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Portugal! Our trip in progress...Sintra

Sintra! Our trip in progress...

My daughter and I arrived to Lisbon last Thursday morning and spent 3 wonderful nights in Sintra. We stayed at the Tivoli Sintra Hotel conveniently located right across from the National Palace. Our room was spacious and it had a small balcony overlooking the verdant hills beyond. The staff were friendly and helpful, and the breakfast was truly delicious and hearty.

I’d considered visiting the Pena Palace the day after our arrival, however, after a nice “power nap” [borrowed from Ken (Vernon, B.C.] we were ready to explore this picturesque place in the late afternoon of our arrival day.

We boarded bus #434 right across from the National Palace. The bus became super crowded, fortunately we boarded in time to get some seats but the rest of the standing passengers were packed like sardines!
The bus makes a loop from the city center to the train station, then to a stop near the Castle of the Moors, and lastly to the Pena Palace. One can buy tickets from the driver (€3.90 pp each way).
When we arrived to the Pena Palace at around 4:20pm, there wasn’t a line at the entrance —
a great start to our trip.

Although I’d booked our tickets online (good idea in general), I bought tickets for the small shuttle that takes you to the entrance of the palace. We could have walked up the hill but we were still suffering from jet lag.

The Pena Palace has been described as a fairytale castle, and it definitely looks like one.
While touring the castle, I felt like we were transported back in time. The castle’s exterior is definitely more impressive than its interior but we enjoyed visiting both areas.
We only visited part of the gardens because the weather had become very windy and cold. When walking around the castle walls, the wind was blowing so fiercely that we felt like we would be blown away!
We spent a couple of hours touring this beauty of a castle.

Once back in our hotel, I contacted my friend Chani, and we decided to get together for dinner.
When we arrived to INComum,
We didn’t have reservations but fortunately they had a corner table for the 3 of us. We befriended the nice couple sitting at the table next to ours, and decided to order what they had ordered because it looked so delicious and they reassured us that it was.

As expected, our meal was absolutely scrumptious. Our best meal to date here in Portugal.

After dinner we took a taxi back to our hotel and we slept like rocks.

Day 2] After breakfast the following morning, we walked to Quinta da Regaleira, an enchanting place with winding cobbled roads surrounded by greenery everywhere. There are beautiful stone castle towers, a magical well with a spiraling stairway down to dark winding tunnels that lead to a cascade and stepping stones over a small pond.
This is such an amazing place! We felt like we were in an enchanted forest (imagine being in the enchanted forest described in the Chronicles of Narnia books). We spent a couple of hours exploring this magical place.

Be forewarned, this place is immense! When I stared at the map we got with our tickets, I felt so overwhelmed that I went back and asked which way we should start. The young man at the ticket counter suggested walking up to the (unfinished) well (the exterior looks like a pile of large stones) stopping at the various sights along the way, then going down into the well and taking the tunnel that leads to the water cascade. There are signs to the well (Poço), but once you’re down in the tunnels, just follow the others- that’s what we did anyway. Once at the cascade, we took the winding trails down to the small chapel and ended our tour at the palace.
[Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes]

Please note: If you’re referring to RS book, note that the entrance (and ticket office) is located uphill from the mansion.

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Continued....

We then enjoyed a delicious lunch on the terrace of the Hotel Lawrence located just down the road from the Quinta.
The restaurant terrace overlooks a beautiful verdant forest and we enjoyed our food as the tree branches danced with the soft breeze.

After lunch we browsed through the many souvenir shops then walked over to the National Palace at around 4pm (to avoid the large tour crowds). The exterior of this palace is very simple, but the interior holds beautiful rooms and treasured ceramic tiles lining the walls like wallpaper. The kitchen was very interesting because it was specifically designed so the chef could roast a couple of pigs, or a whole cow on the spit (indoors!), and thus the need for the two great smoke stacks.

Unfortunately the gardens were being renovated so we couldn’t visit them.

By dinner time we were too tired, so we walked over to Café Vila on Plaça da República where we shared a good bowl of soup, a caprese salad, and a basket of fresh bread. Our bill was delivered with a couple of shots of Ginjinha.
My daughter tasted it and liked it. She mentioned that it was much better than the one she’d tried the day before at a pastry shop on the main street; that one “tasted like cough syrup” she’d said.

We went to bed early and slept well once again.

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Day 3] - What else is there to see in Sintra?
We took bus (#434) to the Castle of the Moors.
The stone trail that leads to the entrance of the castle is very pleasant as it’s shaded with large trees.
Upon entering the castle ruins, we followed RS recommendation and visited the castle in a counterclockwise direction.
The views from the castle are stunning!
It gets very windy up there so plan accordingly! Some young women were wearing dresses or skirts and I’m sure they’d wished they’d worn pants and a jacket!

I’d read about walking down the hill to Vila Sassetti so we started our descent which was much steeper than expected. At the start of the trail, there are a series of steep steps then the dirt trail continues down all the way to the Vila. I forgot how long the trail was but we hiked down for what seemed like an eternity. The scenery is amazing as you trek through the verdant woods.

TIP:If you want to see this small yet beautiful Vila (exterior only) save your legs and walk there from the city center instead.

Once back in town we took bus 435 (bus stop just past Hotel Lawrence) to the beautiful Monserrate Palace.

By the time we arrived and began walking down the stone trail, my old arthritic hip bones were telling me that I’d walked enough for one day. I think it was all the downhill hiking that did me in.

