A day trip to magical Sintra

Sintra is synonymous to a fairy land, the one similar to what we’ve seen and heard in Disney movies. If you can’t agree on my words, tell me what you’d call if there is a national park that is dotted with castles, sits on the hill top surrounded by vast green lands, or a palace that’s carved out in a high vintage point? That pretty much sums up Sintra National Park.

Surprisingly, for such a small town like Sintra, there’s a numerous tourist attraction, most of which are heritage sites. All of it just within an hour’s drive from Lisbon. On a cold and a windy day we drove from Lisbon to Sintra very early to be able to maximise our time in Sintra.  We reached quite early, so drove around the national park aimlessly for sometime to enjoy done vintage views of the rugged mountains  before stopping at the tourist office. 

Sintra viewed from Castle
Sintra town
We took a combo ticket for Pena Palace and Moorish Castle, supposedly the most visited monuments in Sintra.  We parked our car near tourist office and started our hiking. We walked across beautiful houses and gardens before we entered into the Pena Palace Gardens.  The garden was all green and looked lovely. We hiked around the lush green landscape that had lovely ponds, ducks, swans, and some exotic trees.  
Pena Park, Sintra
Amazing park in Sintra
After a good 30 minute hike (or possibly more than that!), we reached the foot of what is considered an exemplary architecture in Portugal, Pena Palace. A UNESCO world heritage site, this palace is also considered one of the Wonders of Portugal. It’s a finest example of a mixture of architecture from Moorish to Renaissance to Neo-classical. 
Sintra Pena Palace
It mesmerized us at the very first glance itself. The intricate and distinctive details on the pillars, walls and interiors are second to none. 

Grotesque gargoyle in Pena Palace, Portugal
The giant gargoyle that peered down at the entrance caught our eyes quickly

Pena Palace Sintra - 1

The exterior work seemed very unique with tile work, triangle and circle embedded entrances (like in the above pic) simply made us wonder how much of creativity and hard-work would have gone into creating such a masterpiece. The interiors of the Palace included beautifully painted walls with numerous royal collections. Inside housed a Chapel, Noble Room, Royal Dining Room, Kitchen etc.

Entrance Pena Palace
The stark brick red paint on the exteriors of the Palace combined with faded lime yellow captured the attention of tourists. 
Pena Palace Sintra

The vistas from the palace were breathtaking. We saw birds eye view of Sintra town and the remains of Moorish castle, and magnanimous portion of natural scenery. 

View of Moorish Castle from Pena Palace
After our palace tour, we spent some more time admiring the palace architecture trying to capture them with our gadgets. Later, we continued to hike to reach Moorish Castle, another but ruined castle that sits on a bit smaller hill overlooking Sintra town and the Pena Palace. The distance from Pena Palace to the Moorish Castle is an easy 10-15 minute walk. 
castle from one corner
It’s definitely one of the superior castle ruins we’ve seen so far, sitting on a great vista and offering breathtaking views. But as we neared the castle, it was getting really cold and windy. We stopped at every view point to take pictures. The steps that lead to the top most point of the castle was really steep and a bit slippery with moist. 

Moorish Castle in Sintra
Moorish Castle in Sintra
Stading on the top of the castle
The feeling it gave to be on top of the castle and see all things tiny is something we loved! All this while we were only seeing Sintra town in a microscopic view, but it took us by surprise when we turned to the other side of the castle – an astounding view of Pena Palace! That’s when we wished it had been a blue sky day !  But this pic isn’t bad at all, right?
View of Pena Palace from Moorish Castle
The spell-bounding rear view of Pena Palace from the Moorish Castle

Sintra Travel Tips & Practical Information:

# Sintra is well connected to Lisbon by rail service, if you prefer public transport and they are affordable. If you choose to drive to Sintra, remember it will be very crowded and getting a car parking space in the town or near palace/ castle can be very challenging.

# There are frequent trains between Lisbon – Sintra, the ticket cost being €4.30 with return and the duration is 40 minutes. 
# Tourist attractions in Sintra include Quinta da Regaleira, Monserrate Palace, Sintra National Palace, Toy Museum, Queluz National Palace, Convento dos Capuchos. 
# Practically its not possible to visit all attractions on same day. While each one of them have their own charm, it’s best to research about the attractions well in advance and choose your combo tickets wisely to save a penny or two.

