Sintra, Portugal

This whole place was like a scene straight out of a fantasy novel.

Yellow and red castle with intricate details
Sintra, Portugal (2022)

This whole place was like a scene straight out of a fantasy novel.

Partway through our 5 day stay in Lisbon, we hopped on the metro for a day trip to Sintra, a town on the outskirts of the city. Set high in the mountains, this small town offers a surreal setting for a remarkable attraction.

Palácio da Pena

A yellow palace juts out from behind plants
Palácio da Pena, Sintra, Portugal (2022)

The main attraction in Sintra is the stunning castle, Palácio da Pena. This fantastical building sits looking over the surrounding landscape and is something truly magical to behold.

The palace is a mix of architectural styles. The original structures date back to the Middle Ages with the most recent additions finally completed in the mid-1800s. The walls are boldly coloured in yellow and red. Every surface is ornately detailed. Giant archways are adorned with intricately carved stone.

Palácio da Pena is a unique and beautiful place.

Jardins do Parque da Pena

A large pond surrounded by foliage with a small stone structure in the centre
Jardins do Parque da Pena, Sintra, Portugal (2022)

After we were done touring the palace itself, we explored the surrounding grounds, Jardins do Parque da Pena. The heavily forested gardens hold no shortage of mysterious ruins and lush green ponds.

We definitely recommend planning to spend a couple hours here exploring. It is a tranquil and peaceful place, full of hidden surprises.

It felt like walking through a fairy tale.


A garden with the town and forested hilltop in the background
Sintra, Portugal (2022)

After we were done at Palácio da Pena, we walked back into Sintra and stopped for a really nice patio lunch at Tascantiga.  

After we filled our bellies, we spent a few more hours wandering through the streets before heading back to Lisbon.

Other spots to check out

  • Quinta da Regaleira: We didn't actually go inside this gorgeous neo-gothic villa, but I really wish we had. It has a really interesting history, heavily entrenched in the occult and if you are in Sintra, you should definitely check it out.
  • National Palace of Sintra: We didn't buy tickets, but just walked around the gardens of this palace and it was quite enjoyable for a quick stop.

There are many other museums and attractions in Sintra you can visit, depending on how much time you plan to spend here.

A whimsical and special place, Sintra was definitely worth making the trip!

Tips and tricks

Our advice to you:

  • Buy tickets to Palácio da Pena online in advance
  • This place gets BUSY, so be prepared and go as early as you can
  • If you are taking the metro from Lisbon, make sure to purchase both a metro ticket and a train ticket (learn from our mistakes: we spent about 20 minutes stuck in the Sintra train station before a nice custodian helped us out and explained we needed to buy a train ticket)
  • Cyntia Cafe across from the train station has some really great food options if you want to grab a coffee and a snack (I had a quiche which was delicious!)
  • Order an Uber to drive you from the train station to the Palácio da Pena
  • Bring water and snacks with you (there is a coffee shop in Palácio da Pena but it's busy and overpriced)
  • Be prepared for it to be windy when you are walking around Palácio da Pena
  • Wear comfortable shoes so you can spend some time walking around the property

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