Sintra, Portugal- Where you can feel like a Princess for the day!
October 19, 2016
Sintra, Portugal is a resort town full of castles and palaces in a fairytale landscape so it is no surprise it’s sometimes known as adult Disneyland. From the second we set foot in Sintra we fell in love. Our breath was taken away by the stunning scenery of the Serra de Sintra National Park, the colorful palaces, and the charming town. Located only about an hour from Lisbon by train, Sintra is very easy to reach and we think everyone should add this enchanted city to their list of travel destinations.
There are many sights in Sintra but each of them needs a fair amount of time to explore. Here are our top 3 favorite sights we think you should visit! (And the top 3 places you can have a princess moment!)
Pena Palace (Palacio da Pena)
The Pena Palace is a colorful, detailed palace that sits on the top of a hill in the Sintra Mountains. On a clear day you can actually see Pena Palace from Lisbon. In 1842, King Ferdinand II, who was a large supporter of the arts and music, commissioned this palace so that it could serve as a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family. King Ferdinand told the architects that he wanted this castle to look like something out of the scene from an Opera and that it should have vault arches, with Medieval and Islamic elements included. It’s no surprise that under these instructions such an extravagant castle was built.
The interior of Pena Palace has been restored to what it looked like when the Portuguese Royal Family lived here in 1910. The details in the tiles and stuccos are absolutely stunning.
The park around Pena Palace is also quite beautiful and worth exploring. King Ferdinand, with the help of Baron von Eschwege, had trees and plant life from all over the world planted here. We opted to hike up to Pena Palace and it was quite beautiful. If you don’t have time for the hike there is also bus service to the palace.
Inside Pena Palace
Pena Place can be visited daily for a cost of about $16USD/ person. It is closed on Christmas and New Years Day. Once at the Palace you can join a guided tour or you can tour the castle on your own. There is a cafeteria on site, so feel free to enjoy your lunch in a romantic setting. I would plan to give yourself at least 2 hours to explore Pena Palace and 1 hour to explore the park surrounding it. This castle is so breathtaking it’s no surprise that it is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO!
Disney Princess that would live here: Princess Aurora & Aladdin’s Child. Yes, I just married them! (Sorry Princess Jasmine and Prince Phillip!) The colors of the castle remind me so much of Aurora’s color changing final dress in “Sleeping Beauty,” and the ornate details remind me of Aladdin’s castle.
Castle of the Moors (The Castelo dos Mouros)
The Castle of the Moors was built by North African Moors in the 8th and 9th centuries and was used to guard the town during the Reconquista. In 1147, the Castle was taken over by Christian Crusaders and soon after this time it fell into disrepair. In the 19th Century the castle was restored by King Ferdinand II, who transformed it into a beautiful ruin in the gardens on Pena Palace. Today, the castle is classified as a National Monument and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Castle is quite beautiful and offers panoramic views on Sintra, which makes it a great location to get photos of the town! It is definitely worth visiting and can be seen in about an hour and a half. Tickets are about $9.50 USD. The Castle of the Moors and Pena Palace are great to do back to back!
Disney Princess that would live here: Princess Merida from Brave because she’s a strong woman and fighter who would defend her town.
Quinta De Regaleria
The Quinta de Regaleira is a unique palace that has had many different owners throughout the years. In 1904, António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro, a rich Portuguese entomologist, bought the estate and hired Italian architect, Luigi Manini, to turn Quinta de Regaleira into a romantic palace with symbolic carvings associated with Masonry, the Rosicrucians and the Knights Templar. The palace has a gothic facade and is split up over 5 different floors. Quinta de Regaleira also has it’s own chapel with stained glass windows and exquisite stuccoes. It’s just too fabulous!
While, Quinta da Regaleira is known for its Moorish, Gothic, Egyptian, and Renaissance features, what makes it truly unique are the wells and tunnels that are below the castle. The wells were never used, or meant to be used to collect water, but were built for secret initiation ceremonies and tarot readings. You can cross through the Palace underground and I have to admit walking through the tunnels feels a bit creepy! We couldn’t help but wonder what exactly took place down here. To this day, it remains a mystery!
Our favorite part of Quinta da Regaleira was its gardens, which are beautiful and have many different fountains, benches, grottos and lakes. We also loved the view from the tower of Quinta da Regaleira! It’s hard to convey how exquisite this palace is through words and I think you have to visit the palace to truly appreciate the strange, yet beautiful, architecture of Quinta da Regaleira. Tickets to visit Quinta da Regaleira are about $7USD and you should give yourself at least 3-4 hours to explore the grounds.
Disney Princess that would live here: Snow White because she’d look so lovely sleeping in the Garden. (And I could totally see her being put to sleep in a creepy initiation ceremony with an apple!)
Walk the town of Sintra
Before you leave Sintra make sure you take time to explore the town. There are many great cafes and other buildings worth visiting in addition to these three landmarks. Don’t miss the Palace of Sintra, or Sintra Town Hall, as they are both quite beautiful. If you have time you should also visit Monserrate Palace because it is said to have the finest decorative details in Sintra. We unfortunately ran out of time and didn’t make it to the Monserrate Palace but have heard wonderful things!
Sintra Town Hall
We hope that you get the opportunity to visit Sintra and feel like a prince, or princess, for the day!