Sintra is a short train ride from Lisbon, and we planned to do a day trip up there. There are countless tours offering trips to Sintra and Cascais, but we really just wanted to do it in our own time and explore at our own pace.
A few tips;
- Don’t make the same mistake I did when buying tickets at the train station in Lisbon, they need to be purchased one at a time for each person. I stuffed that up and we missed the first train – woopsies!
- Catch the hop on hop off bus from the train station – Sintra is atop a large hill, and unless you are a super keen walking up hills nutter it won’t be any fun walking all the way to the castles and palaces.
- Don’t get off on the first bus stop. This advice came from a website I think, but it was good advice. The bus takes you first to the town, then to the Moorish Castle, and then to Pena Palace. Since it is a hop-on-hop-off bus, most people seem to do the day in order of the bus stops – to avoid the crowds do it in the opposite orderBring a cardigan! It was late June and we were still all shivering and it was extremely windy!
- Wear walking shoes – you’re going to do a lot of walking!
- Plan ahead – to a certain extent! We discovered once we got to Pena Palace you could go around the grounds in a horse and cart, however they were all fully booked by the time we arrived.
Since we only had the one day to explore, and we had a later start than we wanted (thanks to my mishap with the train tickets) we didn’t get a chance to see everything we wanted to see. We settled to seeing just 2 of the castles. I would really love to go back and check out the well with the 9 levels I keep seeing photos of!
First Stop: the Castle of the Moors
An old moorish ruin from around the 8th century, romanticised and revitalised in the 19th century by Ferdinand, resident of the famous Pena Palace.
The castle has a wild beauty to it, with sweeping views out to the sea and forests littered with huge granite boulders. Besides the whole ancient Moorish castle thing, it kind of reminded me of home.
Learning about other countries history and culture is what really fuels me when I am travelling. I found the history of the Arabic Portugal and the Reconquista fascinating, and I busied myself fixing my ignorance of it.
Second Stop: Pena Palace
Okay, so this has got to be the most colourful palace I have ever come across! From a distance its an absurd looking primary coloured lego castle, but up close the intricate details turn it more into a fantastical fairytale castle – this Ferdinand sure had a romantic streak!
After spending a quite a lot of our time exploring the Castle of the Moors we decided to just explore the extensive grounds of Pena Palace and not the inside – still not sure if we should regret this or not! We had a great time walking through the woods that surround the palace. The vegetation again reminded me of home, I felt like I could be bushwalking in Springbrook and not trekking on the grounds of a Portuguese Palace.
After all that time wandering around castles and palaces we only had a brief stint in the town of Sintra to do a little bit of shopping and grab a cheeky Pastel de Nata or two before catching the train back to Lisbon.