I know you probably don’t want to leave Lisbon at all, but trust me, you won’t regret this little side trip. In Sintra you can explore more than 10 national monuments including palaces, ancient ruins, decorative houses, nice gardens, and a quaint town which are spread out on the hills of the region. Sintra is a classified UNESCO World Heritage Site and with the highlights being Castelo dos Mouros, the Pena National Palace, the Sintra National Palace, and Quinta de Regaleira.
Castelo dos Mouros is an ancient ruined castle which is perched high up the hill and has become the center piece for the grounds of the Pena Palace (entrance fee: 8 Euros; doors open at 9:30am). From the wall of the castle you will enjoy amazing panoramic views over Sintra and the surrounding region.
The monument that stands out the most is probably the colorful Pena Palace (entrance fee: 14 Euros; doors open at 9:30am). It is placed at one of the highest points of Sintra and looks very Disney-esque.
The Sintra National Palace is the former royal palace of Sintra and became the summer residence of the Portuguese royal family (entrance fee: 10 Euros; doors open at 9:30am).
Due to time constraints, we decided to give our priority to the Quinta da Regaleira which features a 20th century residence and an elaborate garden filled with mystic symbolism, secret tunnels, Gothic towers, and stone fortified walls (entrance fee: 6 Euros; doors open at 10am). We left Lisbon around 8:00 am and had a little bit of spare time to check out Sintra before we walked to the entrance of the Quinta da Regaleira. In fact, we were one of the first visitors on the grounds and headed straight uphill to the Initiation Well to enjoy the tranquility at the top sight before exploring the rest of the garden and sculptures. This gave us enough time to take some pictures before the crowd came in. Keep in mind the rest of the garden is spectacular and you can easily spend 1-2 hours here.
How to get to Sintra:
From Lisbon Rossio station Sintra is less than one hour train ride away (runs every 15 minutes; 4.30 Euro for the return ticket). You can easily do this by yourself and don’t need to join a tour group nor do you need to get the expensive tourist bus in Sintra. Once you get off the train you will find yourself wandering through the cute and sleepy (in the mornings) town.
If you are short on time and want to see the westernmost point of mainland Europe – Cabo da Roca – and check out a nice beach town to relax, follow me.
Cabo da Roca
Just go back down to the train station and take the next Scotturb bus #403 towards Cascais (about every 30min, check the Scotturb website for the schedule and prices). The ride to Cabo da Roca takes about 45min and you will get off near the tremendous cliffs, the monument, and lighthouse. It was pretty windy and cool when we got there and we walked along the Cliffside to get a few nice pictures of the coast.
Since there is not too much else to see and do there, we hopped on the next bus going further to Cascais. This is the most popular beach town near Lisbon which features a boardwalk, shops and a nice pedestrian area. The scenic ride from Cabo da Roca takes about another hour. We wandered around this cute coastal town with its little shops and enjoyed a snack at the beach. There is a nice boardwalk which takes you to some other beaches closer to Lisbon. Relax at the Estoril beach and have a nice coffee or ice cream with a view. If you are brave enough you can also go for a swim before you head back to Lisbon for the evening (take the train to Cais do Sodré station, departing every 20 minutes). You can also take the train to Carcavelos to see the favorite beach of the Lisbon locals and check out the hot surfers. It’s absolutely worth going to any of these beaches to relax a bit while exploring Lisbon!
What to bring:
- Light jacket you can wear when it gets windy up on the hills of Sintra or at Cabo da Roca
- Small beach towel and beach wear if you like
- Lots of water if you plan to hike up the hills at Sintra
- Sunscreen & hat
- Some small snacks for the road!
Other useful resources: http://www.sintra-portugal.com