Sintra is a picturesque Portuguese town that is set in the foothills of Portugal’s Sintra Mountains, near the capital, Lisbon. It is reputed as a place of royal sanctuary and is perhaps best known for it’s pine-covered, forested terrain, which is studded with pastel-colored villas and more notably, castle and palaces.
Arriving into Sintra
To make the most out of our day, we caught an early train from Casca a Dodoque (near where we were staying in Lisbon) to Sintra. It took around forty minutes to get there but the scenery out of the window as we approached this idyllic town was breathtaking – particularly as you looked up towards the mountains.
When we arrived in the station, there was an information point, where we were able to get a map of Sintra. In hindsight, I would definitely recommend either downloading offline areas on Google Maps or getting a physical map of Sintra. Whilst the map provided in the station had all the key must-visit places, it rather unhelpfully had no street names on it, which made navigating our way around a little difficult!
Getting around Sintra
One of the places we wanted to visit the most was Palacio Nacional de Pena and we had initially planned on walking there from the station. After talking to a man who had a Tuk-Tuk and being advised that it would be just over an hour to walk there and all up-hill, we decided against this and took up his Tuk-Tuk offer. In hindsight, I think a bus from the station (of which there were many) would have been much cheaper but we did have a giggle on this rickety Tuk-Tuk that had a pirate flag tied to the front seat and got a very brief history of Sintra on the way up to the Palace.
This was the only method of transport we took in Sintra- I would say it’s a very walkable town but it is rather hilly and quite easy to get lost (without a map).
First stop: Palacio Nacional de Pena
You can not fail to miss this beauty of a Palace. With its whimsical, brightly coloured towers and beautiful gardens, this is a not-to-be-missed sight in Sintra. There are various ticket options- we decided to see both the gardens and the palace itself. It’s worth noting that if you are planning on visiting the Moorish Castle and the Palace you can get a special deal. The offer is only available at the Moorish Castle and you must buy both tickets together to make a small saving on these tickets.
After our early start from Lisbon, we arrived at the Palace at around 11ish. If you’re planning a visit here, particularly in peak times of the year, then I would recommend arriving much earlier than this. The queue to get into the Palace was really quite lengthy – we must have queued for around 45 minutes, which was fine as it was such a beautifully sunny day but was a tad frustrating.
I do think it was worth the queue however, the decor of the Palace was just phenomenal. In one room there was a number of Arabian knight statues holding ornate lights – incredible decadence that didn’t look at all out of place in this majestic Palace. Watch out for the banquet room, the kitchen and most notably, the beautiful viewpoints from the turrets and balconies.
Second stop: Castelo dos Moures
Soaring 412 metres above sea level is Castelo dos Moures. This Moorish Castle is, without question, another not-to-be-missed sight. It stretches out across mountain ridges, boasting some of the most beautiful views that we saw during our time in Portugal. With huge boulders and stone fortresses, this castle would have been impenetrable back in the day – apart from perhaps the ‘Betrayal Door’ which allowed people to leave the castle but also was somewhere enemies could come into if given its location. We climbed the main keep area and the wings – there are many, many steps which is definitely worth bearing in mind if you have young children or perhaps are less mobile.
Castelo dos Moures back to the centre of Sintra
From the castle, we headed down the steep trial back into the centre of Sintra via Rua Marechal Saldanha. We stopped on the way for an ice-cream and a drink after a steep descent.
Other places to explore in Sintra
We were fairly tight for time when we visited Sintra and so couldn’t possibly visit everywhere this beautiful town has to offer. If we had a bit more time however, we would have loved to have visited Palácio Nacional de Sintra, Capuchos Convent and Monserrate Palace and Gardens.
Sintra was one of our favourite day-trips from Lisbon and would heartily recommend a visit here. Have you been here? Where would your top recommendations be?