I should have named this article: ‘How I failed to see the many palaces of Sintra’, because that’s what happened. I had big plans for my daytrip to this historical village nearby Lisbon. Sintra is only a 45 minute train ride away from Lisbon, so it is an easy daytrip and one that was on top of my to do-list. So on a my last day in Lisbon I made my way to the Rossio station to catch my train to Sintra. I had five hours to explore the three major palaces of Sintra. This should be enough.
But it wasn’t. Things didn’t go the way I wanted them to go. Busses were full, I missed my stops and there were so many tourists crawling around. Instead of seeing three palaces, I only managed to see one. Fortunately, this was the major highlight of Sintra: Palácio da Pena. Some describe this palace as a fairytale-like structure that looks like something out of Disneyland. It actually isn’t a bad way to describe it, because I’ve never seen so many colors and shapes in one building.
Palácio da Pena (translation: Feather Palace) was the nineteenth century summerhouse of the Portuguese royal family. It was built on the ruins of a monastery that was destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. The artistic king Ferdinando II fell in love with the place and decided to buy the monastery and the estate surrounding it. As a gift from queen Maria II of Portugal to her husband the little monastery was transformed into an outrageous palace. The structure was built according to the style of that period of time: the German Romanticism. The perfect excuse of the architects and kings to let their fantasies become reality. The result is a fairytale-like palace that consists of a combination of the Gothic, Arabic and Portuguese Manuelino style. You will see an abundance of towers, round shapes and bright yellow and red colors.
And don’t forget about the picture-perfect location. High up on the hills of the Serra de Sintra the towers of Palácio da Pena parade. Behind the tilts you’ll get a panoramic view over the Portuguese countryside, the Atlantic Ocean and you will even see a small piece of Lisbon.
The village of Sintra
Okay, I haven’t seen all the palaces of Sintra, but I did see the village of Sintra. This small scenic village crawls its way around the hill Serra de Sintra. If you arrive by train in Sintra, you’ll will see the lowest part of village. I didn’t find the area around the station that interesting. So the best thing to do is to catch bus 434 to the historical centre. This is where the beauty starts. Small ascending streets and colorful houses that stand like a house of cards against the hill. And there is also a major palace in the centre of Sintra: the Palácio Nacional de Sintra. I only briefly saw this palace from the outside, so I cannot tell you much about it. The thing I did see is that the palace has kind of a striking feature: two major chimneys. Apparently the royal family did some proper cooking in the kitchen.
Speaking about cooking, Sintra has also its own special pastries. Our Airbnb-host recommended us to try the travesseiros from a cute old bakery called Piriquito. This is a rather large pastry with some almondpaste in it. Pretty delicious, although it cannot beat my favorite Pastéis de Nata.
Cafe Piriquita, Rua Padarias 1/7
Have you already been to Sintra?