Although I spent very little time in Lisbon (I definitely must pay it another visit) I had the chance to do a day trip to Sintra. And what a wonderful town! It’s a dream place, like a fairy tale. Continue reading if you want to visit it with me.
How to get to Sintra from Lisbon
Sintra is one of the most beautiful villages in Portugal, and the advantage is that it’s very close to Lisbon. You can stay in Lisbon and then make other short trips to nearby towns. Take the train to Sintra from Rossio Station (Estação Ferroviária do Rossio). The station is quite central, on Rua 1° Dezembro Avenue.
The train ride takes about 40 minutes and the ticket price is €2,15 (3.00 USD) for adults. It’s not possible to buy or book online, you buy the tickets directly at the station. There are several departures per day so there is no need to worry. If you want to seize the day, arrive early.
The station in Sintra is on Dr. Miguel Bombarda Avenue. When you leave the station, walk to your left, all the attractions are on that side. You can take the tourist bus 434 which takes you to the Old Town and the main attractions. The cost of the bus ticket is €5,00 ($6.19 USD). You can also walk because the center is less than 1 km away, about 10 minutes walking. There are several signboards so if you want to go to the center, follow the way to the National Palace.
The Moorish Castle
Following the signs to the Moorish Castle, we went through a garden called Parque da Liberdade. It’s quite picturesque, like everything in Sintra. You feel that at any moment a gnome is going to come out from under a mushroom.
If you have a good physical condition I recommend going up to the castle walking. It’s somewhat challenging since the way it’s uphill, but the landscape and the views while you go up are worth it. We had a cool weather and the forest in Sintra gives you a fairytale feeling.
During your day trip to Sintra, I recommend you to visit this castle. It was built by the Arabs between the 8th and 9th century to control the region. Sintra was under Muslims’ rule until 1147 when Afonso I of Portugal finally conquered it.
Towards century XV the castle was abandoned since the population of Sintra was settling around the National Palace. A Lightning destroyed one tower in 1636, and the earthquake of 1755 caused serious damage as well.
In the 19th century, they began to restore it and clean it to be a tourist attraction. The castle is made up of old walls, ramps, and stairs, as well as 5 towers. It can be a bit dangerous so be careful especially if you come with children. The view from the castle is impressive, besides it was windy and foggy so the experience was magical.
The entrance to the Moorish Castle costs € 8.00 ($10.00 USD), but there are combined tickets available. On the official website of the Sintra parks, you can check the discounts they offer.
Palace of Pena
After leaving the Moorish Castle, continue climbing the path to reach the Palace of Pena. There are signs to get there so it’s not possible to get lost. Also, you will see the Palace in the distance.
If you do the day trip to Sintra, this is the attraction that you should not miss. It’s a very attractive palace as if taken from a Disney movie. It’s painted in yellow, violet and red. It also presents many architectural styles that include neo-Gothic, Neo-Islamic and Neo-Renaissance. This makes it one of the greatest expressions of the romantic style in the 19th century.
Prince Ferdinand II of Portugal commissioned the construction of this palace in 1836. The palace was the summer residence of the royal family. Later it would become the property of the state opening its doors to visitors in 1910. I don’t know if the fog was due to the height or because of the season (autumn), but it made the palace look more exotic and charming.
The entrance is enhanced with an arch in Arabic style through which you access the patio. Here you find the ticket office and the gift shop, as well as the public toilets. One of the most striking decorations is a figure crowning a portico. According to the guide they gave us, it’s a Triton, a half man, and half-fish, creature. Also noteworthy are the Moorish tiles that decorate the walls of some buildings.
The decoration of the palace interior is in a Baroque style. You can see an interior courtyard with an Arabic style, as well as several rooms used by royalty. The rooms are not very big, but the furniture and decoration are interesting. The price is € 14.00 ($17.34 USD) but, as I mentioned before, you can buy combined tickets with other attractions.
Old Town and National Palace
After visiting these two palaces, we went to the Center taking a different route from the one we climbed. I would be lying if I tell you exactly which path we took because in the middle of the large forest it was difficult to remember. Anyway, we found the center and as the way was downhill it took less time.
