Everyone we talked to about Lisbon before we went said we had to go to Sintra, and after having been there, we agree! This was a highlight of the trip. Sintra is a town about 40 minutes away from Lisbon by train and is the site of several castles. It was the go to spot for the aristocracy for their vacation homes.
We got up bright and early and headed to Rossio station to catch the train.
We arrived early on purpose to get a good start to the day but we were a little too early for the bus, so we popped into one of the cafes for second breakfast.
I read lots of different suggestions for how to do Sintra in one day and this is what we ended up doing in case you're interested - once you arrive, buy a one way ticket on the 434 bus driver (head left when you get out of the train station) and take it up to the Palace of Pena. We spent about 3 hours there and then we walked to the Moorish Castle. From there we walked down the mountain trail to the Quinta da Regaleira, a walk that took about 30 minutes. We then walked back to the train station to go back to Lisbon for supper. We bought our tickets to Pena and the Moorish castles online beforehand and just got the Quinta ones at the gate since we were not sure if we would make it to that one.
First stop was the Palace of Pena. This was built by the Portuguese royal family in the late 1800s. Then they were forced to flee during the revolution. The property was then taken over by the state and became a national park. It is like a fairy tale castle, which makes sense since the prince who transformed from the ruins of an old monastery was German and inspired by the traditional Disney World type castles you see there.
The pathway up to the castle.
The cobblestone paths went on forever, all over the property.
Such pretty colours and designs, and look at the blue sky too!
Views for days.
The inner courtyard inside the palace.
The ceilings were something all on their own
The Queen's private secretary's bedroom.
And the Queen's bedroom ceiling.
Christmas tree in the great hall. Apparently this is the family that brought the German tradition of decorating a fir tree for Christmas to Portugal.
A model of the entire palace.
One of the kitchens.
Original chapel from the monastery
Then we headed out to walk through the park itself. Wikipedia tells me the park is 200 hectares if that means anything to you. We walked for 2 hours and still didn't cover the whole thing. It was beautiful and very well kept. I'm not sure if I would have enjoyed it as much if it had been 30 degrees and full of people, but it was quite pleasant for us and we barely saw anyone.
Bad lighting on us, but you can see the castle in the background; this is where the queen would come and sit.
The High Cross
Then back down some really neat paths.
The Queen's fern garden
Over at the Moorish Castle we set up our picnic - chorizo, cheese, salmon pate, buns, beer, and some tarts.
This little bird was looking for some crumbs.
The Moorish castle was quite different from the Pena one. Here it is just the remnants of the castle walls to walk around, but it has been very well preserved.
The town of Sintra below.
From there we walked down on a great trail to town. We saw people walked up this same trail and it looked tough, but the way down was easy and scenic.
Looking back up at the Moorish Castle
This is a rock climbing area.
Onto the Quinta da Regaleira. This palace was built by a wealthy aristocrat, so not royalty. It was beautiful but in a different way than Pena. It was not on the mountain but had some lovely grounds.
The famous well
The way out is through a long dark tunnel
And then you get to walk over these stepping stones.
The tennis courts.
We were up there!!
The palace itself.
There was a piano concert going on inside which all seemed very civilized but we did not stay to listen.
We caught the train home and after a quick stop at home, we went back to the Time Out Market to try a few other things. We had some oysters and clams at one of the seafood places. The clams were very tasty but the oysters were not great. Nothing wrong with them but no presentation or accoutrements (again, I think we are spoiled with how we are usually served oysters).
Then some meat and bread.
Followed by some pad thai of all things, but it was plenty of food and neat to try a variety of different things.
See our first days in Lisbon here.
Tomorrow we finish off Lisbon and head to Barcelona