I’m so excited about this post! When we were planning our Portugal trip, there was one place at the top of my list- Sintra. I passed through it on my first trip to Lisbon but didn’t have time to see anything, so I was itching to get back.
I planned out each day of our trip based on the weather, so I picked a sunny day for our day trip to Sintra.
We hopped on the train from Lisbon to Sintra. The ride is only about 45 minutes and the train station is smack dab in the middle of the village. We just started walking until we saw a sign that pointed towards our destination- the castles.
Sintra was a playground for Portugal’s royal family and elite nobles. There are several palaces and castles dotting the mountains around the village, so bring your hiking shoes! We dressed for the occasion (make sure to always do your research) and took advantage of the mountain trails leading up to some of the castles.
We visited the National Palace of Sintra, the Moorish Castle, and the Pena Palace. We started with the National Palace since it sits right in the heart of the village on the main square.
Do I need a swan ceiling in my dining room? Now I do!
The National Palace was the most-used home in Sintra, and was inhabited from the 15th century up until 1910 when the Portuguese monarchy fell.
The main square in Sintra, with the Moorish Castle overlooking the village from the mountaintop!
I gasped when we walked into this room; blue and white tiles combined with a gilded and vaulted ceiling? My absolute dream!
More blue and white heaven!
After the palace and a quick stop for bacalhau, we started our hike up the mountain to the Moorish Castle and the Pena Palace. If you aren’t feeling the hour-long hike up to the top, you can take a taxi or a bus to the castles on the mountain top. Since we came prepared, we opted to hike the trail, and ended up finishing in about 45 minutes even with stopping to take pictures every few minutes.
Views from the trail.
We were very surprised to see these when we reached the gates of the Moorish Castle! Archaeologists had dug up a few graves around the area, and they have a glass top so you can see their work (I’m pretty sure the skeletons on display are fake, but they gave us quite a shock!).
The Moorish Castle, or Castelo dos Mouros, was constructed by Muslim Moors in the 9th century as a fortress. It has some of the best panoramic views of all of Sintra, and you can see all the way to the sea in some places.
See that white tower? That’s the National Palace, where we started!
You can wander the walls of the castle and get even more amazing views of the area. If you are afraid of heights, just be aware that most of the castle walls are very low, and the path can get slippery, so watch your step!
The Pena Palace in the distance. We hiked to this one next!
As we were hiking from the Moorish Castle to Pena (it’s less than 10 minutes), it started to rain. Thankfully, most of the Pena Palace is indoors (unlike the Moorish, which is entirely outdoors and would have been extra scary walking on wet stones!), so we kept going.
The Pena Palace felt like it was inside a cloud with the rain and fog.
The Pena Palace was built at different times, so each part of the palace looks distinctly different and is decorated in bright colors.
While I would have loved to see the palace in the sunshine and explore more, it was still beautiful.
If you are in Lisbon for more than a few days, you have to visit Sintra. You can definitely see more than 3 castles in a day- we had planned to visit one more, but the weather didn’t want to cooperate.
Got questions about things to do in Sintra or other day trips from Lisbon? Let me know in the comments!