In the Center, there are several colorful buildings mostly shops and restaurants. In the National Palace and its small square, you’ll see the tourists gather to take pictures. Around this area, there are several cobbled streets where you’ll find small restaurants and souvenir shops.
The National Palace is another of the main attractions for visitors who make a day trip to Sintra. What stands out most of this palace are two cone-shaped chimneys which give it a peculiar look. Its construction began in the 16th century. It has different styles such as Gothic, Medieval, Renaissance and Manueline. Although this mixture of styles is not as striking as in the Palace of Pena.
It was once an Arab palace and some elements like arches and tiles on the walls are still visible. Although we didn’t see it inside, it’s a recommended visit due to its beauty. The price is €10.00 ($12.39 USD) and on Sundays, before 2 in the afternoon, admission is FREE
Quinta Da Regaleira
I was particularly disappointed that I couldn’t visit a palace called La Quinta Da Regaleira. I did not research much about Sintra before coming and I didn’t know anything about this place. People who make a day trip to Sintra don’t pay much attention to this palace. If you travel early from Lisbon, you’ll have enough time to see it. It’s also only 15 minutes walking from the National Palace, so go there!!
I recommend you to read my 10 travel tips for your first trip to Europe, if you haven’t read, so you don’t do the same mistakes that I did 🙁
To encourage you to visit it, I’ll tell you a little about its history. In 1892 it was sold by the barons of Regaleira to Dr. António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro. By the way, another name of the property is Palácio do Monteiro dos Milhões, the palace of Monteiro the millionaire. It was this man who translates his Gnostic Christian ideology in the architecture of the place. Thus each construction holds meanings related to alchemy, Freemasonry, and the Templars. If you want to know more about it, here is the link to Quinta da Regaleira on Wikipedia
One of the most impressive attractions in this palace is the Inverted Tower, also called Initiation Well. It is a spiral-shaped well that has 9 levels joined by stairs. Supposedly they symbolize the 9 levels of Dante’s hell … spooky! The price is only €6,00 ($7.43 USD) for adults.
Other options in Sintra
If you have more time or spend more than a day in Sintra, there are several more attractions that you can visit. For example The Park and palace of Monserrate, another construction of eclectic style typical in Sintra. It belonged to Sir Francis Cook and was built in the 19th century. You can get there walking for 45 minutes from the center or take the bus 435. The price of the ticket is €8.00 ($10,00 USD)
Another interesting place is the Chalet of the Countess of Edla. It takes its name from its owner, the Swiss-born opera singer Elisa Hensler. In the 19th century, she became the second wife of King Ferdinand II of Portugal, who ordered the construction of the chalet. After her marriage, they gave her the title of Countess of Edla. The chalet has that style of houses in the Swiss Alps. The government restored it in 2007 to be a tourist attraction. The ticket price is €8.50 ($10.53 USD), but according to those who have visited it, it’s enough to see it from the outside. To get there, you can take the bus 434 or walk, which will take an hour.
I left The Convent of the Capuchos for the end because you can only reach it if you have a car. Unless you want to walk the 90 minutes through the forests of Sintra. The truth is that it’s not a bad idea because forests are wonderful. This convent was founded in 1560 and they say that 8 friars were the first inhabitants. They took strict vows of poverty, so the Convent is quite sober and seems to blend with nature.
Saying goodbye to Sintra
Although every place we travel to has its charm and beauty, I can not recommend you Sintra enough. It has a very special vibe. Perhaps it’s due to the extensive forests, the moss on the big rocks, the eclectic palaces, the hilly surface or the thick fog, but I assure you that it’s a magical place!!
You should consider not to do a day trip to Sintra, and stay at least 2 days. if my itinerary hadn’t been already planned, I’d have stayed longer.
I hope you liked this post as much as I enjoyed writing it (I want to return to Sintra!!). If you liked it please share it on your fav social media. I would also like you to leave your comments if you have visited or plan to visit Sintra. And finally, I invite you to follow me on Instagram or Twitter. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and Boa Viagem!!