Just a one hour train ride away from Lisbon, you can find Sintra, a postcard perfect town famed for its colourful skyline built of historical palaces and castles, and its wild and unspoiled beaches. A curious mixture of natural and cultural sites, the combination of forested mountains and gaudy architecture creates a truly whimsical enchantment. It is an unmissable destination with its vast history and remarkable title as the first centre of European Romantic architecture. It was around 1840 when, inspired by Gothic, Moorish, Egyptian, and Renaissance concepts, Ferdinand II transformed a collapsed monastary in to a castle. His impressive efforts to enhance the surrounding landscape saw that Ferdinand II also rejuvenated the flora of the mountains, planting thousands of trees and further cultivating the amorous character of Sintra. Whilst The Royal Palace is undeniably the most poignant feature of the Sintran scenery, there are a multitude of major landmarks which constitute the landscape including parks, gardens, palaces, monasteries and castles which harmonise impeccably and take shape in to an exotic and fascinating utopia.
A Day Out in Sintra
With such an abundance of attractions, there is an overwhelming amount to see in Sintra, especially in one day. Here we’ve compiled some suggestions for a one day adventure away from Lisbon…
29 kilometres north-west of Lisbon, the simplest route between Lisbon and Sintra is by train. There are two options for anyone heading out of the city; from Rossio station in the heart of Lisbon; or Oriente station, located nearer to Lisbon airport.
Whilst walking is a completely viable mode of transport during a day out in Sintra, the steep gradients and distance between the sights equates to an intense day of exercise. For those wishing to minimise some time spent on foot, the 434 tourist bus is an excellent option, providing a one-directional loop past the major attractions for €3.90.
What To Look At
The route of the tourist bus provides a useful framework for what’s highest priority on the visit list; pausing at the Historic Centre of Sintra (Palácio Nacional de Sintra), Moorish Castle, and Pena Palace. Here’s a brief rundown of what you can expect to see from each, plus a few more.
Palacio Nacional De Sintra: Originally half of a pair of Moorish castles in Sintra, the Palacio Nacional de Sintra now showcases a medieval royal residence. It was constructed by Christian kings of the 15th and 16th centuries and is iconic for its white turrets added by King John in the early 1600s.
Quinta Da Regaleira: A more recent addition to the municipality, completed in 1910, Quinta Da Regaleira is comprised of flamboyant houses and gardens complete with a small chapel. Generally, people are attracted here by the gardens, decorated based on the mythological beliefs of the owner. In each corner, there are curious installations lurking, yet to be discovered, from grottos to overgrown fountains.
Pena Palace: Pena Palace has experienced an extensive evolution since its days as a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the 15th century. Devastated by the earthquake of the 18th century, Ferdinand II took on the remains and constructed his summer palace here. Bright yellow and rustic red buildings beside the man-made lakes and tropical species of trees provide the ideal setting for a stroll in the sun.
Castelo Dos Mouros (Moorish Castle): Castelo dos Mouros boasts even more history than the rest dating back to the 8th century and built by the Moors (Muslims who occupied the Iberian Peninsula during this period). Due to its elevated vantage point, this castle played a critical role in surveying the Atlantic coast and entries in to Lisbon. Once again, the earthquake of 1755 destroyed much of the structure but was a pertinent part of King Ferdinand II’s restoration project. Today, the castle provides excellent views of the surrounding area and interesting interpretations and descriptions of Moorish history.
Truly one of the most unmissable spots on the Peninsula, we hope you can make the time for a trip!