Sintra makes a perfect daytrip from Lisbon. Joel and I would have missed out on this amazing place if it wasn’t for traveling with our friends. Thanks A & J!
About the Area
Sintra is a resort town in the mountains about 40 minutes west of Lisbon towards the Atlantic coast. (To get there from Lisbon you will need to drive.) There are a lot of things to see in the area and we spent about five hours exploring Pena Palace and the Castelo dos Mouros. You could easily spend a weekend here, there is so much to see and do.
Our first stop was Pena Palace, a stunning almost Disney-like castle that sits in the mountains above the town of Sintra. The palace started in medieval times as a tiny shrine to the Virgin Mary. It grew into a monastery in the 1400s, but was reduced to a ruin in the 1700s because of an earthquake.
In 1838, Queen Marie II of Portugal and her Prince Consort Ferdinand purchased the ruins and turned them into the spectacular palace we see today. Start with a walk along the walls. This gives you a sense of the size of the building and the elaborate decoration of the exterior. The views are stunning.
The inside of the palace has been almost completely restored (one courtyard was still being worked on during our visit) to its former glory. As you walk through the rooms they seem to start out impossibly grand, but they just keep getting more and more ornate. Nearly every surface is covered in tiles, frescos or carvings. It is incredible!
Castelo dos Mouros
After exploring the palace catch a tuk-tuk or hike over to Castelo dos Mouros, the hilltop Moorish Castle. It’s about a 20 minute walk. When you arrive you can wander around the reconstructed walls and towers of the castle built by the Moors in the 8th and 9th century. These walls and towers protected a monastery and village at one point in their history.
Today near the entrance there is an information and history center that blends into the lovely gardens filled with hydrangeas. Climb up to the towers and admire the amazing views. You can see the town of Sintra and Pena Palace.
You could easily spend days in Sintra to see all the sights. But you’ll definitely have plenty to fill a day with and it is well worth the short drive from Lisbon!