, or you can take a bus to virtually any attraction.Common sense dictates an early arrival to avoid the crowd, but in the event that you are unable to rouse yourself from your incredibly comfortable Airbnb bed before 10am, no worries. Just try not to hit the main tourist spots at 11 AM or 3 PM; that's when the tour buses disgorge their riders.

A Thousand-year-old View

While it's tempting to wander down one of the picturesque streets and gaze at terracotta roof houses with flowers cascading down the sides, make sure you don't dally too long, because you'll want plenty of time to take the verdant hike up the hill to the Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle) and Palácio de Pena (Pena Palace). (They are roughly half a kilometer apart, so it doesn't matter which one you explore first). The trail to these tourist hot spots is a fairly steep, winding path, but with all the distracting scenery to keep you occupied, you'll barely notice the incline. It's beautifully landscaped to boot, and when you stop to catch your breath, you can admire the valley sumptuously spreading out behind you.

Built in the 10th century, the Moorish Castle has been guarding the town for over one thousand years. You can meander down twisty paths to admire the castle from different angles, but the true joy is standing on one of its turrets with wind whipping through your hair. If you're lucky enough to visit on a clear day, the view is indescribably amazing. The castle itself has survived the centuries remarkably well, in part thanks to King Ferdinand's restoration work in the 19th century. Just be careful if you visit on a particularly gusty day. Hats, sunglasses, and ill-secured scarves may go flying in the powerful winds buffeting the top of the castle.

A Palace of Many Wonders

Pena Palace is a UNESCO world heritage site and considered one of the seven wonders of Portugal. Its opulence makes it hard to believe it was once a residence, even for royalty. However, the palace wasn't always a royal homestead: it was originally built in the Middle Ages as a monastery. If you opt to tour the interior of the palace (highly recommended), you'll be able to see elements of the original monastery in the elegantly tiled walls and Ottoman-influenced domes and columns. You'll also notice that it's significantly brighter and airier than other castles of the period—all the better for the original monk occupants to spend their days in prayer and devotion.

The earthquake of 1755 decimated hundreds of magnificent buildings in Lisbon; but, happily, the chapel of the monastery remained unscathed. It was the chapel that piqued King Ferdinand's interest in the mid-19th century when he decided to convert its ruins into a summer residence for the royal family. Within 12 years, his master architect (with some input from the king and his wife) managed to create one of the most outrageously beautiful castles in the world. The exterior would put any Disney castle to shame, with its seamless combination of Islamic, Medieval, and Romantic influenced architecture. The interior is no slouch either. With ceilings made of intricately carved wood and gleaming marble everywhere you look, it's truly a vision fit for a king. If you have time, take a wander around Pena Park. The landscaped grounds are perfectly matched to the grandeur of the castle.

A 20th Century Throwback

Despite its seemingly aged appearance, Quinta da Regaleira was built in the early 20th century. Its exquisite stonework and attention to detail come courtesy of its wealthy creator, whose riches earned him the moniker Monteiro dos Milhões (Moneybags Monteiro). Monteiro spared no expense in creating his fantasy residence, and the evidence is an awe-inspiring Gothic masterpiece even to this day. There's a short tour inside the domicile itself, but the true magic happens in the gardens, which are filled with hidden tunnels and small ornate structures. You can experience a little of the secrecy yourself by ducking into the tunnel that leads to the bottom of the Initiation Well, a circular tower dug deep into the ground. Peer up several stories at the sky above, then exit behind a waterfall nestled next to the tunnel.

A Feast for the Eyes

Sintra is known for its queijadas (sweet cheese pastries), and no place does them better than the bakery that's been cranking them out since 1862. Piriquita (a name bestowed upon one of the original owners by King Carlos I) is not only one of the best bakeries in Portugal, it's also the most famous. For decades, everyone from royalty to simple farmers flocked to its location to indulge in its queijadas and other sweet treats. Get there early to beat the crowds, and while you're there, pick up a travesseiro, whose recipe is a closely guarded family secret.

A Sugar Rush to Fuel Your Adventures

If you need a sugar hit to make it through the afternoon, the cozy and reasonably priced Café Sadaude is another popular spot to post up for a bit. It's decorated with the porcelain birds sold all over Sintra and has affordable, delicious pastries that will surely revive your flagging energy. Grab a tea made from Europe's oldest tea plantation in the Azores and a hearty slab of chocolate cake, and you'll be back on your feet and ready for more exploring in no time.

