“There is no place to be bored in a beautiful place as this – Anonymous”
The world is full of beautiful places and sometimes while planning for a trip, you stumble upon some hidden gems. That is exactly what happened when I was looking for places to visit in Portugal. I came across a gorgeous little town called Sintra in Portugal. Sintra is a designated World Heritage site by UNESCO and the whole area is referred to as the ‘Cultural Landscape of Sintra’. It takes less than an hour to reach from Lisbon.
Sintra, Portugal: Why is it famous?
The town of Sintra is most famous for one thing: the number of castles, palaces, royal retreats and estate houses. And it is not surprising due to its ideal location. The town of Sintra is located on a mountainous range just outside of Lisbon. Some of them like the Pena palace and National Palace of Sintra used to be the summer palaces of the Royal family. Another important point to note here is that these castles are built in different styles like the Moorish, Arabesque and also show distinctive architectural styles from the Romantic Era. That definitely adds to the charm of this gorgeous castle town and if there is one place you should go castle hopping in, you won’t find a better place than the town of Sintra.
Places you have to see in Sintra, Portugal
That said, it is definitely not possible to see all the famous palaces in Sintra if you have limited time like me. Then you have to choose among the many options available:
• Pena Palace
• National Palace of Sentra
• Castle of Moors
• Quinta da Regaleira (A famous estate house)
• Monserrate Palace
• And Many others
How to reach Sintra, Portugal
There are multiple ways by which you can get to Sintra. You can either drive to Sintra or you can take a train from Lisbon which takes around 45 minutes. Many people wouldn’t advise you to drive to Sintra since parking is scarce and you will have to do a strenuous hike up after parking at the bottom of the hill. Also, the roads leading to and from Sintra are quite narrow as well as sometimes one ways and some people will have difficulty manoeuvring their vehicles here. I took the easy way out and booked a half day guided tour from Lisbon. They take you back and forth to Sintra as well as to Cascais and Cabo Da Roca in an air conditioned bus. But if you want to do full justice to Sintra, then I would suggest you to spend at least a day in Sintra. I missed visiting Quinta da Regaleira and that was one place I really wanted to visit. There are multiple public buses that are available from the train station to go around Sintra.
Sintra, Portugal: What we did there
On a Thursday afternoon, around 20 of us along with our guide set out to visit the magical fairytale town of Sintra. The drive there is quite picturesque and once you start climbing the mountains, you can expect to see some gorgeous views. Our first stop was the town for Sintra and we were given time to explore on our own.
I first headed to the National Palace of Sintra, a former summer royal residence which is now a museum. The white palace with the conical chimneys is a gorgeous museum and please do visit it if you get the opportunity. Post this, I went roaming around the streets in this small town looking for something to eat. Our guide had suggested Queijadas, a sweet pastry and that is what I ate here. You can also opt for the mini train ride around town if you have kids.
Our next stop was the Pena Palace. Our bus could go only till one point and then we were taken by a small bus to the entrance of the Pena Palace. It did not look like a strenuous trek but you have to pay around 1.5 Euros to take the small bus. We didn’t have to pay since this was included in our price.
Pena Palace is the most famous palace in Sintra and it is not difficult to see why. The whole palace is painted bright with shades of red, orange, violet and yellow. You can see a huge statue that looks like King Neptune guarding one of the entrances. Another unique thing about this palace is the mix of various architectural styles due to the influence of the several rulers of the Royal family across the ages. You can tour the palace and view the gorgeous chapel along with the Victorian styled interiors. But the best thing about this palace are the views from it. Since it is situated right at the top of the mountain, you can see all around and that view is breathtaking. Do tour the gardens too since they are exquisite.
Cabo Da Roca and Cascais near Sintra, Portugal
You wouldn’t want to leave this place but we had to get to our next destination on our itinerary. From here, we were taken to Cabo Da Roca, a cape that is considered to be the westernmost part of Continental Europe and Portugal (source: wiki). This is located in the Sintra – Cascais mountains and the whole drive to the cape is mesmerizing. One word of advice here: Carry a jacket since it was freezing even in Summer. I almost froze to death trying to take a selfie here. But you have stunning views from this point and you definitely should not miss this opportunity. You will be literally walking among the clouds here and that is a feeling that you cannot express in words.
On the way, back to Lisbon, we stopped for a while in the town of Cascais. This town is frequented by many celebrities and tourists due to its proximity to many gorgeous beaches.