The hill town (think cold) called Sintra, is an easy day trip by train from Lisbon from the Rossio regional train station. (Note: the Rossio metro station does not exit to Rossio square but Praça da Figueira which can be confusing) Entering the horseshoe doors, we took the escalators to the top floor and found out that you can avoid the lines and recharge your 0.5 euro Viva Viagem card for the 6 euro round trip at the cashier of a convenience store to the right of the entrance validation gates. It was an unimpressive train ride except the monumental aqueduct just outside Lisbon (sit on the left side of the train). Arriving in Sintra 45 minutes later, we got the 434 circuit bus for 6.90 euros which departs about 30 yards from the train station in the direction the train came from. You could walk to Sintra Village (about 0.5 miles) and then follow the signs to the Moors Castle but it is a long walk and very uphill. With limited time, the bus is the best option.
We debated getting off at the Moors Castle, and on hindsight, we should have and taken the path through the woods that starts on the same side as the ticket office about 20 yards up the hill; it is unmarked (except for a green metal bin) but mulched and is only a 5 or 10 minute walk to Pena Palace. Instead we stayed on and the short distance to the Palace took longer in the bus because cars were trying to park on the road, people were trying to walk on the road, and the bus driver was apparently unwilling to mow them all over. Bummer.
Actually, we were glad we visited the Palace first as it got progressively more crowded. We purchased our tickets, declining the extra cost for the tram to the top. (We did need to get some hiking in) However, on the way up, an older woman caught her toe on a cobble and did a bellyflop down the hill in front of us (she said she was ok after we collected her things and helped her up – I think her ample boobs and belly were the only thing that saved her). After that, we made a conscious effort to keep our heads down and toes up.
The palace was undergoing some renovations but the mix of the different interior and exterior styles was worth the visit.
Taking a break from the crowds we left the Palace and took a path to the right of the trolley stop at the Palace to ascend on a wide cobbled path to Alto Cruz. It’s pretty well marked and even with the foilage in May it offered great views of the country side and the Palace.
Once outside the ticket entrance to the Palace, we headed across the road, twenty yards or so down toward the Moor Castle and found the mulched path. In desperation to get off the narrow, hectic car/pedestrian riddled road, we took it. Always staying left we emerged a short time later just above the ticket booth to the Moors Castle. This is actually a fortress and walking around the ramparts was sometimes quite frightening as the winds picked up.
We walked downhill from there to the historic center of Sintra (obviously an easier walk as a couple stopped us, panting, asking how much further; they were only about 400 steep stair steps away – which we encouragingly told them “Oh, only about 5 minutes. You’re almost there!”
In town, we walked around and opted to have a beer at the outdoor cafe of Hotel Lawrence where you can gaze up at one of the castle towers while watching the throngs of tourists walking downhill from some others tourist site (maybe the Quinta da Regaleira?). A stroll through town we almost passed up buying a small cork change purse because Cynthia didn’t like the blue…until he said the pattern was the tiles…Oh. Warren said “Sold!” And we headed to the 434 bus stop just as it started to rain and were glad to have paid for the bus ticket.
Check out the entire Lisbon area gallery here