Sintra is an extraordinarily charming village that makes it easy to forget you live in the 21st century. The winding streets, magnificent architecture, and breathtaking vistas hark back to a day long before modern technology had us glued to our devices. A trip to Sintra will give you timeless memories that will last a lifetime.

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Tequila Herradura

Ride in style on the Herradura Express, a distillery sponsored train ride that runs from Guadalajara to the town of Amatitán for a distillery tour and tastings, followed by lunch featuring live entertainment. The train then takes visitors back to Guadalajara by evening. Herradura is housed in the last tequila-producing Hacienda in the world, Hacienda San Jose del Refugio. Casa Herradura will be closed for visits and tours until Mexican health officials declare the coronavirus emergency over.

La Rojeña

Producer of Jose Cuervo, La Rojeña has a train of its own called the Jose Cuervo Express (currently on hiatus due to COVID-19) to bring visitors to the oldest distillery in the town of Tequila. Jose Cuervo offers distillery tours, tastings, and tours of the agave fields. Mundo Cuervo (Cuervo world) also has its own hotel, Solar de las Animas. Check for COVID-19 hours and restrictions before booking.

Casa Sauza

Founded in 1873, Casa Sauza offers four levels of tours including a visit to the La Perseverancia distillery, a visit to the Quinta Sauza estate, and for those willing to spend more, barrel tastings and a barbeque or a three-course meal. Casa Sauza is on hiatus until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, but should go on the distillery tour bucket list.

La Cofradia

The only tequila distillery with a hotel inside, La Cofradia offers many experiences in addition to distillery tours. Choose a hike through natural trails, biking, or horseback riding through the agave fields. Rooms made of giant tequila barrels sit among the agave plants for a unique stay. Visiting La Cofradia is sure to be a tour that thrills tequila lovers. Contact the hotel directly for information about lockdown closures.

A distillery tour offers education about tequila's history and manufacture. Bone up on your tequila terms and tips for choosing quality tequila before you go, so you'll understand what you're tasting.

We don't know how to feel about winter this year. Sure, nobody likes the cold and dreary months, but there's something special about the Holiday season that just seems to be missing. Maybe the thought of staying inside and cozying up to a nice book isn't very enticing given the last few months. The joyful winter wonderland that we usually associate with winter seems to be missing.

That's why our editors decided to take it upon themselves and spread some delight with seasonal meals, courtesy of HelloFresh. For those who don't know what HelloFresh is, it's a meal-kit delivery service with dozens of easy-to-prepare recipes to choose from. Simply select which meals you want as well as how many servings and a neatly organized cardboard box will arrive at your doorstep within the week. Nobody wants to go out in the Winter anyway, and with HelloFresh, you don't have to!

To celebrate the arrival of the coldest season, we decided to highlight some of our favorite (and heartiest) recipes from HelloFresh that are perfect for the Holiday season. Here are five wholesome and balanced meals that will warm you up in no time.

Veggie Loaded Kale & Risoni Soup

A hearty and warm soup is a Winter staple and this veggie loaded kale and risoni soup from HelloFresh absolutely hits it out of the park. All anybody wants during the colder months is to feel cozy and nurtured--just like the flavorful bowl of nutrients. Warm and creamy risoni compliments the seasonal veggies perfectly and the side of garlic bread is a sure-fire cure for any winter blues. With 22 meals to pick from each week, this one is sure to be a household favorite.

Cheesy Red Pesto Chicken Melts

Everyone is familiar with classic green pesto, but have you ever tried red pesto? Red pesto offers way more complexity and oomph than its green counterpart. It is incredibly bright with rich notes of umami, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh basil and garlic. This rendition also features hits of chargrilled capsicum for a little extra zest. You get the exact amount of each ingredient and seasoning, as well as super detailed recipe cards, that make meal prep a breeze. Spread it over a glistening chicken bread and sprinkle with cheese for delectable chicken melts.

Winter Risotto

Risotto is a great winter warmer. It's packed full of veggies so your body will light up like fire, but it's also silky, sumptuous and a real crowd pleaser. HelloFresh's Winter Risotto features a heart helping of kale that pairs perfectly with nutty Parmesan and crunchy walnuts for a robust taste. Did we mention that it also comes with fennel seeds sprinkled throughout? This unique seasoning adds a distinctive, yet delicious flavor to this classic winter staple. We know these meals are pretty hardy, which is why we love having the option to pause our subscription or cancel a week when need be.

Cheat's Italian Pork & Veggie Bolognese

A bolognese that only takes 30 minutes to make? Sign us up! This one is chock full of all the rich flavors of a classic Italian sauce. In fact, we're getting some serious Italian grandmother vibes with this recipe. Silky baby Spanish and grated carrots melt into a hearty meat sauce, offering a mouth-watering meal for anyone looking for a little zest. It's delivery quality, but much more affordable, plus you get to cook it yourself!

