Sintra is an absolute must day-trip from Lisbon. It is spectacular and has unmissable sights. Though be prepared for a lot of walking!
Sintra is the small town that is home to the world famous Peńa palace which overlooks the country side from quite the high, providing an amazing vista – it is no wonder the royals chose to build a beautiful palace atop the mountain. You can get here easily on just a 1 hour train from Lisbon’s main train station.
The first thing to do would be to get yourself a bottle of water before the climb up the mountain! There is a bus that takes you up, but you miss out on walking through some beautiful gardens along the way, and the short hike actually feels worth it as you are offered some stunning views. On the way up you might also see some rock climbers on the cliffs but don’t worry you wont have to do the same, the trail snakes around the mountain until you reach the first stop; Castelo dos Mouros.
Castelo dos Mouros, or ‘Castle of the Moors’ is an older fortification built atop the mountain by the Moors when they had invaded the Iberian peninsula during the Middles Ages. It offers quite the panoramic views as you walk along its walls. The air is quite fresh and clear up here, and even at times you will be surrounded by clouds.
As you look down you can also see all of the town from which you arrived by train, as well as the Sintra National Palace, a gothic building as identified by the two big white cones on its roof. Most people pass by it without having a look inside as it does not seem very impressive, at least not compared to what most people are here for – Peńa Palace which you can also see further in the distance albeit a little higher up.
The ticket to the palace also lets you walk around the vast parklands and castle grounds which is pretty nice too once you are done with the tour around the inside of the castle. I have seen plenty of castles around Europe and at some point they all start to look the same – this is not one of them! The pastel colours & striking reds and yellows are very unique and look as if something pulled straight out of a fairy tale. It is simply amazing.
The inside is not as extravagant as I was expecting, and some rooms even are under renovation, but the views from the balconies, windows and alcoves are breathtaking.
The park I would say is also quite unique with different plants and trees brought in from all around the world – I was quite surprised when I saw Australian looking ferns living next to huge Sequoias and Red Cedars. Dotted around are also nice ponds and water features. Not as extravagant as the Versailles gardens but also beautiful in its own way.
Unfortunately the one day was all we had time for! There were still another three palaces to see so hopefully I will be back one day.