Today, some of my newfound hostel friends from the previous day and I decided to head out bright and early and catch a train to Sintra. This was, of course, after a hearty pancake breakfast at Lisboa Central, served up fresh for us by one of the kindly older Portuguese women the hostel staffs. [Seriously, Lisboa Central is out of this world.]
Sintra is one of the most popular day trips out of Lisbon, and it’s easy. Simply take one of the many trains that connect the two cities out of Rossio Station. [Try your best to get there as early as possible: the ticket lines can run a little long!] The roundtrip ticket is €4.30, and the train ride is approximately 40 minutes, with one leaving every half hour. We actually ended up missing our first train due to the lines, so again, try to get there early.
After arriving in Sintra, we walked around and started off with some pics in front of Sintra National Palace. One of the first things you notice about Sintra is how lush and green it is—the plantlife also feels distinctly tropical, so there’s this whole adventure movie vibe that I loved and fully embraced.
Anyway, while I did grab a pastel de nata to snack on while we hung around in front of the National Palace, we didn’t go and take a look around. The thing about Sintra is that it’s incredibly difficult to explore more than two of the castles, and more than three is pretty much impossible. Basically: prioritize, map out your plan, and budget your time wisely.
The walk to our first stop, Quinta da Regaleira, was a long one. There’s a €5.50 bus available that does a long loop that hits all of the major sights, but more on that later. If Quinta da Regaleira is your first stop, I highly recommend taking the hike, because it’s beautiful!
Entry to the grounds of Quinta da Regaleira is €6, which includes entrance to the inside of the palace. The ground are the main event, and they’re massive and kind of difficult to navigate, so make sure you grab one of their maps!
Quinta da Regaleira was the brainchild of an eccentric millionaire who commissioned it at the turn of the 20th century. It was purposefully designed to be as weird as possible while also incorporating some weird cult shit. My favorite kind of weird shit.
Running around the grounds highkey makes you feel like Indiana Jones—with all of that tropical plantlife and loads of tunnels and caves to crawl through and towers to climb, who wouldn’t feel like a daring adventurer?
The interior of the palace & chapel are also well worth a quick peek around, as they share the kooky aesthetic of the rest of the grounds.
Unfortunately, a lot of the most Instagrammable spots are at all hours of the day, but hey: if you’re me, you’ll hand your camera to a friend and pose anyway.
There are two wells on the grounds—the more famous Initiation Well, and its ugly cousin, the Unfinished Well. Both wells are connected by a damp tunnel, which is super fun to run through, although if you’re like us, you’ll quickly discover that they won’t let you back up the Initiation Well and have to walk back and go over land anyways.
Both wells were originally used for Tarot rituals, but their main purpose nowadays is to serve as the backdrop of every type of cheesy tourist photo imaginable. The stairs can get a little claustrophobic, so keep that in mind!
After Quinta da Regaleira, we grabbed some lunch at Hamburguer Real, which was neither too expensive nor too terrible. Then we grabbed the 434 bus to Pena Palace. That’s where we messed up. While the walk to Pena is admittedly long and we were running out of time, the idea we had was the same as pretty much every other visitor to Sintra that day, and the bus was so crowded that there was nowhere to sit, and my limbs were crushed every time the bus jolted. The ride from the city center to Pena was also ridiculously long. Nursing bruised bones and pride, we finally got off the bus and walked up the hill to the Palace.
A ticket onto the Pena grounds is €7. If you want to see the inside of the palace as well, it’s €14. Stick with the €7; the interior isn’t worth the doubled price.
Pena Palace started out as a chapel and somehow ended up looking like this. It’s one of Portugal’s most popular destinations for a reason; the unique architectural style and jewel-like colors can’t be properly expressed through a computer screen, but as you can tell, it’s stunning.
Like Quinta da Regaleira, they also let you climb around pretty much everywhere. Up here, however, the wind gets pretty strong and the heights are pretty frightening, so walking along the walls can be a nightmare. [Or, if you’re me, give you Mont Blanc flashbacks.]
Here’s some of the stuff you can see inside of the palace:
The interior design is pretty quirky & interesting, so if you accidentally sprang for the €14 ticket, don’t forget to get your money’s worth.
The views from the top of the mountain are amazing, by the way: you can see the Moorish Castle as well as that wonderful blanket of green and Lisbon in the distance, as well!
Have you ever been to Sintra? Do you have any tips for seeing it all in a day?