Smokey Mild Chorizo & Bean Chilli

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Gone are the days of trekking through the frigid cold just for a few groceries. Sign-up for HelloFresh today and get your ingredients delivered right to your doorstep. Time to start cozying up the right way, with a delicious meal and a nice cup of hot cocoa.

Update: Our friends at HelloFresh are extending a special Black Friday offer to our readers. Follow this link to get $90 off across 4 boxes including free shipping!

Travel Tips

8 of the Best Donut Spots In the United States

Celebrate National Donut Day with our favorite treats across the country.

November 5th marks one of 2020's two National Donut Days.

Occurring in both June and November, National Donut Day allows fans of those delectable yeasty treats to embrace their sweet tooth. But like any niche food group, people often take their donuts very, very seriously, and there are countless places to get your fix.

Below, we've rounded up some of the best donut spots across the country. From coast to coast, these bakeries are sure to impress even the pickiest donut-heads.

Mr. T.'s Delicate Donut Shop – Modesto, CA

Mr. T.'s Delicate Donut Shop

If you ever find yourself in the San Francisco Bay Area, it's worth taking a short trek out east towards Modesto for some of California's best donuts. Mr. T.'s Delicate Donut Shop has remained family owned since its opening over 30 years ago, providing both tried-and-true classic donuts as well as experimental flavors and holiday specials. Even their 24-hour service doesn't diminish the line that trails out the door most mornings.

Dough — New York, NY

Dough \u2014 New York, NY

Donuts might not be the first circular, doughy treat you think of when it comes to New York City. If you've had your fair share of bagels, the Big Apple also boasts some spectacular donuts at Dough, a go-to spot for both tourists and locals alike. Here, you'll find a host of Latin American-inspired flavors that are hard to come by anywhere else; their Dulce de Leche flavor is a customer favorite, while the tangy Hibiscus donut is just as good for Instagramming as it is for eating.

Blackbird Doughnuts — Boston, MA

Blackbird Doughnuts \u2014 Boston, MA

Boston's Blackbird Doughnuts is a no-frills donut spot specializing in both brioche "raised" donuts and old-fashioned cake donuts. With a small menu of year-round donuts and a rotating cast of seasonal flavors, Blackbird keeps it simple and classic. Why mess around?

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop — Brooklyn, NY

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop \u2014 Brooklyn, NY

For over 60 years, Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop has been calling the quaint Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint home. Since then, the bakery has remained a popular spot for both regulars and new visitors passing through the area. Here, you won't find uber-trendy decor or gimmicky recipes, just damn good donuts that prove the power of long-standing local businesses.

Pip’s Original — Portland, OR

Pip\u2019s Original \u2014 Portland, OR

In both their mobile catering van and brick-and-mortar locations, Pip's Original is a staple for small, sweet treats in Portland. They're known for their tiny donuts that come in inventive seasonal flavors like marionberry-lavender and mango ghost pepper. But even if you opt for one of the more traditional flavors, Pip's Original proves good things can come in small packages.

Round Rock Donuts — Round Rock, TX

Round Rock Donuts \u2014 Round Rock, TX

Founded in 1926, Round Rock Donuts—located just north of Austin—are impossible to miss. These donuts' distinct yellow-orange color, caused by fresh eggs in the original recipe, make them stand out among the crowd. While this classic outpost can easily churn out hundreds of dozens of donuts a day, they also offer Texas-Sized Donuts, which are just as ginormous as you'd imagine. Round Rock Donuts are not only delicious and easily recognizable, but they're a slice of Lone Star history.

The Holy Donut — Portland, ME

The Holy Donut \u2014 Portland, ME

In Maine's Portland, you might not find tiny donuts or a decked-out catering van, but you will find a slightly healthier alternative. The Holy Donut was founded on the premise of creating tasty donuts that used all-natural ingredients to make a treat you could feel good about eating. The secret ingredient is fresh, mashed Maine potatoes, which make these donuts delectably moist without sacrificing flavor.

Donut Friend — Los Angeles, CA

Donut Friend \u2014 Los Angeles, CA

As expected of a city so focused on entertainment, Los Angeles' Donut Friend puts an edgy spin on their inventive donut flavors. Their year-round menu features donut flavors with names like Green Teagan and Sara, Fudgegazi, and Bacon-182 that are sure to delight the rock music nerds. For everyone else, the delicious donuts speak for themselves.