The Monserrate palace is an amazing sight, and we enjoyed all the lovely intricate details of Moorish- Gothic- Indian architectures. The gardens are extensive but we skipped them due to my aching bones.

While waiting for the bus, in front of the entrance to the palace grounds, a white car stopped in front of us, and the driver said; “taxi?”
I shook my head and said, “no, gracias”
He hesitated a minute, then he drove off.
I asked my daughter if she’d realized that the car was not an official taxi. It’s a good thing I knew not to take it!
The 435 bus finally arrived but it was completely full. We had to stand the whole time as the driver zoomed along the LONG round about way back to Sintra. Looking at a map, it looks like we drove on the N375, then connected to the N247 and ended up near the train station where everyone got off except us. The driver then told us he was taking a 20” break before continuing his route.

By this time we were tired and hungry so we decided to have another great meal, and returned to our favorite restaurant, INComum.

Next... Évora!

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The Quinta da Regaleira was my favorite thing in Sintra. The Pena Palace itself is unique and looks like something out of a fairy tale, for sure, but it is like eye candy. (I didn't go inside.) The Quinta da Regaleira is more interesting and takes more time to digest.

I thought the garden around the Pena Palace was kind of a waste of time. The palace itself is very worth seeing, though, of course.

Glad you had no line at the entrance to Pena Palace! I did exactly the opposite: showed up in the morning with no advanced ticket and had to wait in line - ugh.

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4622 posts

Hi Andrew!

The Quinta da Regaleira became our favorite place too! We took so many photos and videos!

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644 posts

Thanks, Priscilla, for the trip report in progress. Sounds like you are off to a great start! Take care of your hip and watch those downhill slopes! (I take baby steps while walking down hills.). I have to ask....how long was your power nap?

Enjoy your trip!

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Hi Christine!

We were so sleep deprived when we arrived to our hotel (24 hours after leaving LAX) that we slept for about three hours. When the alarm went off we didn’t want to get up but I knew we’d be wide awake in the middle of the night if we didn’t!
So we forced ourselves out of bed and once outside we were fine for a few hours.

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3789 posts

Thanks for thinking about the RS folks at home and writing as you go. Sintra sounds lovely in the Spring(summer). I was there in December on a last minute cruise excursion and with a gamey foot. It sounds like you found lodgings on a somewhat flatter area. We spent most of our time near the National Palace. The little alleys with shops were pretty wet and slippery. I can imagine it being problematic for any one with mobility issues. I was quite in awe of the big stacks on the Palace. I was surprised to know they were kitchen chimneys.....never seen any that big, but I guess cooking whole animals for an entire palace lends itself to good smoke ventilation.

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151 posts

This all sounds enchanting! I will be there in August . Unfortunately, my friend booked an AirBnB in Lisbon for the full 5 days so it looks like we have one day in Sintra to explore. Just curious, if given 2 places to see which would you see. I would imagine we will stay into the evening. Reading your trip report is getting me so excited! Thank you for taking the time to share your adventures.

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4622 posts

Victoria,
If I only had time to see two places in Sintra, I’d choose the Pena Palace (buy tickets in advance online), and Quinta da
Regaleira.
Having said this, if you’re planning to stay all day, you may have time to also visit the National Palace.

Do consider ending your day with a memorable meal at INComum restaurant (reservations required)

Wishing you a wonderful trip!

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Maria,

Thanks for mentioning the slippery sloping alleys!
I agree, they were slippery even when dry!

I forgot to mention a couple of other useful tips:

  • Make sure you try the “Travesseiros” [Portuguese for “pillow”] at Piriquita II
    (sister to Casa Piriquita but not as crowded) We enjoyed a couple of these sweet treats one afternoon. These sweet pastries are airy and flaky and their center is soft and tasty.

  • A good way to avoid the slippery cobbled alley “Rua das Padarias, (if you want to get to Piriquita II) is to walk up via the flat stairs knowns as “Escadinhas Félix Nunes” (check Google maps to see what I mean)

    • ATMs - Most ATMs in Portugal have a maximum withdrawal limit of €200. However, the ATM located within the main TI office in Sintra has a limit of €400.
    • Public bathroom- There’s one inside the main TI office in Sintra (costs €0.50)

Ciao!

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1952 posts

Oh, Priscilla! Now how I wished my traveling friends and I had planned on a longer stay than just a day trip to Sintra! It sounds so enticing and I appreciate all the information. I am cutting and pasting for my October Portugal trip. Thank you for this and I have all your Portugal posts bookmarked. I know you are having a great time!

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Spent 3 nights in Sintra last month and agree it is wonderful, especially when you can take your time. My daughter and SIL rented one of the little jeeps and cruised all over, following the programmed gps routes. They are based on an old mini cooper car and you can park it close to the palaces or other attractions.

If anyone is looking for inexpensive, filling food, keep walking past the train station main entrance into the residential area. About 2 blocks up on the left is a bakery/cafe. A bowl of good tomato soup and a melted ham and cheese sandwich was 6.50Euro, another 6 E for a bottle of house red. The sandwich could have feed 2 people.

It's too bad you couldn't wander through the park at Monserrate. Like Pena, it had a Fern Valley that was quite serene, and an old church looking building that was being devoured by a rubber tree. After Quinta da Regaleira, it was our favorite stop. Pena would be third (didn't go inside), Moors fourth.

Thanks for posting. I only have 6 cherries left in my bottle of Ginja liquor that I'm saving until all the kids are home. Going to have to go back for more....

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681 posts

Priscilla,
Thanks for planning my trip. Yours sounds incredible-another bookmark.