Sintra Day Trip From Lisbon
While Lisbon is great and has lots to do, it is always nice to get out of the city and do a day trip. One of the most popular is visiting Sintra, a smaller city only 40 minutes away by train. Sintra screams touristy, but I must say it is absolutely beautiful and well worth the visit.
So Many Attractions!
There are several major attractions in Sintra, including the Pena Palace, National Palace, Moorish Castle and the Quinta da Regaleira, among many others. Knowing we only had a day and didn’t want to rush, we opted to just go to the Pena Palace and Quinta da Regaleira.
Since it was going be a bit before lunch, we decided to have a coffee and pastry when we first arrived to Sintra. We had read several things mentioning the long hilly climb to the Pena Palace, but being frugal we were still contemplating walking up versus taking the bus. However, when we talked to our server at the cafe she strongly suggested getting a ride up, but then walk back down. So we hopped on the 434 bus and headed up, up, up the mountain. And that is when we were very grateful we had taken her advice. It was a serious climb!
Even though it was winter time and off season, there still was a 30-minute line to purchase our tickets to get into the Pena Palace and garden. I can’t even imagine what it is like in the summer/high season! We saw a sign saying it could take 50 minutes in high season to even get into the palace AFTER you bought your tickets. Thankfully, once we had our tickets and walked the last bit of the mountain we were able to get right into the palace.
Are we in Disneyland?
When seeing the palace for the first time, both of us commented that it looked like Disneyland, but real. We even heard a gentleman with his kids saying the same thing. King Ferdinand II had the palace commissioned in 1842 with the hopes that it would look like the background for a dramatic opera. They succeeded!
The Interior is Just as Grand
The inside of the palace has been restored to when Queen Amelia was there in 1910. It is full of lavish design, grand rooms and a beautiful cloister.
Quinta da Regaleira
After a few hours we started making our way down the mountain to the Quinta da Regaleira. To get there we decided to take the path through the Pena Garden and grounds, which was a great idea. Hardly anyone else was on the path and we ended up getting a great view of the palace.
Along the path we stopped at the “Valley of the Lakes” for a nice picnic lunch (i.e., cafeteria sandwich and a beer).
We Made It!
A short walk down the road we entered the Quinta da Regaleira. Built at the end of the 19th century, this Gothic mansion and grounds was something out of a fairy tale. With underground tunnels, a very deep well with stairs that lead down to the bottom, ornate gardens and sculptures, a luxurious palace and multiple other structures, you could get lost in this place for hours!
There are a series of tunnels on the property, which are fun to explore. The Poco Imperfeito (also known as the Initiation Well or Inverted Tower) has a different feel from below than it does from above!
Sintra = More Time
With all of this amazing historical architecture and landscapes, it is no wonder Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We seriously have never encountered as many UNESCO World Heritage sites as we did in Portugal. Looking back, we would have planned to stay in Sintra 2-3 days instead of doing just a day trip. We only went to two places, and of those we only saw a fraction of what was there. We seriously could have spent a whole day just at the Pena Palace.