Two Days in Sintra Portugal

Personal, Travel

|| Pre-Camino Trip || Camino ||Post-Camino Part 1 ||

After a few days in Fatima, Portugal, our next stop was Lisbon. We had an entire week in Lisbon so we took several day trips throughout that week. Two of those days we spent in Sintra, Portugal. Sintra is famous for it’s numerous elaborate and very different castles and as soon as you step off the train into the tiny town square you immediately feel like you’ve stepped into a fairytale.

We took a train from downtown Lisbon to the center of Sintra (a round trip ticket was just under five euros and the train was about 30-40 min long). All of the castles (except the National Palace of Sintra, which is one of the only ones we did not visit) are located further up in the hills surrounding the town of Sintra and while you could walk to them, it would take a rather long time. So we did what everyone else did and hopped on the bus. The 434 bus cost about seven euros but we could hop on and off as much as we wanted on the loop that it took, which meant we were able to ride it to our first stop: The Castelo dos Mouros, aka: the Moorish Castle, and then hop back on a few hours later and get off at Pena Palace and then several hours later get on it one more time and get off again right next to the train station.

You can see a bit of the Moorish Castle at the top of the main hill overlooking the town of Sintra:

The photo below on the left is the National Palace of Sinta, one of the only main attractions we did not visit.

The Castelo dos Mouros was established during the 9th century by the North African Moors to guard the town of Sintra, but it fell into disrepair after the Christian conquest of Portugal. The ruins have remained and are now a very popular tourist attraction, for good reason. As we walked the walls and castle turrets of this impressive Castle, we couldn’t help feeling like we had walked into some real-life sandcastle or gone back in time. Certain angles suddenly resembled the great wall of China, while others looked exactly like what you would expect a medieval castle to look like. There was a decent amount of people visiting at the same time as us, but because it’s so spread out, it never felt overly crowded which was very nice.

The bright red castle below is Pena Palace, our second stop of the day.

The photo below on the left is the view looking down into the town center of Sintra.

Our second stop was Pena Palace. It is a national monument and constitutes one of the major expressions of 19th-century Romanticism in the world. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. Originally the site of a medieval monastery, it was left in ruins in the 18th century until King Ferdinand II decided to restore it into a majestic summer palace for the Portuguese Royal family. It was used as a summer home for the royals from about 1850 to 1910 when it was acquired by the state and turned into a national monument and museum. Today it is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Portugal bringing in millions of visitors every year. This means that there is literally no way to visit without being in a huge crowd of fellow tourists. But as long as you head to Pena Palace with that knowledge in your head and have accepted that fact, it is a truly stunning place to visit. We had to wait in line for over an hour and a half just to get inside the Palace (and we had purchased our tickets ahead of time) and then once inside we were in a tightly packed mob of tourists that guided us through the Palace tour. However, once we were outside on the terraces of the palace, the crowds thinned out a bit and we could breathe again. So don’t be fooled by my picures, there were actually hundreds of people here with us.

I could not get over the intricate wood carvings that covered every inch of the walls and ceilings in many of the rooms inside the palace!

The view of the Moorish Castle from the back of Pena Palace:

I included a few pictures that show you a bit of the crowds we were a part of so you get a more accurate idea.

Your ticket to Pena Palace includes admission to the impressive and beautiful Pena Gardens. After the intense crowds in the Palace, it was so refreshing to wander through the wooded park surrounding the palace and find hidden gardens around every corner.

DAY TWO

On our second day in Sintra we took the same train from Lisbon to Sintra but this time we walked to Quinta da Regaleria, as it’s only a 15 min walk outside the town center. Quinta da Regaleria is most famous for it’s elaborate and whimsical gardens full of secret tunnels, ornate wells, caves, fountains, towers, and so many hidden surprises everywhere.

The gardens of Quinta would be a children’s paradise with so many amazing places for the imagination to run wild.

The gothic, five-story palace is rather impressive as well although the gothic style has never been my favorite. It was interesting to tour the inside as well and see how vastly different it is from Pena Palace.

Our final stop in Sintra was Monserrate Palace which was probably my favorite. One of the reasons I loved it so much was the fact that it’s way less popular than the other palaces which meant we had the place practically to our selves which was such a welcome relief after the crazy crowds at all the other palaces. But I also was just mesmerized by the intricacy in it’s design. Monserrate Palace manages to seamlessly blend Arabic, gothic and Indian architectural styles to create a stunning summer house that is surrounded by beautiful gardens. I could have spent several hours inside just taking it all in.

How crazy beautiful is this????

So many tiny details. It blows my mind.

By the time we left Monserrate we were running out of time to make it back to our train so we hopped on bus 435 which took us back to the train station and we headed back to Lisbon.

Two Day Itinerary for Sintra

Day One:

Return Train from Lisbon (4,50€)

Catch the 434 Bus (6,90€)

Get off at the Moorish Castle (entrance fee: 8,00€)

Take bus to Pena Palace

Pena Palace (palace and grounds ticket: 14,00€)

Take 434 Bus back to train station

Total Cost: 33,40€ ($37)

Day Two:

Return Train from Lisbon (4,50€)

15-20 min walk to Quinta da Regaleira (entrance fee: 6,00€)

Walk to Monserrate Palace (entrance fee: 8,00€)

Take bus 435 back to train station (5,00€)

Total Cost: 23,50€ ($26)

Other costs to consider:

Food: We packed lunch and snacks each day and planned to eat dinner back at our airbnb in Lisbon just because we were on a really tight budget, but if you want to eat in Sintra expect to pay slightly higher prices because everything is marked up as it is such a huge tourist location. If you are looking for less expensive options, be sure to eat in the town center as the restaurants and cafes at the difference Palaces are much more pricey.

National Palace of Sintra: 10,00€

There you have it! I hope this is helpful to anyone planning their own trip to Sintra and enjoyable for everyone to read through!

Xoxo,
Mary Kate

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