Sintra


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Satisfying Sights in Sintra

Published by Michael Dib

Sintra is a beautiful town with spectacular history. Out of the many places there I would say that the Castle of the Moors is my favourite destination in the area of Sintra. Getting here is quiet an adventure from the city of Lisbon. I had been visiting this city after a few days in Porto. I had spent the first day looking around Lisbon, then spent the second day in Sintra, where the Castle of the Moors and other great areas are located. Getting to Sintra isn’t too expensive either.

Getting there

You’ll need to pay for a local train ticket that allows you to bypass ‘four zones’. A four zones ticket will allow you to travel around all of Lisbon. From there you must take the northwestern train station of the city of Lisbon, close to the Safestay Lisbon hostel. From there you catch the Sintra day train. You can buy the ticket from one of the many ticket machines in the metro station or one of the few ticket vendors located inside.

From there you would only need one train to reach Sintra. If you choose to travel from another station further south of Lisbon city, then you will need to buy a ticket that will take you to the mentioned station and from there you’ll need another ticket to get there. The trip takes roughly thirty five minutes. Along the way you will spot some spectacular views as you’re travelling through different mountain sides. The area is very lush. The view is augmented when the weather is cooperative. Luckily in my case it was with an almost cloudless sky.

The train trip might be a bit busy as you’ll be passing many residential areas. I decided to pass the time by reading up on the area and a book I brought with me. After a bit of a wait, I finally made it to the Sintra station. This stop is hard to miss as its the last one in the line. Before getting to the Castelo dos Mouros, I decided to check out the ‘Palais national de Sintra’ as it was along the way. This place is a fifteen walk from the station. I chose to do so as I prefer using as little public transport as possible while travelling through cities.

This was a prudent decision. I was able to soak in the atmosphere and architecture of the different parts of the town that led to the Sintra palace. It gives you an idea of what people see in their day to day lives against what tourists are shown. The area was very polished and well maintained. After the walk I turned the corner of the Palace wall and faced the main courtyard. This area is surrounded by many restaurants and souvenir shops. The area is also a pretty big tourist hotspot so expect company.

Palais national de Sintra

The palace itself if very beautiful. It is a historic museum to which you could explore many of the treasure it holds. The castle was conquered by King Alfonso Henriques II, from the Moors who occupied the Al-Andalus, in the 12th century. The Umayyad had conquered most of what was known as Hispania in the eighth century. The structure itself is a combination of Moorish and Gothic architecture. It has faced some refurbishing and remodeling of its interior centuries after its creation.

Satisfying Sights in Sintra

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I had a look around in the courtyard located in front of the palace. Here you’ll find many groups of photo snapping enthusiasts. When I arrived there had been a large group of middle aged men and women playing a fun social game I’ve never seen before. I passed them and reached the end of the courtyard where you could have an amazing view of one part of the surrounding area. There were some very elegant gothic style houses surrounded by high rising trees, it all looked like something out of a fairy-tale.

Castelo dos Mouros

I decided to have a snack at one of the nearby restaurants called ‘A Pendoa’ before making my way to the Castle of the Moors. The food is relatively cheap. I recommend grabbing a bite here as many of the other eateries are pretty pricey.

After having a hearty meal, I decided to find out how to get to the castles. I read that its a bad idea to walk all the way to the castle as not only is it an hours walk but also very steep. I found out that there were a few ubers nearby. From what I read you could also take the bus for 3.2 euros if you purchase it on the bus). There are also a few different forms of transportation from shuttle buses to tiny environmentally cars that can fit one person title in the back. Its surely a sight to see.

Satisfying Sights in Sintra

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The Uber from the Palace to the Castle of the Moors costs roughly from three to five euros. The whole trip took just about ten minutes and cost 3.88 euros. It was an amazing deal. The Uber took a minute to get to me as you’ll find most Ubers hovering around the central area, After the short ride I was dropped off to the entrance to the castle. The area on the way is under construction although you won’t have to worry about it interfering with your trip as the road is being reinforced with barriers. This affects only the sides of the road. However, my Uber had to cautiously curve around the massive parked trucks.

