Sintra is located 30 kilometers from the bustling city of Lisbon. Known for many romantic moments of architecture from the 19th century it is also home to several of Portugal's Royal palaces and was dedicated as a World Heritage City by UNESCO for the very reason.
Visiting Sintra and the colorful hill top palace of Pena National Palace has become a very popular day trip out of Lisbon.
Arriving into Sintra can be done by tour, hired car or public transit. (Train Station is 1.5 km from town- with a shuttle bus to town)
The town center is a colorful and bustling collection of small streets lined with shops, cafe's and wine bars. With a fabulous selection of colorful wares, mosaic tiles, ceramic dishes and artisan crafts.
Tip: Save shopping for later in the afternoon as the palaces get very crowded after 11am.
Pena National Palace
Situated high on a hill top in the Sintra Forest is Pena National Palace, this World Heritage Site is also a National Monument and one of Portugal's Seven Wonders. Surrounded by more than 200 hectares of forest land as well as the neighboring Castle of the Moors. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to explore if you want to visit both castles, the stables and the forest.
Getting There: From the train station or town center take Shuttle bus 434 which takes you up the hill to the Castle of the Moors and Pena National Palace for €5. Departures are every 15 minutes from 10am – 5pm
The shuttle will drop you at the entrance to the palace grounds where you can purchase tickets to one or both castles as well as book other activities in the palace grounds. The palace is located up a steep hill and for those not inclined to walk far, there is a shuttle for an additional fee or you can rent a golf cart.
The castle speaks for itself in beauty and especially views. It can get really foggy in the mornings so don't be surprised if you are helmed in by clouds in the morning hours.
The Sintra forest was a magical, mysterious and peaceful place for many members of Portuguese Royalty and average citizens. As Sintra National Palace at the base of the hill was used as a summer residence by the Royal Family the Sintra Forest was a place much visited over the years.
For centuries however the only building at the sight of the castle was a modest tower for Monks. Built in the middle ages it had been a sight of spirituality and peacefulness for centuries.
The Monastery however was damaged to near demise in the great earthquake of 1755. It was many years later that King Ferdinand II decided to build Pena National Palace in its place in 1842. It was to be a summer residence for himself, his queen and their children.
They turned the tower that once housed monks into their royal chambers and built many exterior walkways to view the surrounding countryside. The unique architecture was a mending of French, Greek, Islamic and Roman architecture with lots of design input by the King and Queen who wanted to highlight the many cultures that played into the history of Portugal as well as save as many things from its Monastic history as possible.
The best of Pena National Palace for me is the Sintra Forest Land that surrounds the castle. With dozens of trails, hundreds of different tree and plant species and a labyrinth of hidden buildings and structures to find it is still as magical today as it was a few centuries ago.
Stables and farm animals also live within the forest, if you are lucky you can go on a horseback riding adventure through the forest lands.
Castle of the Moors
Getting There: To get there you can simply hop back on the shuttle. Or walk through the forest and exit at the Entrance to the Moorish Castle.
Sharing a hilltop with Pena National Palace is the Castle of the Moors. It was built by the Moorish Rulers of Portugal in the 8th & 9th century. At the time the surrounding lands were mostly farms and the Moors built this watchtower to look out for invaders who could be approaching from any direction. With its high location they could see for miles in every direction. Its 450 meter long wall runs along the hilltop perimeter and is a fantastic place to get pictures of Pena National Palace.
Sintra National Palace
Your last stop on your day trip to Sintra should be to Sintra National Palace. Located in town this is the oldest of the Royal Palaces in Sintra and has amazing mosaic azulejo tile throughout the Palace.
Cabo de Roc
Depending on your tour or transportation on your return to Lisbon you may want to visit Cabo De Roc. By driving west from Sintra you can visit this viewpoint on the ocean. Although it's a little out of the way, it is well worth it. It is the westernmost point in mainland Portugal. A beautiful ending to a magical day trip to Sintra.