Sintra: life in technicolor…

Pena Palace Sintra

In the Lisbon series there is one more ‘must see’ I want to tell you about, or not…maybe Sintra should be kept more secret as it is already overrun by tourists all coming to admire the city’s cultural and architectural wonders. Its natural and historical value make Sintra in its whole a UNESCO World Heritage Site, like I said, a ‘must see’…

 

Sintra is located 25 km outside Lisbon city centre and is set against the lush pine-covered hills of the Serra de Sintra. Easily accessible from Lisbon Rossio train station in about 40 minutes and included if you have a Lisboa card.

Upon arrival shuttle services await you to bring you to all the main sites, however we chose to walk to the village centre. An easy walkable path offering views on the National Palace with the characteristic chimneys, colourful stands with local handicrafts and an iron throne, well, with a little imagination…

Sintra Portugal

Early mornings can be foggy in Sintra, don’t worry, sunny ‘sol’ does her best and by noon you’ll have clear blue sky!

 

Sintra city centre Portugal

In the above picture, all the way up, op top of the foggy hills, are the ruins of the moorish castle. We’ll get to them later…

Sintra city hall
view on Sintra city hall

First stop for us however was Pena Palace and its gardens. From the city centre we took a tuk tuk that dropped us off at Parque da Pena entrance and from there we made our way up to the Palace, still a serious climb on often cobbled paths!

tuk tuk Sintra Portugal

Some piece of advice…if you are not interested in castle interiors you do not have to get in line, which can be a very, very long queue…the exterior grounds are perfectly accessible with your entrance ticket without waiting in line or just ask for the cheaper park/outside combination…wish someone had told us that upfront, it certainly wasn’t mentioned at the ticket office…though would have saved us a lot of time! And yes, some of the terraces are only accessible from the inside, however is it worth an hour and a half queuing? That is up to you to decide…

Pena Palace Sintra

Sintra Pena Palace

The palace is a dazzling piece of extravagant and astonishing architecture, where technicolor meets mythology and of course, being in Portugal, tiles are never far away! Not that it was always like that…the hilltop used to be home for a monastery. After the abolition of religious orders in Portugal it was abandoned and King Ferdinand II acquired the grounds in a public auction. So the story goes he was a bit jealous of Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria and commisioned Baron von Eschwege to build him his own dream palace opera-inspired (he later marries opera singer Elise Hensler) and saw to a forestry landscaped garden to hide away in. I’d say mission accomplished!

 

 

Pena Palace Sintra tiles

Meanwhile in city centre…

Sintra moorish walls

I promised blue skies, didn’t I? Fog has cleared and you can see them now…next stop, the moorish walls…

The Castelo dos Mouros was established during the 9th century by the North African Moors to guard the town of Sintra however archeological excavations and studies of the artefacts around 1995 even traced back occupation of the castle slopes to 5000 B.C. by neolithic communities…this place breathes history! In the 19th century King Ferdinand II acquired the castle that had become a ruin by then and converted it into the romantic style of that century through exuberant planting and reconstruction though keeping a certain medieval ruin charm.

Not sure if I would recommend to climb the longer part of the walls with very small children or if you are afraid of heights…the passage is sometimes narrow and there is not always a safety railing…

 

Sintra Moors Castle

The ruin walls offer phenomenal views on Sintra and its surroundings, however, like I said, watch your step, as not everywhere a railing…

Sintra Moors Castle

Sintra Portugal Moors castle
Sintra City Centre shot from the moorish walls

Tired feet and back, hence the tuk tuk back to village…smooth ride and friendly helpful driver, were all I needed to recover and smile again!

tuk tuk Sintra Portugal

There’s plenty more to see in Sintra, in fact, if you want to explore thoroughly and at ease, it’s probably best to spend the night, more ‘must see’ attractions are the Quinta Regaleira, Palácio de Monserrate, Palácio Nacional de Sintra, Convento dos Capuchos,… just check the local tourist office website or office.

Adeus Sintra, until we meet again!

Ingrid

xxx

Sintra Tourist info

Park and National Palace Pena

Moorish castle

we stayed in Airbnb Inglesinhas5 and you can read more on our Lisbon adventures herehere or here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Belém Lisbon: fantastic beasts and where to find them

Belém

One of Lisbon’s many jewels, Belém lies peacefully, well if you ignore the tourists, alongside Tagus river…how different it must have been during the Age of Discovery with explorers impatiently embarking onto their long voyages to unknown destinations and adventures, and with it the booming trade bringing the world to Belém…

Belém
Tagus, Bridge and Cristo Rei statue

Belém

No exploring on an empty stomach…skipping this bakery and their well-known pastéis would be a capital crime! Pastéis de nata exist all over the world, only these ones, manufactured following an old, and till today, secret recipe from the monastery can be called ‘pastéis de Belém’…did you know that according to Portugese tradition a bride who eats a pastéis will never take off her ring?!

Belem
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos

Undisputed leader when it comes to tourist queues…the Unesco-listed monastery, but so worth it! Built for the glory of God, king Manuel I and explorer Vasco da Gama this spectacular building shows an exuberant mix of styles, mixing religious, gothic and manueline/maritime elements. Construction took almost a century and it was built on the site, so the story goes, where Vasco da Gama took off on his voyage to India in 1497. Monks of the St Jerome order provided spirital guidance to all explorers following da Gama’s footsteps and adventures linking the monastery forever to Portugese maritime history…seems only right then that both king Manuel I and Vasco da Gama found their final resting place here where it all began.

Belém

Belém

Belém

Belém

Belém

Fantastic beasts and where to find them…a place for spiritual guidance and fantasy…

But it’s still a monastery…

Belém

Belém

Another Unesco monument, Torre de Belém was built to keep port entrance safe and most often it was the last building of their homeland the explorers saw for many, many months or years sailing off. Originally standing in the centre of the Tejo estuary the flow changes made the fortress stand on the river bank now, making it more accessible.

Belém

Belém
smaller sails, though still a fun and colourful adventure!

From Torre de Belém a pleasant riverbank walk leads to Padrao dos Descobrimentos…

Belém

 

Belém

Designed as a caravel overlooking the sea with Henry the navigator in its prow, this concrete structure was built to mark the 500-year-death of said navigator. Actually it was re-built as another version made of wood and iron in 1940 already existed as part of the Portugese World Exhibition.

Both ramps together show 32 figures that have put their mark some way or another during the Age of Discovery, think cartographers, navigators, warriors, artists, etc…

Many more interesting things to see and do in Belém of course…just check tourist office for more info!

As for accessability, from city centre just take tram or train, our Airbnb Inglesinhas 5 being located close to Cais do Sodre station, train was a fast and easy option.

Hope you enjoyed this little escape to Belém!

Adeus!

Ingrid

 

Airbnb Inglesinhas 5

Lisbon Tourist info

Visit Belém