Sintra, the fairy tale city

On a visit to Portugal, after spending some time exploring the capital Lisbon, a day trip that should not be missed is to the city of Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Famous for its fairy tale palaces, it can be reached by train from Rossio Station in Central Lisbon in about 40 minutes.

View of Sintra's Pena Palace

Buildings in Sintra town center

Sintra railway station is about 15 minutes walk from the town center or, to save energy for climbing later, the bus 434 connects all the main sights for the price of a few Euros.

People walking towards Sintra National palace

View of Sintra National Palace

A blue building next to a church in Sintra

Arriving in the city’s main square, the first building that should be visited is the National Palace, easily recognizable by the two conical chimneys on top of it. Inside, the palace has been restored and number of rooms are opened to the public. After the visit to the National Palace,staying in the town center,a walk through the narrow streets of Sintra will offer the chance to discover many handicraft shops. Walking around this part of town, it is impossible to miss some rather peculiar stuffed dolls found sitting outside in every corner, resembling people watching the world go by.

A street in Sintra old town

People in a narrow street in Sintra

Butterflies decorating a wall outside a shop in Sintra

Archway and steps in Sintra

One of the famous stuffed dolls of Sintra

Other attractions in town worth a mention are the Toy Museum and the Fonte da Pipa with its beautiful azulejo panels.

View of Sintra Toy Museum

Azulejos on the Fonte da Pipa in Sintra

But the main attraction in Sintra, are its palaces:the Regaleira Palace and the Pena National Palace are the two most famous. A pastel extravaganza, perched on top of a hill with ornate towers and intricate lookouts, Pena National Palace is often compared to the Bavarian castles built by Ludwig II, although it was built before them.

Looking up at Sintra Pena National Palace

There is so much to see here both from outside and inside and, a walk around the extensive gardens around the palace, can also be included in the visit.

Colorful buildings and towers at Sintra Pena National Palace

One of the buildings of Sintra Pena National Palace

One of Pena National Palace buildings

One of Sintra Pena National Palace lookouts

Looking out from Sintra Pena National Palace

If you are not tired of climbing and want to enjoy a bird’s eye view of Sintra, a short uphill walk to the Moorish Castle will reward visitors with beautiful views of the buildings of the city in the distance. They include the Town Hall and a number of other palaces and villas dotted on the hills all around; hiking enthusiasts will enjoy the easy climb in the pristine surroundings, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, often crowded with tourists.

View of Sintra Moorish Castle

Climbing to the top of the Moorish Castle in Sintra

Aerial view of Sintra town center

View of the Town Hall in Sintra

One of Sintra many imposing buildings

Being such a famous tourist destination in Portugal, Sintra prices are slightly higher than in Lisbon, especially in the restaurants with heavy tourist presence around the main square. For visitors on a budget, a good option would be to stock up on food before arriving in the city and have a picnic.

Panoramic view of the Moorish Castle and Sintra town center


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