If you have an extra day in Lisbon, I suggest you head out to Sintra. It’s just a 45-minute train ride from the Rossio Station and well worth the trip.
Walking into Sintra is like treading on fairytale land, more so on a gloomy day as when we were there. Known for its many romantic 19th-century architectures, Sintra is an outstanding reference for Portuguese culture.
Royal castles, mansions, and chalets scatter around the verdant rolling hills and peaks of the Sintra mountain range. The long sections of walls winding around the high peaks of the Serra reminds of century’s past.
The Moors Castle high above Sintra
Here, at the Central Western Portuguese coast, at the northern-most stretch of the protected Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, history, archeology, architecture and natural beauty meld into a beguiling and magical town.
It’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed center, the Sintra Vile is a 15-minutes walk from the train station.
The Palacio Nacional de Sintra dominates the old town. Its iconic twin conical chimneys can be seen from far away. We, however, only had time to visit 2 Castles that day:
Sintra Castelo dos Mouros (The Moor Castle)
A classic ruined castle set amidst the lush forests of the Serra de Sintra. Established by the Northern African Moors during the 9th century to guard the town but fell into disrepair after the Christian conquered Portugal. The castle was restored and transformed into a romantic ruin in the 19th century by King Ferdinand II.
Pena National Palace
On top of a hill stands an eccentric palace built in the 19th century for Dom Fernando II, an artistic king who wanted the palace to resemble that of an opera. Despite the hodgepodge of styles, the castle looks surprisingly harmonious and the use of yellow, pink and purple colors completed the “fairytale” quirkiness of the palace.
A Protected National Monument, the Palace is considered to be one of the world’s best examples of architectures from the Romantic era.
The medieval streets of Sintra Vile lead to many treasures – craft shops selling a host of local artisan specialties, a range of cafes and restaurants or even townhouses that exude the air of past glories.
In one of the narrow streets, we found a small café (Cantinho Gourmet) for a pretty good lunch prepared by an old lady. In another part of town is A. Piriquitos.
Here we had the famed delicacies of the village, Queijadas de Sintra and Travesseiros. Delicious treats not to be missed.
In this region north of Lisbon, the center town of Sintra is only half the story. A must-do day trip but if time permits, a few nights stay is ideal to spend time exploring the surrounding beaches and the many seafood restaurants. The other half is a spectacular stretch of Atlantic coast with rugged cliffs, crashing waves and near-empty stretches of sandy beach, which calls for another visit in the future, perhaps.
A Piriquita: Rua Padarcias 1/7; +351 219 230 026
Pena National Palace: Estrada da Pena; +351 219 237 300
Castelo dos Mouros: Parque de Monserrate, Estrada da Pena; +351 219 237 300 Opening Hours: 9:30AM-8:00PM; shorter hours in low season