Sintra, a quaint Portugese town set amidst Serra de Sintra mountains, is known for its fairy-tale palaces, Romanticism style of architecture, vast gardens and thickly wooded forests.
And a fairy-tale land Sintra is! With its abundant colorful and quirky castles and palaces, its old town’s winding alleys, and its green surroundings, Sintra has all the charms of a magical place. I went there in December, and was amazed to find brilliant autumn colors which simply added to the beauty. Sintra is usually a day trip from Lisbon, but it can easily keep one busy for 2-3 days – there is just so much to see here. It is best known for its palaces, and the most popular ones include:
1) Palacio Nacional
2) Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish castle)
3) Palacio da Pena (Pena Palace)
4) Quinta da Regaleira
5) Monserrate Palace
With only a day at hand, we decided on Quinta da Regaleria and Pena palace. From Sintra’s train station, we chose to do the 20 min walk to the town center instead of taking a bus.
First stop: Quinta da Regaleira. Surprisingly, it isn’t as popular as Moorish castle or Pena Palace. I wonder why that is, because the moment I stepped in, I felt I had transported to another era. Quinta da Regalera is an estate house characterized by vast grounds, Gothic towers, ponds, secret tunnels, wells, a chapel and plenty of hidden symbolism. The overcast sky and light fog added to the atmosphere. See where I am going? I had found my playground for the day.
I lost myself within the grounds, and by the time I realised it, it was too late for Pena palace! The little time we had left, we wandered around in the cute old town of Sintra.
Do make Quinta da Regaleira a stop when in Sintra, and try to spend at least 2-3 hours here. It will be an enchanting experience and give a nice flavor of the Romanticism of Sintra.
Sintra is very well connected to Lisbon with regular services. Best way to reach is via the train which is a 40-45 min journey. Trains depart regularly from Lisbon’s Rossio station which is quite centrally located. I was there in December, so did not face crowds, but its best to start off early in summers. Once at Sintra train station, there are bus services to take people to the town center. If possible, skip the bus and do the 15-20 min walk instead.