On our winter break to Lisbon, Portugal we took a day trip out to Sintra. Sintra is a picturesque, historic Portuguese town set amidst the breathtaking pine-covered hills of the Serra de Sintra. We took the train from Lisbon and headed for the hills!
Throughout history Sintra’s hilly and slightly cooler climate enticed the nobility and elite of Portugal who constructed exquisite palaces, extravagant mansions and decorative gardens that can still be seen today. Here are a few pics from our day…
I wore my new striped jumper and cropped jeans from Joanie Clothing for our day out, which was a great choice as it can get a little chilly/ windy at the top of the hills near the Palace. My shoes are from Hotter, comfort was much needed as we ended up walking quite a lot.
It is worth noting at this stage that you could easily spend several days exploring Sintra. Sadly, we only had the one day but managed to get a look around the historic centre and Pena Palace and its grounds.
We also discovered that it is probably sensible to opt for a tuk-tuk ride as you arrive in Sintra train station, unless you’re up for a walk. We went by foot from Sintra train station to the historic centre, which was a lovely walk- but I can imagine it might be quite tough if you visit on a hot day!
Once at the historic centre there are lots of boutique shops, cafés and coffee shops, there is also a very helpful tourist information point. We meandered around the historic centre for a while before getting the bus up to Pena Palace.
Pena Palace is set amidst the most enchanting gardens, strolling through feels as if you’re being transported back to a land that time forgot.
The Pena Palace is a Romanticist castle with a fascinating history. The castle’s history began in the Middle Ages when a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pena was built on the top of the hill above Sintra. According to tradition, construction occurred after an apparition of the Virgin Mary.
In 1493, King John II and his wife Queen Leonor made a pilgrimage to the site. His successor King Manuel I, was also very fond of the sanctuary on top of the hill and ordered the construction of a monastery on this site, which was donated to the Order of Saint Jerome. For centuries Pena was a small, quiet place for meditation, housing a maximum of eighteen monks.
In the 18th century the monastery was severely damaged by lightening, then a great earthquake in 1755 reduced the site to ruins. For many decades the ruins remained untouched. In 1838 King consort Ferdinand II acquired the monastery ruins and surrounding lands and set out to transform the ruins into a palace that would serve as a summer residence for the Portuguese Royal family.
The King was instrumental in designing the palace requesting that vault arches, Medieval and Islamic elements be included, and he also designed an ornate window for the main façade.
It is impossible not to be awestruck when you first cast eyes on Pena Palace, the vibrant colours, fairytale architecture and overbearing grandeur could be straight out of a Disney film. The castle stands proudly on top of the hill and on a clear day can be seen all the way from Lisbon. There is a small cafe in the Palace where we enjoyed a coffee and took in the breathtaking views.
As the afternoon rolled on, we watched from the hill top as the blue skies diminished and the grey clouds gathered. It was quite dramatic to see the change in weather from such a height. Pretty quickly the wind picked up, meaning we stood a little less close to the edge of the walls! Mother Nature always puts things into perspective!
*Top tips- Wear comfy shoes, take a layer incase it gets cold at the top of the hills, pack water. There are buses that can take you to the foot of the Palace, but I would recommend the walk through the grounds (despite the incline).
In case you missed it, you can read our ‘48 Hours in Lisbon, Portugal travel guide‘ Such a vibrant, unspoilt city with great food and fascinating history.
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” -Henry Miller