# If you do not want to walk from the town to the castles/palaces, there are alternate options:-
Bus #434 circular route –>Train Station – Sintra centre – Pena Palace – Moorish Castle – Train Station costs €5. Alternatively there are horse carriage and tuk-tuk rides who prefer classy and comfort.

# If you plan to hike to the palace or castle, do bring good hiking shoes. 
# It’s only ideal to pack a box of sandwich or any snack, because you don’t want to hike down to the town for lunch, and again hike back there! 
View of Sintra from the castle top
Did you enjoy travelling virtually to Sintra National Park? Have you been to similar castles and palaces that stole your heart at first sight? Do leave a comment or two. 

26 Responses

  1. Sintra looks like a magical town indeed! I like places that are a blend of both natural beauty and mystic. Your pictures look amazing! I like the photoshop effect in the last pic. 🙂 Thanks for the practical info. That's very important.

    • Yes, and it just makes me want to go there for a summer or autumn where the days are much brighter. Actually the last pic is not a photoshop effect! It's a photographic technique called Zoom burst, which we can do manually if we have a big lens.

  2. wowo, it looks so beautiful .. I would love ot go there for sure ..
    thanks for sharing .. where have i been that is like this .. well the closed i can come is Scotland , it has natural beauty and lovely castles


  3. The photo of the gargolyte is too good 🙂

    Destination Infinity

  4. My jaw dropped. I had never heard of this place before, but it has rocketed to my list of places I want to go! Your pictures are stunning, and I can't imagine how gorgeous this looks in person!

  5. Beautiful place. We have been to SIntra, and I really enjoyed the trip. The pictures are beautiful.

  6. The town of Sintra looks like a great town to explore! Your photos of the place are gorgeous and the Pena Palace is absolutely amazing!! I love the architectural detail of the place – both the buildings and the stairs!!

  7. Sintra is so magical! I was reliving my own experiences there looking at your photos. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  8. Wow that view – amazing! I've never actually visited a castle before so I'm fascinated to see pictures of the different types and architecture. I 've never heard of Sintra but it looks like a beautiful and very interesting place to visit. That gargoyle is a bit scary but the detail on it is intense!

  9. This really looks like the setting of a Gebrueder Grimm fairytale. So pretty!

  10. I think Sintra is a wonderful destination, the palace, the medieval castles and the natural surroundings are all marvelous. I went there a few years ago, thanks for bringing me back to this beautiful site!

  11. This brought back wonderful memories. I spent my 23rd birthday in Sintra, loved it so much! Great pics guys!

  12. Ahh I wanted to go to Portugal so badly last trip but just wasn't able to fit it in- Sintra looks so stunning, right out of a fairytale. Your pictures just make me want to go more!

  13. It looks really cool! Definitely like a fairytale. Will certainly be adding this to my Portugal itinerary especially the Pena Palace Gardens, I love how they look.

  14. Sintra sounds like the perfect day trip from Lisbon and I know my daughter would love that castle! The architecture is incredible and your pictures are wonderful even if it was a gloomy day!

  15. I'd always heard the Sintra was beautiful but I had no idea all the small details. Great photos!

  16. I loved Sintra! My mom and I spent three nights there during our road trip around Portugal and it was one of our favorite stops!

  17. National park with a castle in it! wow! that would be so nice to visit. Nice pictures, I loved the last one a lot.

  18. wow! so beautiful! Thank you for sharing, this is going on my list right now! 🙂 -Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

  19. So, we now have another castle to be added to the list!!! I didn't know about Sintra before reading your post so thanks for sharing. If and when we visit Lisbon I know we will now be heading out there for a day trip, I know that Paul will be wanting to get some photos of the castle, the colours are especially striking! 🙂

  20. Great pictures! I've been once to Sintra and really loved Pena Palace!! Seeing the pictures I realized that it has been a lot of time since I've been there and may be it's time to plan a new trip.

    Shere y Paul

  21. What a gorgeous collection of pictures you have included in this post! We have never visited Sintra but after reading this it really inspires me to get there and experience this for ourselves. We love experiencing castles, our favorite being Windsor Castle in England but each one is so very different and unique and I am sure this one is too.

  22. Sintra is a beautiful and fascinating place. I have visited two months ago after completing mybus tours from boston to washington dc. I love this place. It has a mysterious effect on its visitors. Pena Palace and Moorish Castle are the most important destinations for tourists. They have spectacular views of their surroundings. After seeing your blog I am recollecting my memories and I am feeling very happy.

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