When you are trying to make the perfect itinerary for everyone, no location will ever seem to be able to provide everything for everyone. This is what I thought before I visited Sintra Portugal. A mere 45-minute train ride, or a 20-minute drive, northwest of Lisbon, this fairy-tale town is full of history, lies close to the coast, and has been named a Unesco World Heritage Site. Whether you have business in Lisbon or are heading south from Porto, this small town is a “must stop”. Here is you perfect itinerary for a two-day Trip to Sintra Portugal!
When You Arrive
To start your two-day itinerary to Sintra Portugal will depend on what time you arrive. Either on your way to lunch or dinner you must stop by the Fountain of Armes for a quick snap on the way to Sintra’s historic center. This beautifully covered by quintessential Portuguese tiles, the stately fountain will give you a glimpse into the Moorish influence on the city.
We stopped at Romario de Baco for dinner, which offers authentic Portuguese cuisine. I could have stayed here all night if I didn’t have a toddler with a bedtime – so we sauntered back to our hotel, Lawernece’s Hotel (totally fabulous, side note).
We had a fabulous breakfast at our hotel to start the day or you can go to Cafe Saudade, which is known for its coffee and baked goods. If something on-the-go is in order instead, stroll the streets of the historic center, which is filled with cafes where you can sample pastéis de nata, the nation’s favorite custard tarts.
Starting off in the morning is the perfect time to hike the Santa Maria Trail from the historical area to the Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors). Fair warning – it is steep. From start of the trail to the top is long and steep *WEAR GOOD SHOES*
If you’d want to have a more relaxing morning, hop on the 434 Sintra tourist bus or take a taxi or a tuk-tuk. Walking the castle’s worn walls affords lovely views of the valley below.
Of course, next door to the Moorish castle is Palácio Nacional da Pena, which is a huge highlight of a visit to Sintra. This palace is known for its yellow and orange walls with facades covered in blue Portuguese tiles, and the palace gardens are also worth a visit.
If you chose to ride up to the Castle of the Moors, traverse the Santa Maria Trail back down to the historic center – far less grueling than going up – or you could jump in a taxi or take the 434 bus down. Either way, the pathway is interesting and contains a few archaeological features and outlook points.
When you are done hiking or riding up to the castle and the palace it is time for lunch! This is where you can relax, enjoy a delicious glass of wine with your food and rest your feet after all your walking.
After lunch, I highly suggest spending a relaxing afternoon perusing the plentiful shops of the old center. Skip the kitschy souvenirs, and search for paintings by local artists or vintage Portuguese tiles to take home. During your walk, note the facades of the buildings, and duck into the side streets in the pedestrian area. You never know what you’ll find!
No trip to Portugal is complete without listening to Fado music, which is what a visit to Sinistra is all about. For dinner, drinks and music walk behind the train station to find this restaurant and nightclub, open on Friday and Saturday nights.
On the last day of your two-day itinerary, after breakfast, head to Quinta da Regaleira, a remarkable palace just outside the historic center. Although Pena Palace gets most of the accolades, allow more time for Quinta da Regaleira. The interior is gorgeous, but the outside is what truly shines. From magnificent stone walkways and turrets to underground pathways, the site truly is a wonderland.
Return to the historical area, where you can take your pick of the quaint cafes, or pop into Tulhas for lunch. It’s a cozy place to dine on traditional Portuguese fare within a converted grain warehouse.
After lunch, enjoy the rest of your day everal museums are near Sintra’s center, including the Museu Anjos Teixeira, which is full of sculptures, or the News Museum, which consists of interactive displays focusing on journalism. A bit outside the center is the Museu das Artes de Sintra, which houses one of the largest private collections of contemporary art in the world.
As you prepare to leave Sintra, you might feel like I did…two days just didn’t feel like long enough. I feel like a part of my heart was stolen by Sintra and I cannot wait to return there again.