Note: This post is from April 2015
We might not have waken up as early as we had planned, but there is only 30 minutes to Sintra with train, so there was no rush. We took the train to Sintra from Rossio station.
From the train station in Sintra we walked up a zigzag-road along the hill. It’s magically green, and there are artisans along all the way to the center. I bought some nice photographs of Lisbon from traveling Photographer, and Duilio bought some leather bracelets.
Sintra is high in the hills above Lisbon. It’s a small town that looks like a fairy tale, it has romantic parks and mysterious trails through the forest. Sintra is known for it’s 19th century aomantic architectural monuments, and it has castles, lot’s of nature, medieval buildings… it’s just adoring.
It has been a tourist magnet for a while, it’s on UNESCO World Heritages Site since 1955. The ancient kings usually had their summer home here, since it’s not as hot as below and the coast. If you are in Lisbon this is a city you must visit.
Once we arrived the center of Sintra, we visited the tourist office to get a map. We already knew what we wanted to visit – Quinta da Regaleira.
The entrance fee to Quinta Da Regaleira is 6 euros and it was totally our favourite place to visit in Sintra.
The facade of the palace is characterized by Gothic pinnacles and an impressive octagonal towel. It was 5 floors and you can walk around inside it and see all the rooms (dressing room, office, kitchen, bedrooms, living room, billiards room etc) and furniture just as it was with the previous owner!
The land that is now Quinta da Regaleira has had many owners over the years. It’s from somewhere in the 18th century, and it was a private residence. It didn’t open up to public until 1997!
The property is romantic and has a palace, a chapel, and a luxurious park with lakes, grottoes, wells, benches, fountains, and many exquisite constructions.
It’s really huge! It has four hectares of land in the surrounding and a treed park with myriad roads and footpaths. The coolest thing is the extensive system of tunnels, which have multiple entry points that include the grottoes, the chapel, Waterfall Lake, and ”Leda’s Cave,”. The ”Initiation Well” connects to other tunnels via a series of underground walkways.
The Initiation Wells are two wells that are more like underground towers with stairs. They have never been water sources, they were used for ceremonial purposes that included Tarot initiation rites. The tunnels connect to these wells, aswell as vaces and other monuments around the park. The length of the “inverted tower” and the number of steps in the stairs are somehow connected to tarot mysticism.
After spending a couple of hours around this mansion and tunnels we were starving. We found a little restaurant on our way from Quinta da Regaleira to Castelo da Pena, which had a nice view. The cheese here was great! We sat outside and yes, I burnt my shoulders, haha.
Our plan was to walk up to the Castelo de Pena, the big colorful castle you see in the top, but we gave up that idea, it’s yet another zigzag road up about 45 minutes, and the sun was gazing so….. Instead we walked to the bus station to take a bus up, I think it was about 5 euros for a 2 way ticket, but we met a woman and her family there who had walked down, so they had one way still on their ticket, which they gave to us :) So we got up and down for free!
The entrance fee to Castelo De Pena was 14€, quite expensive, but since it’s sort of the landmark of Sintra we wanted to check it out. The palace stands on the top of a hill in the Sintra Mountains above the town of Sintra.
The castle itself is super cool from the outside, so colorful and majestic. And the view from the castle was fantastic – you could see everything! But the inside of the castle wasn’t that special, and neither the gardens which were nothing more than forest and a lake with a cute tower… so yes, I enjoyed Quinta da Regaleira more :)
Around 8 in the evening we took the train back, the time really flies in Portugal! We bought some wine, cheese and bread on the super market on our way home and sat in the hostel kitchen and relaxed.
On Sunday we got up early to take the train to Cascais, but when we got to the station there was a strike going on in the public transport! …So there were no buses or trains or trams.. We were supposed to meet up a couple of friends I made while I was in Brazil who lived in Cascais in the evening, and we really wanted to go there.
So we rented some bikes, it costed 25€ (there was quite a line there since everyone thought as us;) – and then we biked about 30km along the coast until we reached Cascais.
It was very windy, but the sun was burning, so we managed to get a really nice tan with nice marks of our clothes and watches, haha. We made a few stops along the way on some beaches. In Carvahelos beach we had some milkshakes and food and we also wanted to check out the water – so we put our feet in the water to see how it was – and it was COLD!!
Cascais is a lively summertime town where lot’s of local people go for the summer. Before it was mostly a fishing village.
There was still a few hours left until we were supposed to meet up with Miguel, so we found a place in leeward on the beach and ate our sandwiches we had brought with us.
The sun was shining at it last hour and we were a little bit worried about our way back, since we had a dinner-date with Miguel and Leonor, and then we would need to bike back 30 kms again… But fortunately Miguels car was a big combi, where our bikes (after some struggling) actually fitted, so he could drive us back. So sweet! :) And such a relief! Haha.
We visited Miguels home, he lives in the center in an old apartment with his family, I would say that’s a very typical Portuguese home, very cozy and filled with stuff and memories. They let us try som Pastel de Pascua (easter-cake) and we talked with his family who speaks Spanish, and they helped us in how to go to Porto.
Leonor came after a while and we went to eat dinner at a local restaurant with very good prices. Duilio had his third kind of Bacalhau here, “Bacalhau de crema”. I had a vegetarian omelette made for me. I also ordered a first course “vegetable soup” – but it didn’t look to vegetarian, it had some meat in it. What I enjoyed most, beside the company of course, was the desert – I tried something called “Baba de camelho” and that was truly delicious, like a caramel mousse.. Yummi!
Then we had some drinks at another place and we tried some Moscatela – another good local wine/liquor. It was quite smoky inside haha.
We wandered around Cascais, it’s a very cozy and pittoresque small town with cobblestone streets and shops, I can see how lively it can be during summer. We passed by the enormous big Casino and then visited Eleonors house in the outsides of Estoril, completely different from Miguels typical city-apartment, her house was super big with a garden and the whole basement was just a saloon with billiards and everything just to have people over for parties or get together :)
We rounded up the night and Miguel drove us back all the way to Lisbon even though he had to get up early next morning for university, we are truly grateful for that!
Next morning, on Monday, we went down with our bikes to the place where we had rented them. Then we did the check-out at the hostel and took the subway to Oriente where the train to Porto left. On our way there it started raining – buh, we have had such a good luck the whole week with sunshine and between 20-30 degrees everyday! I think it was raining to make it easier to say good bye ;)
There was off course still strike and plenty of cancelled trains and busses – but we managed to jump on the first train that left – we bought our ticket 12.04 and the train left 12.09!! YES, we ran like crazy! Haha!