When we were in Portugal last September, one of our favourite days out was to Sintra. Sintra is located about 30km outside of Lisbon, in a hilly forested area, and is famous for its collection of palaces and castles. One palace in particular caught our attention last time: the colourful Palácio da Pena, with its red, yellow and blue walls. We only went into the grounds last time around - which I regretted afterwards - so I was really looking forward to coming back and getting a ticket to go into the palace itself this time around.
We were planning to catch a train to Sintra from Lisbon's Rossio station this morning. I had forgotten to look at the timetables in advance though, so we ended up just missing one and having to wait an hour for the next. We passed the time by having a coffee at the station cafe, from where we had a view up towards Lisbon's castle. I may have had a custard tart too
The train from Lisbon to Sintra takes around 40 minutes and the return fare was only €5, which seemed pretty reasonable. It was a big train, but a busy one; Sintra is a very popular tourist destination and if we hadn't been at the station early, we'd probably have had to stand.
Unfortunately, the weather wasn't very good today (we'd been woken up this morning by the sound of torrential rain) and so when we stepped off the train in Sintra and walked towards its iconic town hall, the sky was rather grey and cloudy.
As we walked towards the town centre, we soon saw the Castle of the Moors towering high above us. That was a little bit daunting, as we knew from past experience that we needed to climb at least as high, if not higher, to reach the Palácio da Pena.
We were trying to follow the path which we took last time, but took a slight wrong turn at one point. It became clear we were going the wrong way when the road started to lead downhill It didn't matter though, because everywhere you turn in Sintra there is something interesting to see.
Eventually we found the road we wanted and started to climb up above the town. I was quite excited that soon we could see the sea
We were looking for the Villa Sassetti hiking trail, which leads up from the town to the foot of the palace gardens.
It's quite a steep path, but peaceful as you manage to lose the coachloads of tourists, at least temporarily
Partway up, we passed the Villa Sassetti, after which the trail is named.
Before too long, we were an awful lot nearer the Castle of the Moors than we had been when we were in Sintra.
A little bit further, and we got our first view of the Palácio da Pena.
This meant we were at the entrance to the palace park. We paid for the full ticket this time - €14 each - which would enable us to explore both the park and the palace itself. This sign warned that there were still 1050 metres to go, and a 14% incline.
We set off, first walking through the Valley of the Lakes.
The path here was all very flat, which made a nice change.
Soon the path started going upwards again!
Walking in the park was fun though, because every so often we came across interesting monuments like this one.
Eventually we were there!
I'm not sure how far we'd climbed, but my Fitbit puts it at 126 staircases, so quite far!
It was worth it for the views
The palace gate was as far as we had got last time, so it was exciting to finally go through it
Straightaway we were able to get a closer view of the big yellow tower.
And we could just see the red clock tower too.
Of course, we'd reunited with all the coachloads of tourists now, so it was pretty busy everywhere...
...but worth it to see the palace from so many different angles.
We explored the ramparts around the castle for a while...
...before getting closer to the main gate.
It was being guarded by this rather scary looking creature!
The inside of the gateway was completely tiled. Some of the tiles were really pretty...
...while others depicted violent battle scenes.
Once we were through the gate, we found ourselves in a courtyard from where we had impressive views out over the surrounding countryside.
When we looked upwards, we were now really close to the red clock tower.
This very pointy and stripy roof is the entrance to the palace chapel.
It was very ornate inside...
...and there was some colourful stained glass.
I particularly loved this pane, which featured the tower of Belem that we saw yesterday.
Then it was time to go into the palace itself.
The palace was built by the Portuguese king Ferdinand II, who bought what was the site of a ruined monastery on the top of this hill and decided to transform it into a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family. Inside there are lots of very ornate rooms, like this dining room...
...and this bedroom.
This room had some very elaborate statues holding the chandeliers!
The best views were probably when we periodically emerged into the inner courtyard though and were able to see up towards the clocktower again.
It was definitely fun to see inside, but overall I think the outside of the castle is the best
It was beginning to rain by this point, so we decided we'd better head back town to Sintra. Partway down were rewarded with a lovely view back up towards the palace
There were just a few slightly difficult paths to negotiate before we were back in the town, enjoying some lasagne and wine
Although the weather wasn't perfect, it's been a lovely day and a great end to what has been a very exciting holiday!