Sintra – Gardens and Palaces and Castles…Oh My!

Portugal Sintra, Portugal   Aug 10, 2014    By

The tour from Lisbon to Sintra sounded quite harrowing….10 hours total. I’ve heard so much about Sintra, however, that I just had to see it. I booked the tour, and Monday morning off I went.

Sintra isn’t that far outside of Lisbon, only around 45 minutes by car. If you like palaces and castles, you would love it here. Our first stop on the tour was walking through these beautiful gardens that were right in town. I can’t reiterate enough how beautiful the flora is in Portugal. I keep comparing Portugal to San Diego, but this is where it differs quite a bit…San Diego is more brown than green.

gardens in sintragardens in sintragardens in sintra

The architecture here was very unique, a result of the dual Roman-Moors influence.   Walking through the narrow streets of Sintra, we saw a cool fountain that had blue and white ceramic tiles around it. I love the blue and white theme, in fact my kitchen back home is designed like this. I always thought it was a Scandinavian thing, which it is I think…never knew that Portugal was into the blue and white as well.

streets of sintraview of sintrablue and white fountain in sintra

We stopped for some port tasting at a local wine bar. Before we got to the port, we sampled jellies that were made with port wine, which were great…especially the pumpkin flavor! I didn’t know much about port wine, and still don’t know that much, but the two main types are ruby and tawny, both red. Not all the port wines are sweet…I had previously thought ports were like dessert wines in the U.S. After sampling some of the wines, including a chocolate cup filled with port (which was awesome), we went into the back and sampled some local hard and soft cheeses. Not sure about having this at the beginning of the tour, as port wine is deceptively strong. 🙂

local jellies in sintrachocolate cup with wine in sintraport wine in sintra

We were given a choice of three tourist attractions to visit during the tour, as our guide said we’d only have time for one. I met a cool girl on the tour, Ariana, who was willing to try some marathon sightseeing, so we decided to both try and hit two out of the three. The Pena Palace and the Moors Castle were right next to each other, so it made the most sense to try for these two. The Pena Palace was the former home to Portuguese royals, and is a stunning, multi-colored building at the top of a mountain…this led to some very beautiful views of Sintra.

pena palace in sintrapena palace in sintrapena palace in sintra

The inside had been converted into a museum, and wasn’t as impressive as the outside. Going through the rooms, it looked like any other place that rich, important people lived. With few exceptions, I guess I’m just not that starstruck by stuff like this.

pena palace in sintrapena palace in sintra

Our next stop was the Moors castle, which was very well preserved, and like the Pena Palace offered some magnificent views of Sintra. I got a little light-headed walking up the castle steps, and never did make it to the top….fear of heights wins again!

moors castle in sintramoors castle in sintramoors castle in sintra

After meeting back up with our tour group, the last stop was Cabo da Roca, which is significant as it’s the westernmost point of mainland Europe. I think the easternmost point is in Turkey, not sure I’ll get there one day but I’ll put it on my list. This area was really beautiful, with a lighthouse and some gorgeous cliffs jutting out into the ocean.

cabo da rocacabo da rocacabo da roca

Our tour guide, who used to be a street artist in Lisbon, was really great – rolling his own cigarettes and talking with a passion about Portugal. I think Sintra as a day trip is a bit much, there’s so much to see here that it’s probably worth a couple of nights. Again, if I lived in Lisbon this would be a place I’d come to often. Lord Byron, the famous English poet, used to live here, and he called it the most beautiful city in the world…not sure I’d argue with that.

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