It’s Like A Portuguese Magic Kingdom
Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that was once the summer residence of the Moorish lords of Lisbon and the kings of Portugal. A number of wealthy aristocrats were attracted to the area who built huge mansions and villas.
Sintra is dominated by steep mountains and lush forests that create its own micro climate. For being such a short distance away from Lisbon, the temperature difference was remarkable. It is much cooler, especially at night.
This magical place has castles hanging from the mountainsides everywhere you look. The city is broken into four distinct sections. The old town, the area around the train station, the new town section, and a village area which is higher up in the hills. It is a charming place to walk around, it’s almost like being in a giant park.
Sintra can easily be done as a day trip from Lisbon, it’s just a short 40 minute train ride. Even so, it is much better to stay at least a night to allow more time to see all the sites. Then you can enjoy the town at a leisurely pace and take in the enchanting night atmosphere.
A Bit Of Tourist Trap
As we wandered through the old town section we soon realized that this was a place taking full advantage of all the tourism. There are many little craft shops and cafes that can empty your pockets in a hurry.We decided to eat lunch here. We looked at a menu on the outside of a restaurant that had some tasty choices at reasonable prices. Once we sat down we were handed a menu that was different from what we had looked at. None of the cheaper dishes were on it. We were told the other menu was for the four tables to the side of us in the cafe section of the restaurant. They allowed us to stay seated where we were and choose from the cheaper menu.
We were not the only ones looking for cheaper eats. Every couple of minutes someone would sit down then get their menu, give a bit of a chuckle and get up and leave. On two different occasions we ended up having our dinner from the Pizza Hut that is just down from the train station. It was one of the cheapest options and easy to get to. The center of town has pricing that far surpasses what you would pay for meals in Lisbon. Apparently if you get away from the main touristy center the prices are more reasonable.
Pena Palace And Park
The Palacio da Pena in Sintra is famous for its painted mix of pastel colours. It is really stunning to see from a distance. I love the ornate gargoyle monsters. The palace sits on a huge estate with stretches of manicured gardens, lakes and forested walking trails. If you want to visit the park and the castle it is cheaper to buy the combination ticket that covers both entrances.
The extravagant interior of the castle was just as impressive. We viewed several different rooms that were full of original Victorian and Edwardian furnishings. They were used by the royalty that once lived there.
The view from the terraces of the palace were spectacular. We could see all of the different areas of Sintra as well as the Atlantic ocean and back towards Lisbon. For the best views of the outside of the castle you have to go for a 30 minute walk uphill through the forested area of the grounds.
Take the loop bus #434 from the train station to the Palacio da Pena, then you can walk down hill to the nearby Castle of the Moors.
Castelo do Mouros (Castle Of The Moors)
Castle Of The Moors was built in the 8th century by none other than the Moors, but most of it was destroyed in the large 1755 earthquake. It was rebuilt in the 19th century. It’s a very rustic castle that also offers spectacular views over Sintra and out to the Atlantic ocean.
Getting from Lisbon to Sintra
It’s a short 40 minute train ride from Lisbon to Sintra. There are frequent trains leaving from the Lisbon’s city center Rossio Station. Trains also stop at Campolide station which is near one of the major hotel districts of Lisbon.
From the Sintra station it is about a 15 minute walk into town. If you’re loaded down with luggage or heavy backpacks you might want to consider calling a taxi or catch bus 433 that runs every half hour leaving opposite the train station.
If you’re electing to drive from Lisbon to Sintra it is 19miles or 30 km’s. You will need to take the IC19 motorway. It will take between 40 minutes to one hour depending on traffic. But be warned that parking spots are scarce, the town is better seen on foot and by taking the bus.
There is a tourist office at the train station and one in the old town section at #23 Praca da Republica. Both offices provide a free map that has a lot of information. They can also assist with getting accommodation.
Getting Around Sintra
The circular route of bus #434 leaves from Sintra station. It will take you to most of the attractions in Sintra including the Moorish Castle and Pena Palace. For a small amount of Euros you can purchase a ticket from the driver that is valid for the day or at the kiosk at the Portela Interface which is opposite the train station. The bus runs daily every 40 minutes between 10:20 am and 5:15pm.
Bus 433 runs approximately every half hour and will get you around the other parts of town.
If you want to further complete the fairytale experience there are horse drawn carriages for hire. The tourist office has a full list of prices. Carriages can be found waiting at the National Palace and the Parque da Liberdade.
Taxis are available at the train station and opposite the Sintra-Vila post office. They are not metered so check with the tourist office for fares with the tourist office.
Other Attractions To See In And Around Sintra