The Sintra mountains are only a 30-minute drive west from Lisbon. With its lush green mountains, medieval castles and romantic 19th-century palaces it is easy to understand why Sintra has been classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As the region is so picturesque and relatively close to Lisbon, Sintra is unsurprisingly, a popular tourist destination. So the basic travel rule applies, “go early“.
Getting To Sintra
You can easily get to Sintra in about 40 minutes by train but you then need to get the bus (434) to reach the Pena Palace. Don’t even think of walking unless you want to arrive in a sweaty mess, as it is at least a 60-minute walk uphill.
As we didn’t want to waste too much time travelling and finding our way around we opted for the easy option. We took a small guided tour from Lisbon (only 6 of us in the group), this proved to be an excellent way to visit Sintra and the Pena Palace.
A Brief History Of The Pena Palace
The Pena Palace was built in the 19th century on the ruins of a much older monastery. All that was needed to build such a grand palace was one German-born prince – Ferdinand II, a Portuguese queen – Queen Maria II, an ex-mining engineer – Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege and quite a bit of money.
Next, throw in a mishmash of architectural styles including Portuguese Gothic, Neo-Islamic and a bit of Renaissance Revival for good measure. Amazingly you end up with a beautifully colourful palace. A ‘Disneyesque‘ creation sitting in a stunning national park.
The palace was used as a royal summer residence so that the family could escape the heat of Lisbon.
On a clear day, it is possible to see the city of Lisbon and its suburbs from the palace walls.
From the palace, you can also get an excellent view of the nearby Castle of the Moors. This was originally constructed in the 9th century during the Muslim rule of the Iberian Peninsula.
The palace is surrounded by 500 acres of beautiful parkland and exotic gardens. Most of the plants and trees were brought in from around the world, these include species from Japan, New Zealand, North America and Brazil.
Other Places to Visit In Sintra
As well as the Pena Palace and the Castle of the Moors other places to visit if you have time are.
Quinta da Regaleira – A grand old decorative house and gardens constructed in 1904 by Portuguese businessman Carvalho Monteiro. The fascinating gardens feature subterranean tunnels, ponds and wells.
Monserrate Palace – Another beautifully eclectic palace surrounded by beautiful gardens and manicured lawn. A mix of Gothic, Indian and Islamic styles restored in 1858 by Englishman, Sir Francis Cook.
Sintra National Palace – The palace sits in the centre of Sintra town and is easily recognisable with its two distinctive chimneys which resemble Morrocan tagines.
Summing Up Sintra
So should you make the trip to Sintra when in Lisbon? It’s a definite yes from us and actually, one day isn’t really enough to properly see all of the sights.
We will definitely be going back when we are next in Lisbon and look forward to spending more time in the luscious Sintra woods and gardens.
Have you been to Sintra, what tips, tricks or must-see sights do you recommend?
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