A Day in Stunning Sintra
Sintra is a city torn straight from the pages of a a fairy tale.
Imagine rippling mountains, dewy forests thick with ferns and lichen, exotic gardens and glittering palaces dotted with pastel-hued manors folded into luxuriant hills that roll down to the blue Atlantic. It
almost doesn’t seem real.
Set amidst the pine covered hills of the Serra de Sintra, just to the west of Lisbon, Sintra is a day trip that you MUST take if you are visiting Lisbon. If you have the time – stay longer, because this place is absolutely enchanting.
The first to call this beautiful part of Southern Portugal home were the Romans who made it a place of cult moon worshiping, and named it “Cynthia” after the goddess of the moon. They were followed by the Moors who also fell in love with the lush vegetation and built a hilltop castle, a palace, and several fountains around the town. Later it became the summer residence of the Portuguese royal family and attracted a number of wealthy aristocrats who built huge mansions and villas.
The variety of fascinating monuments and historic buildings in Sintra is phenomenal. Never have I seen such contrasting castles, fortresses and monuments in one area.
There are so many beautiful sights to visit in this place but the main attraction has to be Palácio de Pena, or, Pena Palace. Built in the 19th century in an eclectic style by the Portuguese king-consort Dom Fernando II, you will feel as though you have been transported into a Disney film. The pastel wedding-cake looking castle merges from the lush greenery and towers over the town and hills of Sintra.
Disney Castle Pena Palace, it is only a short walk to Castelo dos Mouros, a 10th century castle built by the Moors to defend the town of Sintra. I wasn’t so lucky, but if you had a nice day this would provide some breathtaking views over the area.
Due to tourists crowds comparable with Paris I only managed to admire two of Sintras wonders (after waiting in some pretty crazy lines). There are so many more to see and when I return to Portugal I will definitely be visiting this fairytale city again.
Sintra is connected to Lisbon by a regular and inexpensive train service that departs from the Rossio train station in central Lisbon. The ticket will cost you about 5 euro for the return trip. Once you arrive you will quickly notice that the major tourist attractions of Sintra are spread across the steep hills of the region. For those you have more time to explore and don’t mind hiking your way to pretty buildings, I say go for it! But if you are like me and had to be up at 5am to arrive from Porto and want to see things ASAP there is fortunately a couple of tourist buses that departs from Sintra train station. You can either catch the local buses for about 5-12 euro, depending on how many attractions you want to see, or buy a notorious hop-on, hop-off ticket for 18 euro. I hopped on and hopped off, and was very glad I did because the lines were much shorter than the local bus lines.
I am so glad I was convinced to spend my last day in Portugal in Sintra, and would recommend anyone visiting Portugal to send some time in the fairytale city. Like everyone else who visits Sintra, you will be completely bewitched.