Planning your trip to Sintra, Portugal and looking for things to do once there? We took a day trip from Lisbon to Sintra and here’s our list of top things we’ve done. We hope that you’ll find something to add to your own itinerary from this list as well!
Just an hour and a half train ride away from Lisbon, Portugal lies one of the most gorgeous marvels of the world, Sintra. This small town is known for its stunning landscape and a number of spectacular palaces. Once home for the nobles of Portugal, now it’s one of the greatest attractions in the country.
It’s said that you have to visit Sintra even if just for one day if you’re ever in Lisbon. We tend to agree with that as we definitely don’t regret going there for a day’s trip. And in just a moment you will see why.
Explore Mystical Fountains and Waterfalls
The first thing that will charm you about the town, besides it’s beautiful hilly landscape, is the serene presence of nature in its parks and gardens. More than that, there’s quite a number of fountains and basins (often adorned in Azulejos, of course) that are seemingly ripped right of a fairy tale.
Combine that with beautiful vistas on just about any hill around the corner of narrow streets, and you get a trip to remember for a long long time.
Find the Perfect Panoramic View
The picture above is a panoramic view of the Moorish castle – one of the four main castles in Sintra. The landscape is absolutely stunning, I’ll say that again and again.
Take a Relaxing Walk in the Lush Parks and Gardens
While access to Sintra’s palaces is paid (all worth the small fee), there are public parks with a lot to offer still. You can walk through some of the many paths overgrown in lush greenery – a really delightful and serene experience on a hot summer day.
Discover Some of the Most Awe Inspiring Ruins of Old Palaces
The clash of the nature, history and civilization is truly wondrous in these parks. You can find remnants of great palaces and castles all over the place.
Explore the Mystical Gardens of Quinta de Regaleira
One of the more impressive palaces is Quinta de Regaleira. It features the extravagant Gothic mansion and probably the most elaborate and impressive gardens in Sintra.
Explore the Caves of the Quinta de Regaleira Gardens
There’s a number of natural caves and secret passages throughout the gardens that you can explore. Some of them lead to beautiful waterfalls and basins that are must-see.
Discover the Mystical Religious Symbols
Walk through Quinta de Regaleira gardens to enjoy the impressive greenery, Gothic fortifications, religious symbols and series of caves with secret passages. There’s a lot to take in and you are sure to leave the place with a sense of wonder.
Climb Up the Initiation Wells
The caves lead to the pinnacle of interest in these gardens which is the Initiation Wells (Poço Iniciáticoin). These wells were never used for water storage but instead for initiation rituals. The bigger one consists of nine platforms with flights of stairs that allude to Dante’s nine circles of hell in Divine Comedy. It is said that climbing up the stairs through the spiral of the well from the bottom into the light is like finding the way to one’s self. Whether that’s true or not, climbing the stairs is quite an experience. Just be careful if you’re even a tad claustrophobic!
Discover the Fairy-tale-like Pena Palace
The Pena Place has to be the most beautiful and inspiring of all the palaces of Sintra. It’s like it was taken from a fantasy painting and placed right there on the hill. The variety of colors of the palace contrast with the surrounding greenery so well. It’s such a sight to see from up close and from far away…
You can climb the walls and towers of the palace as well as visit the interiors – all of which are remarkable.
The panoramic views of surrounding mountains and the Atlantic ocean are also something else to see from the top of the palace.
The chapel of the Pena Palace has one of the most beautiful mosaic icons you’ll ever see. It only adds to its enchanting beauty.
Get Lost in the Seemingly Endless Gardens of Pena Palace
But you’re not going to the Pena Place only for the building – it is surrounded with the biggest park in Sintra and what an impressive par it is! While the palace is the major tourist attraction, which is almost always crowded, you can walk further away and get lost in the stunning greenery that the park has to offered. But don’t worry – there’s a map.
You will stumble across mystical temples, religious symbols, gardens and series of paths that are so much fun to wander through.
Climb Up to the High Cross
Perhaps the most interesting monument that you can come across in Park Pena is the High Cross located at the highest point of the mountain at 540 meters. It’s a bit of a trip to get there but the travel is as much worth it as the destination.
Once there, you’ll get the best panoramic views of the palace as well as the surrounding mountains. The monument of the High Cross is also a sight to see, though now it’s just a replica of the real thing from the 16th century (it was shattered by lightning some time ago).
So that’s Sintra – stunningly beautiful and absolutely enchanting. Personally, it was the best part of our trip to Portugal for me, yet it’s only a small part of it – you really need more than one day to see what this gem of a town has to offer.