A day trip to Sintra is definitely worth your time, when staying at Lisbon! It’s a magical romantic town you just have to explore! Take the train at the Rossio train station in the center of Lisbon to station Estefania, Sintra. During weekdays there’s a train every 15 minutes, in the weekend every 30 minutes. The trip takes about 40 minutes. Sintra is located only 30km northwest from Lisbon and is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. After your arrival you’ll soon be thinking you’re in a fairytale. Sintra is just a small town, but it’s surrounded by royal retreats, castles, estates,… all looking very different. You can easily stay a few days there. I only spend one day in this beautiful place, so I had to make a choice out of all the magnificent palaces.
Sintra’s most famous: Palacio da Pena
The first palace I explored was Palacio da Pena which is situated on a hill. After arriving in Sintra by train, you can take bus 434 to the main entrace of the palace. There you can buy a combi ticket for both Pena and Dos Mouros (16€ in 2012). For an additional 2€ you can take the small shuttle bus to the palace (it’s a serious climb). Pena is absolutely gorgeous with all its colors and different towers. I was intrigued by the “triton gateway” which is supposed to be a newt, symbolizing the allegory of creation of the world. The interior is also beautiful but you are not allowed to take pictures. I didn’t visit the Pena gardens, but I know people who did and they told me the gardens are breathtaking. So I will definitely visit them if I go back one day. When you’re walking around the palace and the weather is clear you’re able to see the ocean. You’ll also get a look of other palaces on the ground such as Monserrate and Quinta da Regaleira.
Sintra’s most raw: Castelo Dos Mouros
After visiting Palacio da Pena you can take the shuttle bus back to the main entrance. At the main entrance you turn left and walk down the street for about 200m. At the right you will find the entrance to Dos Mouros (castle of the Moors). It’s a mediëval castle also situated on a hilltop. It offers fantastic views of Pena, Monserrate, Quinta da Regaleira and the city center. Walking up and down the many stairs of this castle is sometimes a little scary. But it brings you back to mediëval times and you start to wonder how knights in shiny armors were able to move around there. (I don’t think it was that romantic back in those days).
Sintra’s most romantic: Quinta da Regaleira
After exploring Dos Mouros you can take bus 434 back downhill to the city center of Sintra. From there you can walk to Quinta da Regaleira (it only takes 5 to 10 minutes) a wonderful estate with a beautiful garden and even its own chapel! Even though I think Pena is gorgeous, this one is absolutely magical! The white estate itself looks very romantic surrounded by hundreds of flowers. The interior is fantastic. But what I love most of all is the garden; it has caves, wells, small gorgeous buildings, fountains, wonderful flora,… It has a mystical vibe. (it was grey and cloudy all day and once we entered the domain, the sun started to shine!) Make sure you get a free map of the garden because it is big and you don’t want to miss out on things!
After visiting these 3 masterpieces you can wander around the small city center for a while and return back to Lisbon. When I go back in the future I’ll definitely visit Monserrate and the Pena gardens.
Before you head off to Sintra don’t forget to check the weather and bring a sweater and a scarf because it can be very chilly and windy on the hilltops. It’s also better to bring lunch with you.
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