Lisbon is a charming and historical city to explore, but Sintra, a fairytale of a town, is located just 15-miles northwest of Lisbon. With a quick 45-minute train ride (catch the train from Rossio Station in Lisbon), Sintra makes a great day trip from Lisbon. Keep reading for a mini guide to Sintra, Portugal!
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Sintra is a quaint, magical little Portuguese town and has a long history of being a quick escape from Lisbon. For years, Portugal’s royal families and wealthy citizens flocked to Sintra. Now, this little town is mainly a tourist destination for the beautiful palaces, lush gardens, and quaint cobbled streets. With several popular sites, such as the National Palace of Sintra, the Moorish Castle, the Park and Palace of Pena, and the Quinta da Regaleira, take the whole day to explore charming Sintra at your leisure.
How to get to Sintra:
You can reach Sintra by train from Lisbon (Rossio Train Station) in about 45 minutes. From the Sintra train station, you can take a short bus ride or take a 10-minute walk into town. Since several of the palaces are perched high upon the hills, the best way to reach them is by taking the #434 bus (€5, ticket valid all day, bus route loops the train station, town center, the Moorish Castle and Pena Palace) from the center of town. Taking the bus from each palace will allow you to maximize your time and save your feet from a steep, winding, uphill walk (no sidewalks once outside of town). Since we walked into town from the train station, we visited the National Palace of Sintra (€9.50 or purchase the combo ticket €22.50 for all three palaces) first, then caught the bus up to the Moorish Castle (€7.50), rode the bus to Pena Palace (€14), and then took the bus back into the center of town. From there, we walked (about 10-minutes) to the Quinta da Regaleira Park (€6).
National Palace of Sintra:
The National Palace (Palácio Nacional) of Sintra dates back to Moorish times. With centuries of additions to the castle, architecture that visitors see now, dates from the 15th century under the reign of King João I and the 16th century under King Manuel I. The National Palace of Sintra is the oldest surviving royal palace in Portugal! With Moorish and Manueline influences, visitors are treated to well preserved royal relics throughout the castle. Beautifully tiled walls and ceilings (every room has an amazing ceiling!), themed-rooms (such as a swan room, a magpie room, and a mermaid room), elaborate floorplans, clay-tiled roof, and well-manicured gardens, walking through this castle you can feel the centuries of history.
The Moorish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros) is a thousand-year-old ruins of a castle. Built by the Moors centuries ago, the castle was seized by the Christian forces in 1147. With significant restoration, this castle upon the hill is intertwined with the surrounding forests and rocks, enchanting visitors. Visitors are treated to breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Pena Palace, the National Palace of Sintra, and quaint towns scattered about the Portuguese countryside.
The Pena Palace (Palácio de Pena) is perched upon a hill, high above Sintra. This brightly colored palace was built in mid-1800 by the German-born, Portuguese prince, Prince Ferdinand. Mixing elements of German and Portuguese style, the lively castle has Gothic towers, Renaissance domes, Moorish minarets, and Manueline carvings, making an eclectic and colorful palace. With its place high on the hill, visitors are treated to breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, Lisbon, the Tagus River, and the surrounding Portuguese countryside. With the sun shining, fluffy clouds above us, and breathtaking views, a visit to the colorful Pena Palace was like a fairytale!
Quinta da Regaleira:
The Quinta da Regaleira mansion and gardens were built in 1912. With Neo-Manueline, Neo-Gothic, and Neo-Renaissance designs, the eclectic and opulent mansion show the wealth of the previous tenant, a monarchist. While touring the lavish mansion is a quick walk-through, the gardens are the highlight of the visit. Walking through the magical gardens of the Quinta da Regaleira, visitors can experience caves, fountains, grottos, tunnels, wells, and underground walkways. If you are adventurous, find the Cave of the Orient for access to the underground tunnels, and walk in the dark (bring a flashlight or use your phone), muddy caves to find yourself behind a waterfall and at the bottom of the Initiatic Well (27 meters below ground). Look up for an incredible view, unlike any other I have ever had (I’ve never been at the bottom of a well before!). To exit the well, climb the stone spiral staircase to the top, and make your way around the maze of this beautiful secret garden! The gardens at Quinta da Regaleira are truly stunning, it was the perfect end to our time in Sintra!
I hope you enjoyed my short tour of the palaces in Sintra! With fairytale castles, secret gardens, breathtaking views, and centuries of history, this charming town has been rightfully named an UNESCO World Heritage Site! If you have any questions about Sintra, please let me know, or visit www.visitportugal.com.
Looking for another great city to visit in Portugal? Read our guide to Porto.