On our last day in Lisbon, we headed out to the historic town of Sintra. Perhaps "town" isn't the best word to use. Sintra is more like a marvelous collection of palaces, mansions, castles and fortresses nestled throughout lush, forested hills.
Only 30 minutes from Lisbon by car (an hour by rail), Sintra feels like an entirely different world and makes for a perfect half-day excursion. Once you arrive in the center of town, there is a convenient bus system that stops by all the popular sites. So as not to overexert ourselves, we chose to only visit 3 places:
- Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle): You can explore the walls of this medieval fortress and take in beautiful views of the surrounding landscape. Unfortunately, when we visited, it was quite rainy and foggy so most views were obstructed.
- Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena National Palace): Perhaps the most recognizable landmark in Sintra, this palace is over-the-top inside and out. Its bright yellow and red exterior is a bit wacky and can be seen from afar.
- Quinta da Regaleira: This beautiful estate once belonging to a wealthy family of merchants was our favorite stop in Sintra. You can spend hours wandering the maze-like gardens and exploring mysterious tunnels and grottos.
After a morning well spent in Sintra, it was time to head back to Lisbon. We stopped at LX Factory - a cool design district comprised of redeveloped warehouses and factories - for some lunch and shopping. If Sintra exemplifies Portugal's glorious past, LX Factory gives you a glimpse of what's ahead.