Travel - Lisbon {Part Three} - Sintra

July 13, 2017

I'd never heard of Sintra before we started looking into our Lisbon weekend but once I started reading about itineraries, it was clear that everybody should put aside some time whilst in the city to head out to Sintra for a day. I still wasn't 100% sure, I mean in the photos it looked incredible and everybody seemed to love it, but I'd also heard just how crowded it could be. Especially at a weekend. Would we really want to spend some of our anniversary trip navigating queues/crowds of people in the heat? In the end though we decided it would be a shame to miss it being so close so planned out our day and managed to avoid nearly all of the crowds! Some top tips below and photos from our last couple of days;
Sintra is a fairytale like land of castles and palaces about a 40 minute train ride out of Lisbon. It's set in forested hills up high with views for miles. Lord Byron once said that the town is the 'most delightful in Europe'. It certainly was a magical place and there's a large collection of palaces/villas and castles to choose from set around the main historic town.

We visited on a Sunday {which is meant to be the busiest day, especially in July} so made a game plan. We read up on Tripadvisor/forums and the like and decided that we'd only focus on two of the palaces. We chose Pena Palace and Quinta de Regaleria because they looked amazing and our kind of thing - {tiles and pretty gardens basically}. Some people spend a couple of days in Sintra seeing everything, we were in Lisbon for Lisbon so decided to just focus on the highlights. 

- We got a 9am train out of Lisbon {you'll want to go from Rossio station}. Tickets are about 5 euros return and trains take about 40 minutes.

- We packed a picnic to take with us although Sintra itself has some lovely looking restaurants.

- We got off at the stop just before Sintra. There are two called Sintra. Get off before the end of the line at Sintra and order an Uber. We requested the Uber just before the train stopped so the car was waiting for us as we came out the station. We went straight to Pena Palace {it would be a v long walk and Uber is the cheapest/fastest option. There is a bus which takes you around the whole palace loop for 5 euros each for a day ticket but this gets v crowded and stops at Pena Palace last. You'll want to get there first to beat the crowds}. The uber cost about 10 euros I think but to us was worth it to zoom up there before other tourists arrived. If you want £15 credit for your first Uber trip then enter the code REBECCASTERLING when registering - you'll just need to download the app.

- We bought our tickets online for the gardens at Pena Palace meaning we could just show our barcodes on our phones at the gate rather than queuing for tickets. 

- We got to Pena Palace for just after 10am and it was v quiet. As we left though it was getting full of tourists. We decided to only do the grounds of the Pena Palace rather than buying tickets for going inside the castle which takes ages, isn't really our thing and would be v hot.

- After an hour or so at Pena Palace we then walked 40 minutes downhill through the forest to Sintra and then visited Quina de Regaleria which is a good option for the afternoon as it doesn't ever get too busy or crowded compared to other palaces. 

- We then walked from there back to the train station via the main town and headed back to Lisbon around 2/3pm. A whistle stop tour but we loved it and definitely saw enough without it taking a full day of our trip up. It was also well worth the trip.

Pena Palace. Who knew all those years ago that they'd be so on trend now with Monstera leaves, tiles and palms! 

This disneyland like palace almost didn't look real with its garish mix of colours, patterns and architecture. Some gothic, some romanticist and some Islamic.

From the photos I'd seen before our trip, I thought that I wouldn't like it much. It just looked such a strange mix. But walking around it, it was impossible not to admire the castle. It was incredible, if a little strange. The views from the top were amazing across all of Sintra, the forest land and even across to Lisbon. 

On a hot day you'll be glad you visited early. Sintra is meant to be a jumper colder than Lisbon, being up in the hills and surrounded by the forests - in the autumn/winter/spring it can be quite misty up here but on a blazingly hot July day we were sweltering even at 10am. 

Tiled perfection. I love that mustard yellow too.

My dress is last season online here with some similar alternatives for this summer. 

If you saw yesterday's post then this is another one of those photos Ben takes when taking my photo 😂

On our way out we walked around the gardens. Hydrangea envy!! Although these would be nothing compared to our next palace visit.

We walked for about 40 minutes back down to Sintra  {grateful it was downhill and not up in that heat!}, passing some beautiful old properties and lots of tuk-tuks whizzing around between the palaces. It felt like some giant theme park! But in a good way.

That blue sky with that pretty pink!

I mean, door goals.

Quinta de Regaleria is a world heritage site house & garden with an Italian influence. We had a picnic here and then explored the gardens. Everything was so old there it was beautiful.

There were waterfalls, gothic towers, turrets and sunken staircases leading down to a well.

