A Great Town And Palaces Of Sintra To Visit
We were excited by the opportunity to explore the great palaces of Sintra outside of Lisbon. When we spent 4 weeks in Portugal on our first visit, we were sad we missed the chance to enjoy some time in Sintra. So on this return trip to Portugal, we made sure not to miss this treat.
We stayed at the lovely Ritz-Carlton Penha Longa Resort outside of Sintra. And even though we were busy as we enjoyed so many great experiences to enjoy on the resort, we planned a full day off the resort to Sintra.
Our visit started at the Pena Palace. From there we walked and explored the Moorish Castle. Our palace tours finished with the Quinta da Regaleira. Each of these UNESCO World Heritage sites was very different but fascinating in its own right.
At the ticket kiosk at Pena Palace we purchased a ticket for entrance to the Pena Palace grounds with inside tour, the Moorish Castle, Quinta de Regaleira and the Monserrate Palace. There was a discount for booking multiple sites. We had ambitious plans for our day trip to Sintra.
During the day trip, we enjoyed lunch in the small town of Sintra. And then went back on another day as a special treat on our stay at the Ritz-Carlton Penha Longa Resort.
Start High At The Pena Palace
From Lisbon, there were many tours that went to the palaces of Sintra. In the town of Sintra there were buses and tuk tuks up to the palaces. From our hotel in the countryside outside of Sintra, it was easy to grab an Uber and get dropped off at the gate to the Pena Palace of Sintra.
We hiked up from the gate and were captivated when we got our first view of the colourful and fanciful Pena Palace (“Palácio Nacional da Pena”). As we got closer the intricate detail came into focus.
We wandered through the different levels inside the Pena Palace and got a good look into royal life. The rooms were well restored and stunning in detail. We even saw the inside of the Palace of Pena Chapel with its colourful stained glass.
Explore All Around The Pena Palace
After our inside tour, we went around the outside walls of the Pena Palace. From this high vantage point, we got great views down into the courtyard at the Pena Palace. We saw the amazing vista out over the countryside. And we even saw our next stop at the Moorish Castle off in the distance.
We made a short stop at the Garden of Queen Amelia at the Pena Palace before we left. The gardens were a wonderful spot to unwind after a long visit to the Pena Palace. But on this trip, we quickly moved on. We had more to explore on this day trip.
When we toured the inside and outside of the Pena Palace we got a stunning introduction to the palaces of Sintra.
Wander To The Moorish Castle
From the view at the Pena Palace, the Moorish Castle (“Castelo dos Mouros”) appeared off in the distance. When we reached the gate of the Pena Palace, we asked one of the waiting tuk tuks about a ride to the Moorish Castle. We were told it was a short walk back along the road. Later we realized that the one way road meant that the tuk tuk path would be really long to double back. If we wanted a ride between the Moorish Castle and the Pena Palace, we should have visited the Moorish Castle first.
The Moorish Castle was established during the time of Islamic rule. This strategic position defended the surrounding territory and the water access to Lisbon. The property was restored by King Ferdinand II in the 19th century. In 1995 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We set off along the road and followed the signs to the entrance for the Moorish Castle. At that point our tickets were not checked and we began the climb along the path to the fortress on the rocks. There was much to see as we walked.
As we got close, we started to see the walls of the castle through the trees. When we turned the final corner we found the Church Sao Pedro de Canaferrim. Beside the church was a tomb for Christian and Moorish remains that read “What man brought together, only God may separate”.
After a quick look we headed towards the gate to the Moorish Castle. Once we moved through the line, our ticket was checked. We were excited to start our wanders in this very different example of the palaces of Sintra.
The Stone Fortress Of The Moorish Castle
A large open courtyard was inside the gate. This spot included a small cafe and the washrooms. That was our stop on the way out. There were two ways to get to the fortress walls. We took the level path towards the centre and came back down the stairs on the wall.
We started our visit with a look out over the countryside. The town of Sintra was below us. And off to one side we saw our next stop at the Quinta da Regaleira.
From this point we walked up along the walls to one side of the fortress. Flags flapped high on the stones. We walked around the castle keep as we climbed ever higher.
From this high vantage point, we got a great view over to the other tower of the Moorish Castle. But after climbing to the top on one side, we had no energy left to climb to the top on the other side.
It was a long walk back down to the road after our visit to the Moorish Castle. It was certainly a very different one of the palaces of Sintra we visited that day.
After The Palaces Of Sintra Visit The Old Town
From the Moorish Castle it was easy to grab a ride to the Sintra town. Most cabs and tuk tuks were shared rides so we were glad when we got a tuk tuk all to ourselves at a reasonable cost. The palaces of Sintra were up steep hills so we were glad to sit back and enjoy the scenery.
The driver navigated the rough roads quickly down from the heights. As we entered town we got a quick view of some of the distinctive buildings we first saw from above.
