Portugal’s Must-See: From Moorish Castles to Romantic Palaces in Sintra

Be it for a day-trip or even better a longer stay, Sintra, Portugal, is a captivating destination. Renowned for its enchanting natural landscapes, historical monuments, and architectural wonders, we highly recommend visiting Sintra as part of your Portuguese journey. It is an ideal choice, especially for active travelers seeking a blend of culture, history, and scenic beauty. Make sure to wear good footwear and be ready for quite the workout. But trust us, it’s all worth it.

Getting to Sintra by Train

Sintra is easily accessible by train from Lisbon, with regular services departing from Lisbon’s Rossio Station. The journey offers a comfortable and scenic route, taking approximately 40 minutes, and allows travelers to immerse themselves in the picturesque views of the Portuguese countryside before arriving in the heart of Sintra. The town itself is also worth exploring, although if you’re short on time, we suggest to head to the palace first.

Sintra’s Historical Allure

Sintra’s history is rich and multifaceted, with its roots stretching back to the Moorish era. The town’s cultural landscape is a testament to various periods, from medieval times to the Romantic era, each leaving an indelible mark on its architecture and gardens.

Pena Palace: A Jewel in Sintra’s Crown

One of Sintra’s most iconic landmarks is the Pena Palace (Palácio da Pena), perched atop a hill in the Sintra Mountains. This 19th-century masterpiece is one of the finest examples of Romanticist architecture in Portugal, blending Moorish, Manueline, and Gothic elements. The palace’s vibrant colors, intricate details, and the surrounding Pena Park, with its exotic plants and hidden paths, offer a unique and immersive experience.

A Brief History

The palace’s origins date back to a monastery built in the 16th century, which was later transformed by King Ferdinand II into the lavish palace seen today. This transformation was driven by the king’s creative vision and love for art, making the palace a personal project that reflected his Romantic spirit.

Why Visit Sintra and Its Palaces

Visiting Sintra and its palaces is a journey through time, offering a glimpse into Portugal’s rich history and cultural heritage. The blend of architectural styles, stunning landscapes, and the serene atmosphere makes it a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Sintra provides a unique opportunity to explore fairy-tale palaces, lush gardens, and ancient castles, all within a setting that feels like it’s straight out of a storybook.

Our Insider Expertise

As travel experts who have explored more than 80 countries, including the charming town of Sintra, we share these highlights with the hope that they enrich your travel experience. While we’ve touched on some of Sintra’s marvels here, our very special places and insider tips are reserved for our Inside Europe travelers, ensuring that their journey is nothing short of extraordinary.

Embarking on a day trip to Sintra is not just about visiting a destination; it’s about experiencing the magic and history that make it truly unforgettable. We invite you to explore Sintra’s wonders and discover why it’s a cherished part of Portugal’s cultural and natural heritage.

Don’t make the mistake of visiting Sintra when everyone else does. This top Portuguese destination gets very very crowded. Our insider travel tip is to either be among the first to enter or visit Sintra’s palaces two hours to 90 minutes before closing.

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