The entrance fee to the place varies. For children and the elder its cheaper although I had to pay the full adult price of 7.5 euros. There are currently no discounts for students unfortunately. After buying your ticket you’ll be able to make the short thirty second journey to the entrance. You’ll first face a long path that will lead to the old guard tower. The route along the way is very scenic with some spectacular views of Porto. You will also spot some amazing stone deposits that jut off the mountain. The surrounding forest is very thick and pretty beautiful.

As you walk you’ll find many holes in the open stone areas. These large holes were actually storage areas for grain. They were well hidden from the eyes of any passerbys. As you keep zigzagging along the path you will spot the high castle walls on your left and soon to your right you will spot a path that will lead to the guard tower. I would suggest taking a detour here as there are quite a few beautiful spots to check out the giant forest view below. Some tables and seats were also set up there.

In the past, this had been the main path taken by any individuals who wanted to enter the castle. The road was very narrow and guarded by said guard tower to stop mass armies charging through the area. As you pass the guard tower you will zigzag through a path that will show you more granary storages. There are some signs on display that identify the significance of each area. There were some mixed burial areas for both Christian and Moors with some other archaeological sites.

This area I have explored so far is free of charge to check out. Once you reach the gates of the castle you will need to show your ticket to the guard. After you pass the gate, you will face a beautiful courtyard with many aged trees and bushes strewn all around. It looked chaotic but very elegant. I immediately took to the right side of the castle. I wanted to get to the first tower, the Alcazaba. I had to walk up very narrow stairs to reach the walls. From there I walked along the walls and was surprised how easy it seemed to be swayed by the heavy winds. There were no employees around like most tourist attractions keeping an eye on you.

Alcazaba

At this point it unfortunately got pretty cloudy over the castle, however the view below was nothing but sunny. The Alcazaba tower is the most important part of the castle. It was decided to be the most defended part and the last stand if the castle where to ever become under attack. The view from there was spectacular. It was as if you were on a plane far into the sky and looking down at all the distant cities, towns and farmlands.

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As I had been travelling on a January, there were not too many tourists around. I basically had the whole tower to myself. After taking a few photos and admiring the view, I decided to keep on going to the other towers. Each one afforded its own unique view of the surrounding area. As I made my way along the walls, I spotted a green flag with the word ‘Sintra’ in Arabic. This flag is said to represent the origin of the castle. For that reason they decided to maintain the flag.

Next to the Sintra Castle, you can spot a door in the back. This secluded door is known as the door of Treachery. This door had been used as a strategic entrance for the conquest of the castle.

From this area you can have a great view of the interior of the castle. Down below will be the largest open area of the castle. This is where the majority of the soldiers station here would group and coordinate in the case for an assault. Now it's simply a large area with several benches located around. I kept making my way until I found the Torre Real.

Torre Real

The Torre Real (or the royal tower) was the favoured spot of King Ferdinand II. The view from here is mind blowingly scenic. From here you can spot the whole of Lisbon city in front of you. You could also see much of the surrounding area. This reminded me of what I read earlier. This castle provided an absolutely stunning view of the Atlantic and kept an eye out for would-be invaders from there. It also acted as a watch-tower for the surrounding area.

King Ferdinand II himself enjoyed visiting this specific tower as it provided him with inspiration for his paintings. It was easy to see why. All the forest, farmlands and distant cities and towns would definitely bring at least a sense of awe. I stuck around the area for a bit while checking all the different viewpoints from there. You could also spot the forest below where large outcrops of stones can be found surrounded by untouched forests.

After enjoying the view, I decided to make my way down. The clouds were licking the towers around us. It seemed as if the castle was placed high above the Heavens and floating among the clouds. I made my way down and walked all the way back to the entrance. Here is where things got a bit sticky for me. Two Ubers failed to show up for reasons I could not comprehend and I completely lost all battery on my phone. Now if you ever find yourself in this position, the next bit will be pretty useful for you.