But the real highlight were the hydrangeas. I've never seen so many that were so huge and pink! I was literally in a pink fluffy hydrangea cloud kind of heaven.

There were so many different aspects to the garden, some had us feeling tropical, others in woodland.

We didn't go inside the main house but it looked spectacular from the outside.

Photographing tiles wherever I go... 

Back in Lisbon we had a rest from the heat for a while {and rested our feet!} before our final night.

There was still a fair chunk of the city that we hadn't explored yet so we walked across to the other side, the Alfama region. 

I don't think you can beat seeing a city on foot. Even just on our walk across town we took in all the sights en route.

Because it was so hot during our visit we didn't fancy squashing onto a tram. But if you visit in cooler climes then the number 28 tram is the one you'll want to ride, the most famous and historic which takes the best route across the city.

Our first stop was the Miradouro Das Portas Do Sol viewpoint that looks across all the Alfama rooftops. Alfama is the oldest part of Lisbon, the only existing part that survived the great earthquake. It's a maze of narrow streets that lead from the river up to the castle.

I think it's one of the prettiest areas of Lisbon although seems to be more residential, there's not as many restaurants/bars/shops over this way. But it's definitely worth an explore. 

I love this view with that one lone palm tree looking out across the old city and river.

June is a month long fiesta in Portugal, we were there for the last weekend of it so the streets were all decorated and full of make shift bars/BBQs for cooking sardines in the evening.

I found this was the area with the least graffiti. It's everywhere across Lisbon though.

Our final dinner stop was Casanova, a pizza place by the river in Alfama that we'd read about in the Time Out magazine in our apartment. It wasn't traditional Portuguese like sardines or piri piri chicken would have been but we can never turn down a good pizza opportunity.

Sitting outside looking across the river was a plus too. The menu was all in Portuguese, I don't think it's really a tourist kind of place, all the families around us were locals. But that made all the more special. The only annoying thing is that you can't sit/walk directly on the river, it's tantalisingly close but has a glass screen in front because of the work going on . Most of Lisbon's river access is predominantly industrial which is a big contrast to most other cities where the river/water is the focus of a city's development. 

Anyway, river grievances aside, the pizzas were incredible! Even if we did have to use google translate to work out some of the Portuguese menu. Perfectly thin and just how we like them.

We then walked back along the length of the river towards the apartment. Stopping on this little bit of beach to look at the bridge. It was still crazily hot.

San Francisco or Lisbon?!

Our final stop for the evening was Gelateria Davvero near the Time Out Market. We might have well written a gelato guide to Lisbon during our stay there, hunting down the best of the best. But this may well have just been the very best of the trip. 

We were there late in the day so a lot of flavours had sold out but despite this it all tasted soo good. Make sure this is on your list!

We sat in the park by the Time Out Market listening to a guy playing some music and just took all of the city surrounding us in.

We woke up on our last morning to our third wedding anniversary. I'll probably write more about this in a separate post, mainly wondering where those three years have gone to! We had breakfast and cards in bed before watching our wedding video again - a tradition.

We were checking out that morning but our flight wasn't until later that afternoon. We had originally planned to stay in Lisbon but with it forecast to be the hottest day yet, and after our favourite day at the beach on Saturday we decided to get the train back to Cascais and then get an Uber directly from there to the airport.

Bye Lisbon! We were beach bound again.

We naively thought that being a Monday, the beach would be quiet, but it was actually 10 times busier than it had been on the Saturday we were there. It was full of school camps for the morning but it was still so good to be back by the sea.

One last gelato and then it was time to head to the airport. I'm never normally that sad to go home from holidays but this really felt like we could have done with a couple more days. I can't believe how we've never really done Portugal before {aside from holidays when I was a kid} but we truly fell in love.

The weather was a huge plus for our visit too. I've been dreaming of that weekend ever since we got home.

Bye Lisbon, we had the best anniversary weekend ever

As always, any questions feel free to message me on Instagram/leave a comment on here.

Have you been to Lisbon? Where else is good for a quick weekend break? We've just booked Barcelona for September!

R <3 xx 

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  1. Really enjoyed your Lisbon blog - we got engaged on a roof top cocktail bar in Lisbon watching the sunset & we were in such a lovely love bubble the whole trip! Your posts have brought back such lovely memories - thank you x ps. I'm looking at Granada for our next weekend trip as would love to visit the Alhambra palace.

  2. Great posts on Lisbon, it's on my list of places to visit. You will love Barcelona, we done the red bus tour as it was so handy to see everything over two days, the beach area is lovely too, very accessible for all.. make sure to book your tickets for Sagrada Família online in advance. It was all booked out when we went.

    All things nice...


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