Our last posts from Lisbon may not have been very optimistic, but don’t be discouraged, because Portugal is beautiful. There are places where even crowds of tourists do not bother. Such places include Sintra.
If you are in Lisbon, go to Sintra! It is worth at least one day to devote to a trip to this small town, where there is something for everyone: a castle, ruins, gardens, museum, the old town or at least the possibility of visiting by electric car ;)
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Getting to Sintra
Some say Sintra is kitschy and every corner shows form over substance. For us, it is very original and surprising, because almost every place we visit has something original, distinctive and even incongruous about it. Maybe that’s what made Sintra particularly memorable to us, or maybe the fact that the Moorish current is particularly prominent here making the buildings look more exotic?
Getting there from Lisbon is extremely easy – there are a lot of trains, you just need to know which one to get on and possibly when to change :) And here the following photo comes to your aid:
Direct trains from Rossio (it’s that train station in the very center of old Lisbon) leave for Sintra every half hour. When you add to that a possible change on the way, you have a connection even every 10 minutes ;)
We drove from Rossio Station, and the ticket cost 2.15 eur per person one way. Here, of course, caution, be quite early, because there are few cash registers and many takers. Queue so about 30 minutes of standing. Fortunately, riding the train is almost a luxury – lots of seats, you can sit down, there is air conditioning – what more do you want?
Sightseeing in Sintra
At the train station in Sintra, we took our first steps to the Tourist Information, which is located in the train station building. Modest because it is modest, but it is there, maps will also be some. Importantly, if you plan to visit more than one place, here you can buy combined tickets for several attractions, which of course comes out a little cheaper. If you don’t buy here, you can get them at the Palácio Nacional de Sintra. We didn’t take advantage, because we didn’t know what we wanted to see and how long it would take us.
Unfortunately, there is another catch in the combined tickets – in no configuration does it include the Quinta da Regaleira, in our opinion the most interesting place in Sintra. This residence is also not indicated on any maps we got at the tourist information. Fortunately, our Lonely Planet guide didn’t let us down :)
We walked around the city because we wanted to see as much as possible, but there are plenty of people waiting at the exit of the station offering transportation, access, organized tours. Among other things, one can. Rent electric cars for two people. If we had returned to Sintra we would have taken some transportation because, however, the approach to the Pena Palace was tiring, not very safe (we walked along the road for cars) and we lost a lot of time and strength, and there were not very interesting views along the way.
Sintra National Palace
Our first steps were to the Sintra National Palace(Palácio Nacional de Sintra). The palace can be seen from a distance and is easily recognized by its two distinctive pointed cones – chimneys. Although it’s not far, the road takes some time because you have to take a circuitous route. Along the way you can already see the first unique building – the City Hall, which may not be impressive in size, but the ornate tower is immediately striking.
As you continue along the path to the Palace, you can stock up on local wares – small souvenirs and handicrafts are stacked on the wall.
The palace and the square in front of it are a very good landmark. Of course, the Palace itself can also be visited, there is a historical museum inside, and you can see, among other things. The Swan Room, rooms decorated with azulejos tiles or finally the kitchen with the aforementioned chimneys.
Quinta da Regaleira residence and park in Sintra
We, however, were more interested in going to Quinta da Regaleira, the aforementioned fairy-tale mansion with an extensive park. The site is truly unique, and was the brainchild of the wealthy Antonio Carvalho Monteiro.
The very way to the residence was interesting…. :)
We started the tour with a park where you can get lost. In addition to the visible paths, buildings, towers, ponds, there are numerous “hidden” mazes and passages, which we recommend entering only with a flashlight.
The word “hidden” is specially in quotation marks, because in fact everything is marked on the map ;) Nevertheless, it is atmospheric, dark and at times even scary.
In the park, the biggest attraction is the Well of Initiation (Poço Iniciatico), almost 30 meters deep – a mecca for photographers ;)
This is not a typical well, filled with water – it is a symbolic place, used for Masonic rituals (supposedly…). We also found another similar one, though perhaps less grand, but at least we were completely alone.
The palace itself and the chapel next to it can also be visited, but we definitely enjoyed the green area around it more.
We took a long time here, so we had to speed up a bit. Next stop: Palácio Nacional da Pena.
Palácio Nacional da Pena
Unfortunately, here we made a mistake and took a walk that turned out to be too long and tiring, and when we reached the castle walls it turned out that to reach the building we had to climb even higher (so we actually reached the walls of the park surrounding the castle). On the way, we walked through Parque das Merendas, which was supposed to reward us for the hardships of wandering on foot, but did not charm us.
Being already at the gates of the gardens, you can buy a ticket for a tour of the palace, the gardens themselves and even transportation to the palace itself.
In the gardens around the palace you can relax for a while. There are benches by the pond, so you can sit for a while and enjoy the silence, because even though it is one of the most popular attractions (the Palace), not many people choose to walk through the garden alone.
It’s a pity, because the garden is very nicely arranged, there are lots of types of plants here, and we will also meet swans and ducks. Walking around, you can hit the gazebos erected here or see various statues. From here we can also see the ruins of the Moorish Castle.
When we finally reach the top, we can admire this fabulous Pena Palace (Palácio Nacional da Pena) in all its glory. Well, just what, fabulous? Some may think that these colors and shapes were chosen because of the whim of some crescent, and some will delight in the eclecticism that prevails here – it all depends on your point of view :)
Whatever one says, one must admit that the Pena Palace is impressive, and even if someone is not interested in the building itself, he or she will certainly be impressed by the picturesque view. You can see Lisbon from here, of course, but also Castelo dos Mouros (ruins).
The panorama was not to be missed either:Please define valid width and height attributes for remote images. This will also optimize the loading time of the remote panorama.
And another one a little smaller ;)Please define valid width and height attributes for remote images. This will also optimize the loading time of the remote panorama.
The Palace has numerous terraces and turrets where you can walk around and admire the panorama, but you can also explore the palace chambers. From the rooms provided, we can see the royal halls, the queen’s bedroom, the dining room, the bathroom or the chapel.
In our opinion, Pena Palace is great, just different from all the others and we sincerely recommend it to you!
How do we evaluate Sintra?
Finally, we left ourselves to walk through the tight, charming streets of Sintra, mostly in search of something to eat.
Of course, we hit the wrong time and had to settle for appetizers, which turned out to be large enough portions anyway (so far we don’t know what we ate ;) ).
How would we sum up Sintra? This is a place that is a must see!
It’s worth going for a day, but to see each of the recommended attractions at your leisure you’d probably need two days. We, unfortunately, had only one, and we will definitely be happy to return, as there are still a lot of interesting places left to see. If you are currently planning your stay in Lisbon, be sure to plan at least a full day for this destination :)
It is also often suggested to visit Sintra in one day together with Cabo da Roca and Cascais (you can even buy a combined train and bus ticket), but we strongly advise you against it.
If you have to go to Sintra for half a day, it is better not to go at all ;)