Portugal's city of fairytales
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Portugal’s city of fairytales

This is Sintra and, oh oh oh, what a beautiful place! Just outside Lisbon, this city is full of castles and magical gardens straight out of a story book. This 2000 year old, Portuguese site cannot be missed; trust me! It felt a bit like Disney, but then in real life.

If you’ve planned a city trip to Lisbon, then you can easily do this excursion in a day. You can visit with an organized tour or rent a car, but we decided to just go by train; which was just as easy (from Station Rossio). In a half hour, you’re in Sintra. You’re best option is to get a ticket for the local bus since distances are quite large.

Spread throughout all of Sintra are countless palaces, estate homes, and gardens. You could spend an entire day wandering around through the gardens and castles. Here are our favorites:

1. Palacio Nacional de Pena

This is the most famous building in Sintra that can’t be missed from it’s perch high up on the mountain. Towers in all kinds of colors and styles are the true eye-catcher of the city. What a fairytale!

2. Castelo dos Mouros

This is an old Moorish castle which is, unfortunately, no longer completely intact. But, you can still walk along the castle walls and the best part was the view; pretty spectacular, right? Not advised for those with a fear of heights, by the way.

3. Parque e Palacio de Monserrate

A ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ castle with very beautiful gardens. The palace is a romantic combination of gothic, Moorish, and Indian influences. In the garden, you can see so many tropical plants and we stopped here to havea drink at the teahouse.

4. Quinta da Regaleira

A magical castle with a mysterious garden. In the garden, you’ll find hidden caves and water features. Everything here was built with a special purpose in mind; you’ll see what I mean as you walk around. It’s a sort of Indiana Jones-like atmosphere with little buildings, winding staircases, and hidden pathways.

5. Het Palacio Nacional de Sintra

This is the striking, white palace located in the center of the city; a medieval, royal palace. Also great to have a look around in the interior of this beautiful building.

There are plenty of places to eat and drink in Sintra. And, if you just can’t get enough, you can make it an overnight stay. But, after a day full of fairytales, we thought it was time to visit the ‘real’ city of Lisbon.