Sintra is a day trip away from Lisbon. A train departs to Sintra every 30 minutes from Rossio station, and the journey takes 20 minutes. A round trip will cost 4.3 euros. You’re better off taking the train as opposed to driving to Sintra. Not only are the streets extremely narrow but there aren’t many spots for parking.
Back in the days Sintra must have been a playground for the rich and famous. The New Hampshires of Portugal. There’s about 3-4 castles in the area, the most impressive being Pena Palace.
Imagine you’re royalty and you want to build a summer palace. You’re very into gothic, islamic and renaissance styles of architecture and can’t decide which style to use for your palace. But, you’re royalty and can make a palace with all 3 styles. Oh and you want the palace to sit on top of the highest hill in the Sintra mountains. King Ferdinand must have been quite the eccentric individual.
Pena Palace is ostentatious. It’s no wonder why its the star attraction in Sintra. I love how playful the exterior is. The interior is pretty as well but it’s not as impressive as the outside. My favourite had to be the tiled blue section right in front of the yard. If you go walk under the arch you’ll see more tiled designs.
The downside to this are the huge crowds this palace draws in. If you go during high season it’s best you get to the gates of the palace right when it opens at 8am. You’ll see two different lines, one to buy tickets and one to enter the gates. Save yourself time and buy tickets online. Entry into the palace grounds will cost around 15 euros but trust me it’s worth the price.
When you enter the grounds you still have to walk up a road to get to the palace. It’s about a 10 minute walk up or you can take a shuttle for 3 euros. The shuttle will take you back down as well.
Once you arrive at the palace the first thing you want to do is to enter the interior first. You’ll want to do this first before a massive line starts to form. Cause that line will go past the gates and you’ll be waiting forever.
Quinta de Regaleira
Once you spend the morning visiting Pena Palace, visiting another palace in the afternoon should be a breeze. The Quinta de Regaleira is closer to town, at the base of the mountains. This is the name of the entire estate, not just the palace itself. The estate was a lot of fun to walk through. There’s a lot of hidden tunnels, pretty fountains and classic gothic architecture. Entry into the estate will cost 6 euros.
You must find the initiation well on the property. The name is a little misleading as it was never a well, rather its an underground tower used for ceremonial purposes. You take a spiral staircase to the bottom then walk through a series of tunnels which take you behind a waterfall. Unclear what kind of ceremonies took place here.
There are plenty of other palaces that I didn’t visit like the Sintra National Palace (now a museum) or the Moorish castles. It’s hard to explore everything as many of the palace grounds are quite large. Additionally many of the palaces close around 6/7 pm depending on the day you go. So you can attempt to visit all the palaces in a day or you can choose your favourites and really enjoy the experience. Experience what it’s like to be royalty and see the old school glamour of Sintra!