Our Day Trip to Sintra
Sintra is so close that it's almost a suburb of the Greater Lisbon area but it feels like a world away. We paid €4.40 for round trip ticket on a midweek train from Rossio station in downtown Lisbon. Within 40 minutes we were transported into an amazing playground of architectural wonders; like a Disneyland for grown-ups.
We could easily have spent a few days exploring in depth but the weather was a little unpredictable and we were short on time so we chose to focus on three main attractions. Shortly after arriving at the station we found an Uber to take us up the winding road to the fairy-tale style Pena Palace. We began there because we suspected it would be the busiest place (we were correct) and it was also the most difficult to get to. Our theory was to start furthest away from the train station and then work our way back down the hill.
Even though we got to the palace within an hour of opening time it was already super busy but that didn't take away from the wow factor of this place. My photos don't do justice to the location and magnificence of it all. Aerial shots truly show its splendor, perched on a hill with sweeping views of the Atlantic; it's worth a Google image search. It was originally built as a monastery that King Ferdinand II bought it during the late 19th century and converted into a lavish home. From the terrace you can see over the surrounding villages to the coast and if you take a walk around the walls there is a view all the way back to Lisbon.
For our next stop we took another Uber back down the hill to the Quinta da Regalaira, another amazing stop. Here the gardens are the main draw complete with a spiraling well and underground tunnels. You can explore and imagine you are in an Indiana Jones movie. The whole place has a Middle Earth feel and was well worth the visit. From here you can walk back down into the town of Sintra.
This is when the rain started to pour and we took refuge in a touristy restaurant for lunch before our final stop of the day, The National or Town Palace, which is right in the center. This palace is notable for its two huge chimneys which rise above the palace like a pottery works or the Oast Houses in Kent, England. They are actually chimneys from the gigantic kitchens. It's hard to imagine what it would be like there on a feast day with the cooking smells gushing from these gigantic structures across the town. Most of the treasures were inside the palace, for which we were grateful given the soggy weather. There were many grand rooms built over multiple levels according to the profile of the land including the swan room, the magpie room and the amazing the Coat of Arms room at the highest point.
After the palace we wandered back down the hill to the train station. Starting at Pena with the Uber up and down to this high point and then walking between the other stops worked out really well, although we still had very tired legs. We snoozed on the train back to Lisbon wishing we had more time to explore other treasures of Sintra. We'll have to put it on our list of places to return to one day.