Sintra is the type of town fairytales are made of. This magical town lies up in the forested mountains and is just a 2 hours train ride outside of Lisbon. I first saw glimpses of all the bizarre and colourful spaces and places on social media and was immediately intrigued. Sintra was therefore an essential trip I had to make outside of Lisbon in my short time in Portugal.
How to get to Sintra from Lisbon
You can take a train from Roissy station in Lisbon. On your arrival in Sintra there are many options to travel around in. I opted for the tour bus 435 which waits outside of the station. For 15 Euros it will drop you off at all the main attractions.
Places I visited in Sintra
The Castle of the Moors
The Castle of the Moors is a vast stone fort in the hills overlooking the town and nearby coastline. It was built in the 8th century AD by the Muslim conquerors who used the hilltop to protect their territory in the country.
You are offered the best views of Sintra up here and it’s a pretty cool piece of history to explore in Portugal especially as it’s over 2000 years old. Many archaeological excavations also surround this area can be seen on display around the fortress.
Pena Palace is undoubtedly the highlight of the visit. This brightly coloured palace of Sintra was originally a sanctuary with a monastery. The palace was eventually built in the 18th century by King Ferdinand. Today the palace holds elements of Romanticism and Islamic architecture in its design with many classical art symbolism in its decor. The palace served as a summer getaway for the king and his family due to the fresh winds that would blow in from the ocean.
I would define this palace as exotic if anything and is truly a feast for the imagination, especially as I love fantasy-adventure novels. The extensive gardens are beautiful and definitely worth exploring with rich foliage and flowers in abundance along the walkways.
Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira was my last stop and is located in the town of Sintra. The complex was built by a millionaire who wanted to create a place of fantasy and magic for visitors to enjoy. It has extensive gardens, secret underground pathways, caves, lakes, wishing wells and a fairytale mansion all located in a maze of beautiful gardens surrounded by lots of flowers. I loved it.
The main attraction is the Well of Initiation built by the owner in 1904 who was said to be a follower of the esoteric and a movement called Rosicrucianism. The well is full of mystic symbols but nobody really knows how the well was actually used. It’s just a really cool space.
Quinta da Regaleira is nothing short of quirky and a delight for photo opportunities especially if you love fairytales and mythology.
The Town of Sintra
After a long day of exploring the mountain tops in the hot forest, I decided to relax and have dinner at a restaurant in the town centre. Narrow cobblestoned roads wind around the steep hills laden with beautiful Pombaline and classical-styled homes covered in sprawling green ivy and flowers.
Why visit Sintra?
I went at the start of July on a weekday, so the lines were not very long and I enjoyed my day out. I loved Sintra, I feel like it’s one of those gems you need to explore when in Portugal. I’ll honestly say it felt like a totally different country and world based on its unique spaces and somewhat isolated location in the hills.
Being such a short distance out of Lisbon, it’s definitely a nice break of the city especially in summer.
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