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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Sintra | Pena Palace & Moorish Castle

On our final day in the Lisbon area we drove out to Sintra, which is a town located in the Sintra mountain range in the greater Lisbon area. It is widely known for it's palaces and castles. In many ways, you feel like you're in a fairy tale.

Parking & Buses

We had read if you drive there are limited parking spots, so you have to get there early. So we headed out to try to arrive by 9:15 a.m., which is when the first shuttle bus to the castle starts running. The shuttle bus picks up at the train station and then goes on a loop route throughout the various Sintra sites for a cost of 5.50 Euro. The climb up to the top is very steep, so it was nice to have the bus take us up. However, at the end of the day when we tried to catch the bus to take us back down again, we waited for much longer than the 15 minutes that was supposed to be between buses. We were super lucky because a large line had formed and we were the last ones allowed on the bus before they determined the bus full. We did notice there seemed to be parking spots toward the top, so it may have been possible to drive to the top, but we didn’t want to risk it.

Because we were taking the bus and there were several sets of stairs at each of the exhibits, we opted to leave the stroller behind. Instead we did lots of piggy back rides and carrying Clara, which equaled sore muscles that evening. I did see some people leave their stroller at the information stand within the Moorish castle, but I can’t imagine bringing it on the bus with us - it was packed to the max!

Check the Weather for Sintra

There are several things to see in Sintra, but we decided to visit the Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle. However, the weather wasn't on our side. It was a pretty cloudy day and since you’re up at the top there was a lot of fog. When we went to the Pena Palace we could still see most of it before the fog seemed to get thicker later that morning. That afternoon when we went to the Moorish Castle, the fog was thicker and we didn’t get to see the long stretch of castle walls around it.

Therefore, I would recommend checking the weather specifically for Sintra. In Lisbon that day (only 40 minutes away from Sintra) it was supposed to be 25 C and sunny, but in Sintra it was cloudy and chilly. Unfortunately, we didn’t dress appropriately, and I noticed several others were in the same boat as us. When we drove back to Lisbon that evening, it seemed relatively nice and not cloudy at all.

Pena Palace

Pena Palace was cool to check out and Clara really enjoyed seeing it and exploring the various rooms, because it looked like Disney princess’ castles. We headed to Pena Palace right away; and we're glad we did, because we were one of the first people there. When we were leaving it was starting to get packed with tourist groups. It was very picturesque and was interesting to find out that it originally started out as a twelfth century chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pena, later converted into a Convent in 1503 and finally purchased by royalty who did further construction to make into a palace.

The inside showed the rooms furnished by the royal furniture and items, and it was interesting to see how they had made some of the convent rooms into royal rooms. The castle was inhibited by royalty until 1910 when Portugal became a Republic.

The Pena Palace is surrounded by a park with various trails and that is where we got some of our best views of the castle, as when you’re right at the castle it's too difficult to get the complete picture of it.

They had a stable so we made sure to stop there to visit the horses - Clara really enjoyed that! Although she shied away when the horses got a little too close. We enjoyed our picnic lunch at the Valley of the Lakes before heading over to the Moorish Castle.

Moorish Castle

By the time we got to the Moorish Castle, the fog had really sat in. The lady warned us that we wouldn’t get any views prior to purchasing our ticket, but we really didn’t have time to wait for the fog to lift with two young kids. We went in and ventured around. There was actually a fair bit of the exhibit that you didn’t even need a ticket for. In these parts you could see some of the archeological sites, a tomb, guardhouse and the outer walls. However, once you got in the actual entrance of the castle, which required admission, you had the ability to climb on the walls and see some of the remains of the houses within the castle walls.

The Moorish Castle was a military fort that was built around the 10th Century by the Muslim populations that occupied the area around the time. Interestingly it served as a control tower for the coast and the land north of there, and was an outpost for the city of Lisbon. It was pretty cool to see something so old still standing. Although we didn’t get the view we wanted, I think we got a pretty good idea of it. We just missed out on the full outline of the castle and the surrounding hillside, where several other interesting sites are located.

After getting back to the town we decided to warm up with some pie/cake and coffee/tea from one of the local shops. We were really ill prepared with not even bringing jackets with us! The cute little coffee/tea shop had a couple of tables set up inside with some kids toys so it was great that our daughter could get in some play time with a little tea set and cash register!

Crepes in Lisbon

It was my mom’s final night in Portugal and she had been wanting to try some crepes. When we got back to Lisbon we went to a creperie for her first taste of crepes. The owners were actually French, so it was legit; and they even made Clara a cute little boat-shaped crepe with strawberries and bananas.

Next Up...

After being on the move constantly, and climbing all the hills, we’re excited for some relaxation and slower paced schedule as we head 3 hours to the Algarve next. Around 2 weeks into our trip, I think Clara started to get a little homesick - she has made some comments about missing her toys at and is often talking about going back home. I can imagine it’s hard on a little girl being away from her familiar items - she’s doing great, but we’re hoping that some slower paced days with lots of playing will help her recharge!


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