If you’ve ever dreamed of being a prince or princess living in a palace, then a Sintra day trip from Lisbon is a must! Our day spent here brought all of Bettina’s princess dreams true. To skip ahead to our top 5 tips on how to prepare for a Sintra day trip, click here.
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What is Sintra and Pena Palace
Sintra is a small city on the outskirts of Lisbon, only 30km (19 miles) away, and is surrounded by natural parks and the beautiful Sintra Mountains. There is a lot of history in this area of Portugal as Sintra was a playground for royalty, the rich, and the famous throughout much of history. This means that there is not only the Pena National Palace, which we visited, but also the National Palace of Sintra, the Castle of the Moors, and many others all located in and around Sintra. We drove through Sintra, stopping for a quick coffee, but decided to focus our time on Pena Palace.
How to Get to Sintra
We already had a rental car as we were completing a short road trip through Portugal from Porto (you can read about our time in Porto here and Coimbra here). Our drive from Cascais to Sintra was about 20 minutes, and it is only 10 minutes more from Lisbon, making a Sintra day trip perfect for those short on time. We appreciated having a car to get up through the hills to Pena Palace. The road was steep and narrow, but there was lots of parking when we arrived.
Alternatively you can easily reach Sintra by train from Lisbon. There are numerous bus and tuk tuk options to take you up the hill to Pena Palace, or you can hike! Of course plan a lot of extra time if you plan to hike through the hills.
The main attraction! Pena Palace is perched at the top of a hill, and is considered one of the seven wonders of Portugal. This is a Romanticist castle, and we couldn’t agree more. It is one of the most romantic castles we've visited so far. Pena Palace has a number of different sections and design elements, reflecting the tastes of its prior owners through the ages.
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Explore Pena Palace
One of the great things about Pena Palace is that you are allowed to climb up a number of the bastions, parapet walls, and ramparts. As a result, this makes for great pictures! You will have to be patient and wait your turn in line though. Unfortunately not all tourists we encountered were so considerate!
Definitely make sure to explore all around Pena Palace so that you get views of this truly impressive building from all angles.
Inside Pena Palace
To truly live out your prince/princess dreams, be sure to take the time to walk through the interior of Pena Palace. The beauty of the outside is enough for the perfect Sintra day trip, but the inside of the palace is also incredible to see. It is set up to serve as the summer residence of the royal family, and is full of period appropriate furniture, paintings, and other artwork.
Usually when exploring European palaces you only get to see the fancy sitting rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms of the royal elite. However Pena Palace also allows you to see the working kitchen of the palace, which is a unique perspective and makes you appreciate our modern appliances.
Best Views of Pena Palace
Once you’ve completed your tour of Pena Palace, take the time for the 20 minute walk through the peaceful surrounding gardens and forest up to the Cruz Alta monument. With a little bit of flexibility you can climb up to the monument and will be rewarded with impressive views of Pena Palace from afar, perfectly completing your Sintra day trip.
This view was worth the walk! In addition, this monument had very few tourists, compared to Pena Palace, which was bursting with selfie-stick wielding crowds in the early afternoon.
How Long Does it Take for a Sintra Day Trip?
We spent a full afternoon exploring the Pena Palace as well as walking some of the pathways in the surrounding park. Arriving just before lunch, we had about a 5 minute wait to purchase tickets and enter the palace grounds, but otherwise could access everything within and around the palace as we liked.
You could easily spend a week exploring the hills around Sintra and the many palaces. Another incredible palace you should add to your itinerary if you are in Sintra for more than a day is the mystical Quinta da Regaleira!
Check our top tips below to help plan your Pena Palace and Sintra Day Trip!
The Next Trip Top 5 Sintra Day Trip Tips
- Get there early! Like as soon as they open or even earlier. As the day goes on there will be more and more tour buses full of tourists arriving, so get arrive at the palace as early as you can to have the palace to yourself (more or less).
- Take some creative photos. Pena Palace is breathtaking from almost any angle, and with almost all of the walkways and areas of the palace open, you are free to get creative and take more than your standard tourist photos. This is your chance to make your princess fantasies come true on your Sintra day trip!
- Bring your best walking shoes. Pena Palace is located at the top of the hill and requires at least a 10 minute walk up the steep cobblestone paths. Further, the surrounding park grounds are full of pathways to explore.
- Pack some water. While there is a cafe in the palace, you’re going to want to pack some water if you are exploring on a hot day as there are no other stores near the palace.
- Go for a hike. Take the extra time to walk to the Cruz Alta monument to get the perfect photos of Pena Palace from a distance – no drone required! In addition, if you have the time as part of your Sintra day trip, you can also walk and hike all over the Sintra Mountains for other unique views of Pena Palace and the beautiful Portugal Riviera.
Have you been to Pena Palace or on a Sintra day trip? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!
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