Everyone says then when you visit Lisbon you must absolutely go to Sintra for the day as it’s only 30-40 mins away from the Portuguese capital. All the pictures look so magical and the colourful Pena Palace looks like the set of a fairytale.
However, what nobody tells you and what we learnt from our Uber driver on the way there, is that Sintra has its own micro climate meaning that if it's sunny and warm in Lisbon 9 times out of 10 it will be colder and more miserable in Sintra. And that's exactly what happened to us unfortunately...
When weather isn’t in your favour (especially when you thought it would be better) it tends to remove the overall beauty of a destination. We didn’t find Sintra as magical as expected from all the beautiful pictures we had seen... Plus, we found it rather touristic which took away a lot of the charm. We had lunch at a mediocre “tourist” restaurant and weren’t that impressed.
Despite the bad weather and many tourists, Sintra still remains a lovely place to visit and is worth going for the day to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site with its beautiful pastel-coloured houses and villas hidden away in the green mountains. One day is more than enough in my opinion to visit Sintra (especially if you're only staying in Lisbon for a few of days) - a friend told me that she stayed the night and found that it was too calm in the evening and that there weren’t many nice places to choose from for dinner. I think the train only costs 2€ return from Lisbon but we took an Uber for ease of comfort which cost 20-30€.
Sintra old town
Sintra is pretty small so it won't take you that long to wander around the little cobblestone streets of the old town and discover all the charming coloured houses with their brick roofs.
Palácio Nacional de Sintra
The Palace of Sintra is located in the heart of the town and is probably one of the first monuments you will notice. It's considered to be one of the best kept medieval royal residences in the whole of Portugal! It now serves as a historical museum but we only admired its beautiful architecture from the outside…
Palácio da Pena
You will of course want to visit the colourful Pena Palace! I advise taking one of the local tuk-tuks to the top as it’s a long steep walk otherwise and not that enjoyable if the weather isn't great (if you get a nice driver he will give you lots of insider information about Sintra). The architecture is one of its kind and I'm sure Disney have used or will use this palace as inspiration for one of their films. We had to queue a while to buy our tickets and it was very crowded - I can't imagine what it must be like on a sunny day! It's probably best to get your tickets in advance if possible and to go there early in the morning before everyone else gets there. The Pena Palace offers a panoramic view over Sintra but as it was so cloudy and misty when we went, unfortunately we couldn’t see much...
Quinta da Regaleira
It was our Uber driver that recommended us to have a walk around the wonderful gardens of the Quinta da Regaleira villa. He was right, the estate is extremely beautiful and you will love all the lush green vegetation, lakes, grottoes, fountains and sculptures. The property used to be owned by different noble families over the past centuries until it was bought by the Sintra Town Council in the late 90s and then opened to the public.
Castelo dos Mouros
We weren't particularly keen on visiting the ruins of the Moorish Castle which we could see from a distance, especially considering how cold it was and that we weren't really prepared clothewise, but if you’re interested in this kind of medieval architecture from the 8-9th century then it’s another iconic place to visit in Sintra as it's the oldest construction of the town.
Just before leaving we passed by a local bakery Piriquita II and bought some delicious traditional cakes - ‘queijadas‘ and ‘travesseiros’ - to take away and I highly recommend trying them to finish off with a nice sweet taste of Sintra.
What was your overall impression of Sintra?
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English and French wanderer. Based in Paris. Tasting the world through one escape to another...