Sintra and the Pálacio da Pena at night

Please click here for my first post, Sintra: An Enchanting World (March 2015)

I previously visited beautiful Sintra for a day-trip back in March, during my first visit to Lisbon. I loved it so much that I have been eager to return ever since! There is so much to see and do there: palaces, gardens, castles. Despite spending two days there now, I still have not seen everything and Sintra deserves time to be fully appreciated. I’m  intending to go back in two weeks time, when James comes to visit so I can finally see the Castel dos Mouros and return to my absolute favourite for him to appreciate too, Quinta da Regaleira.

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Quinta da Regaleira when i visited in March

We arrived in Sintra at 3:30pm and bought some tasty queijadas (pastries from Sintra) from a pastry shop on the walk from the train station. We decided to go to the Pálacio Nacional de Sintra, the palace in the town center which is characterised by its two very big, white chimneys. We ideally wanted to go to the Castelo dos Mouros, but we would have had to go up the hill to the Castelo, come down for dinner and then go back up again for the Pálacio da Pena later on, so this plan seemed more ideal.

The Castelo dos Mouros on the hilltop

Sintra

Like almost everywhere it seems in Sintra, entry for the Pálacio Nacional de Sintra was not cheap (10€) and there was no student price. The Pálacio Nacional does not take long to look around and it would be a dissapointment to visit if you were to compare it to the likes of the Pálacio da Pena on the hill, which is simply magnificent. If you have only a short visit to Sintra, I would not include this on the itinerary, as Pena and Quinta da Regaleira are much more enjoyable.

Pálacio Nacional de Sintra

After our visit to the palace, it was time for an early dinner. Sintra is extremely touristy and there are plenty of places to eat. We opted for a small restaurant where I ate Bacalhau à Lagareiro, my favourite Portuguese cod dish, which has onions, garlic, potatos and which in this instance was swimming in olive oil!

So. much. olive. oil!

The main attraction of going to Sintra yesterday (04/07/15) was for a charity evening being run at the Pálacio da Pena for the Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Sintra. Yesterday evening, the Pálacio da Pena was exceptionally open from 8pm-midnight in solidarity for this charity. The usual entrance fee of 14€ was waivered, instead tents were set up outside the entrance to the Palace which housed food banks and a donation of foodstuffs allowed you free entry!

I just handed over a can of chopped tomatos I had brought from my kitchen, but if you didn’t bring anything, you were able to give a donation of 3€.

Beautiful even in the fog

Thousands of people turned up for the event – thousands! We expected there to be a lot of people trying to get to the Palace, so instead of waiting until 8pm to get the free bus from the Train Station, we took a tuk tuk from the town center which climbed up the hair-raisingly steep and winding road. The traffic to get there was a nightmare, there were obviosully a lot of locals from the region who had come for the event and were trying to park near the palace. The event had been soley advertised in Portuguese, not English, and maybe this explains why we heard hardly anyone at all speak any language other than Portuguese all evening/saw any tourists.

By the time we reached near the palace, we noticed there was already a queue forming all the way up the road to get in! We jumped out of the tuk tuk and joined the queue which managed to move very quickly. It wasn’t long before we were inside the palace grounds, climbing up to the fairytale palace.

Me in the palace gardens

The weather turned out to be just as foggy as it had been as when I visited in March. The fog makes the park and palace seem to be surrounded in some magical mist…

Fog over the palace gardens!

Me at the Pálacio da Pena

We waited until sunset for the lights to go on, but we couldn’t really see the sunset as it was so foggy and cloudy. By this point, the grounds were heaving with people and it was difficult to move around. We ended up walking back down to catch a bus to the train statiion at 10pm. All the way down through the palace grounds, we went past the longest queue of people waiting to get inside! It was absolute madness. We found another queue for the free bus which came every 20 minutes, but there were already so many people waiting for it, we would have had to have waited at least an hour to get on one, and we were worried about missing the last train back to Lisbon.

Suddenly, another tuk tuk came around the corner and we managed to secure a ride before anyone could even think of getting the idea. We descended the winding road amongst loads of traffic. Some people were even walking down the road, without any street lights on! It was very dangerous, many even had small children and babies in push-chairs which was insane but, that’s Portugal for you, I guess?

Overall, I had a wonderful afternoon and evening exploring more of Sintra and I’m looking forward to returning very soon.

Até breve,

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Sintra: An Enchanting World

After focusing my three previous posts on Lisbon, Belém and fado, I’m excited to finally share with you the ultimate highlight of my weekend in Lisbon – a day trip to Sintra. Filled with beautiful sights, colours and textures, surrounded by nature and many opportunities for adventure, Sintra encapsulates my version of perfection.

Me in the forest /Pena Palace gardens

It is such a picturesque and beautiful place, despite the fog and overcast sky on the day we visited, it just made Sintra all the more magical. It felt like we had stepped into an other-worldly place. All of the buildings you walk past seem to have been lost in time, with moss crawling all over them. I would happily go back there, I didn’t really want to leave in the first place…

After arriving at the train station in Sintra from Rossio (45 min journey, 4€ return ticket), we hopped on a round-trip bus (5€) to head to the Pálacio da Pena. It felt a bit pricey, but as we had a limited amount of time to see everything we wanted in a day, it was a better option than walking, also bearing in mind that the palace is on top of a very big hill!

The gardens of the Pena Palace

The gardens of the Pena Palace

Pálacio da Pena in the fog

Pálacio da Pena in the fog

We were very disappointed that there was no reduced entry fee for EU students to the Pena Palace and had to pay the full rate of 11.50€. You can pay a reduced rate to just enter the gardens and outside of the Palace, but you do not have access into the interior. However once inside, it felt like the cost of the entry fee didn’t even matter because it was so beautiful and worth the money. The palace showcases a mix of styles of Romanticism and it is basically a very colourful, fairytale castle.

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Me in the gardens

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The exterior

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Moorish arches

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Courtyard inside the palace

Courtyard inside the palace

Courtyard inside the palace

Before it became the beautiful palace as it is known today, the site served as a monastery, however it was in ruins after the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. Despite this, the chapel avoided serious damaged and if you pay to enter the palace, you can see it for yourself.

Afterwards, we got the bus back to the town centre and walked to the second place we wanted to visit in Sintra: Quinta da Regaleira. There was reduced entry fee for students here (4€) which made me happy.

If there is one thing you must do whilst in Sintra, it is to visit Quinta da Regaleira. It is simply not possible to go to Sintra and not go here – the highlight of the highlight of my trip. We explored the caves, tunnels, pathways, towers. Every way you turn there is a photo opportunity. What has been created here is very special and it is easy to spend all day exploring the estate.

There are many more things to see in Sintra, such as the Moorish Castle, Monserrate Palace and the Sintra National Palace but you need several days if you wish to see more of Sintra. I’ll leave you with some pictures of Quinta da Regaleira, which will hopefully show some of its magic:

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Was this inspiration for Pan’s Labyrinth or something?!

IMG_0817 IMG_0828 IMG_0857What are your thoughts on Sintra?

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