We were dropped off on the main road and the path down into the old town was pointed out to us. With several suggestions for lunch, we headed down. We saw a little of the colourful old town as we searched for a lunch spot. We looked for all the beautiful Portuguese tiles we found on every visit to Portugal.
When we reached the Patio A Esqina, we were ready to stop. The outdoor patio looked like a perfect spot to recover enough energy to finish the day. We ordered drinks and a selection of small plates. And enjoyed our break.
We really wanted to spend more time in the quaint town of Sintra but we were not done yet with our tour of the palaces of Sintra. From our view of Sintra from above and from the map, the Quinta da Regaleira looked like an easy walk from town. So off we went.
Explore The Poco Iniciatico At The Quinta da Regaleira
We got our first view of the Quinta da Regaleira as we walked along the road. The interesting tiled walkway to the front gate took us past the palace. We used our tickets for entry.
When we entered the gate there were several paths to follow. We headed in the direction of the Poco Iniciatico. This was the iconic spot that may be the most photographed place at the Quinta da Regaleira. Under the first tower we saw we found an interesting fountain.
We met a friendly informative local guide and followed him on the long twisty uphill path to reach the Poco Iniciatico. While the Poco Iniciatico was often called a “well”, it really was more like an underground tower with spiral stairs that went down. It never acted as a water source but rather was used for ceremonies.
We joined the long line of people that slowly wound their way down the stairs. We snapped pics up and down as we descended. The guide we met on our walk happily took our pics.
When we reached the bottom we moved along underground tunnels. At one point we looked out under the waterfall of the Lago da Cascata. The tunnel finally dropped us quite a distance down from the Poco Iniciatico.
We were quite excited we got to see the iconic Poco Iniciatico on our tour of the palaces of Sintra.
Wandering The Grounds Of The Quinta Da Regaleira
As we wandered the grounds of the Quinta da Regaleira, we stopped often and explored the interesting spots we found. The Torre da Regaleira stood as what might have once been a watchtower. Across from this we admired the intricate details of the Portal dos Guardiaes.
We loved the colour we found at the Fount of Abundance. The tower at the Ziguarte was quite decorative. And it drew us up for a panoramic view.
Everywhere we looked we found artistic elements. There was certainly much to see as we wandered around the Quinta da Regaleira.
See The Chapel And Palace
As we headed back towards the palace, we found the Regaleira Chapel. This Roman Catholic Chapel was decorative outside. Even the bench outside was a work of art.
We found the interior of the chapel was richly decorated with frescoes, stained glass windows and lavish stuccoes.
The palace and grounds had many wealthy owners over time. We took in the outside of the palace from different angles. Gothic pinnacles, gargoyles, capitals, and an impressive tower decorated the outside facades.
The inside was open and we did a slow walk through. We got a great look into the life of royalty when we toured the inside of the Pena Palace. There was much less to see in the Quinta da Regaleira palace. But the intricate details spoke of the beauty that once must have been on display.
By the time we finished with our tour of the inside of the palace, we were truly exhausted. We saw far more on our day trip to the palaces of Sintra than we expected when we started. But we were happy when we got a quick Uber back to the Ritz-Carlton Penha Longa Resort.
Palaces Of Sintra And Culinary Treats Too
We were totally impressed with the approach to customer delight we experienced at the Ritz-Carlton Penha Longa Resort. An escorted tour back to Sintra with our charming customer experience ambassador Carolina and the renowned Chef Siopa was a highlight for us.
Chef Siopa took us to some of his favourite shops in Sintra for local Portuguese treats. Our first stop was at Donna Estefania for queijadas and travesseiros. The second stop we enjoyed was at Queijadas Da Sapa for a different version of queijadas and Pastel de Feijão. We even made a stop at a local market.
The chef also made plans for another treat for us. Joana from the Sintra Welcome Centre took us on a tuk tuk tour of some of her favourite viewpoints around Sintra.
One of the spots that Joana chose gave us a great view in the distance of the palaces of Sintra we visited on our day trip.
Our return visit to Sintra was made extra special by our Penha Longa Resort hosts. It was lovely to get some perspectives of Sintra from locals as we moved from spot to spot. And we sure enjoyed all the Portuguese pastry treats.
Plan To Visit The Palaces Of Sintra Outside Of Lisbon
We had an amazing but very packed day when we visited the palaces of Sintra. And were very glad we planned this day trip as one of our great experiences at the Ritz-Carlton Penha Longa Resort. We saw a lot but it was hard to really enjoy everything properly with so many visits packed into one day.
When we bought our tickets, we also purchased entry for the Monserrate Palace. But after a full day exploring the palaces of Sintra, we were far too tired to see Monserrate Palace on this visit. We kept the ticket and hoped to visit before the ticket expired within 365 days.
We enjoyed a brief stop in the quaint town of Sintra for lunch on our day trip to the palaces of Sintra. And our return guided visit showed us more with some very tasty stops for Portuguese treats. But one day we will go back and explore the town of Sintra at a slower pace.
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