As the two ubers never showed up, I had to find an alternative. There are a few tourist shuttle buses and taxis that charge a slightly exorbitant price to get to wherever you want. What you could do instead is get on the public bus that passes every twenty to thirty minutes (on a Saturday). It costs 3.20 euros to ride the bus without a rechargeable ticket. You could buy the non-rechargeable ticket on the bus itself. This bus will take you all the way down to the train station. From there you can ask one of the ticket vendors if they have a charger. I was trying to coordinate which station to return to when one of the very kind employees offered me their charger.

Satisfying Sights in Sintra

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I found out which station I had to get to. I bought the four zone pass again and made the thirty-ish trip back to Lisbon. The whole experience was unforgettable. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to inspect the rest of Sintra. There are quite a few things to see including other amazing palaces and castles. I highly recommend you spend a whole day looking around the area. I had only spent about four-five hours. Keep in mind that most places close by six pm in Sintra.

That concludes the unmissable experience in Sintra. If you ever find yourself travelling through Portugal and plan to head to Lisbon, then make sure not to miss out on a day to Sintra. The roundtrip ticket costs less than five euros from the city. Make sure to check out the restaurant I previously mentioned and all the niceties Sintra has to offer.

Enjoy your trip and Happy travelling.

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A fairytale come true!

Published by Alcina Sudagar

Have you ever imagined a scene right out of a fairytale......maybe something with caves, secret hidden paths, and bridges, cobblestone steps over ponds and spiral wells? Trust me there couldn't be a better match to your imagination that this small beautiful city Sintra.

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Located just 30Km away from the capital of Portugal, this city offers a sight that will take your breath away. Although it is a popular day trip spot from Lisbon, I would recommend staying over for a few days (at least 2 days) especially because its mystical gardens and picturesque castles covered by lush forests are many in number and each one is a unique wonder. 

How to get there: The best way to travel from Lisbon. You can either rent a car and reach in about 30-40 minutes or take a direct connection train from Lisbon Oriente station which takes around 1 hour

Getting around: Sintra can get really crowded during summers I have heard. Even when we had visited in December quite a lot of tourists were there. The tourist hop-on-hop-off bus, therefore, seems to be the cheapest and best option. Climbing the hills and walking from one castle to another is also a good experience if you have some time. 

We got down by train and as the station is on the outskirts of the city we took a taxi to reach our hostel accommodation. After checking in, we walked along the quiet narrow roads and reached the city centre fast as it’s a small city. The hill station was cool and breezy and very pleasant even during winter. Our first stop was the Palácio de Pena situated on a small hill and surrounded by extravagant gardens. It was covered by dense forests and overlooked the entire city. It was amazing to walk through the gardens and get lost in its beauty. We spent a lot of time just watching the views from the top and admiring the architecture and layout of the gardens.

We walked and reached our second destination Castelo dos Mouros. This castle stands magnificently in its ruins. It was an exciting experience to walk along the castle wall for more than half an hour and enjoy the views of the lush forest. At night when the castle is lit up, we get a stunning view from down the hill.

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We found some restaurants to have dinner and walked back home from the city centre. The city sleeps early during the winters and it becomes quiet real soon after dark. Nights were a little chilly owing to the winter but the place that we stayed in ‘Nice Way Sintra’ was very inexpensive, comfortable and conveniently located.

The next day we walked all the way and visited the Quinta da Regaleira which was the most magical of them all. Its whimsical gardens are something that make you wonder if they are a dream or reality. Finding your way through the gardens and climbing the spiral wells is a feast for your body, mind, and soul.

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After leaving (without feeling like going out of the gardens) we proceeded to the Palácio de Monserrate which is grand and luxurious inside out. We were surprised to see another palatial garden as beautiful as the previous one when we thought there could be nothing as beautiful as it was. The palace looked extravagant with golden design interiors and the large gardens that justified this grandeur. While strolling across its gardens we came across waterfall, lake, fountains, and ruins that gave perfect pictures and unforgettable memories.

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In the end, we checked out and travelled back to Lisbon by train and we knew that we will go back again for sure. If we had stayed longer we could’ve also visited the palaces which are further away and that is why it is a good idea to stay a few days to escape the crowds and explore this heavenly destination at your own pace. (PS: The pictures don't do justice to the beauty of the place)

‘Lo! Cintra’s glorious Eden intervenes, in variegated maze

of mount and glen’– Lord Byron

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