We were two couples who rented a lovely apartment in Lisbon as a homebase. One day we decided to go to Sintra. We chose a Tuesday because the Pena Castle is closed on Monday and the National Palace is closed on Wednesday. We took the metro to the Rossio train station. Beautiful manueline facade with purplish framed doorways. (Go inside and upstairs to the ticket seller). The guys bought the tickets (4.50E return) while we photographed the fog hanging around the neighborhood below. The trains to Sintra start at 9AM and run every 20 minutes or so. It was a pleasant 40 minute trip. We were there before we knew it. One tip- when you get off the train there are paid 0.2E bathrooms right on the trackside platform BEFORE you go through the turnstile toward the station. The bathrooms are clean and most importantly- available.) We made our visits then went through the turnstile into the station, out the front door, and there was our 434 bus standing right there waiting for us. We paid the fare to the bus driver (5 E each) and we were off. My husband who LOVES to drive on roads with hairpin turns and immediate switch backs found riding while someone else drove less desirable. He was a little queasy. The bus driver was a pro. The roads are very reminiscent of the roads in the Azores or Madeira. Fun! The bus stopped at the first stop. The driver announced something but none of us had any idea what he said. There is no signage at the stops or on the bus. We decided to sit tight and see what happened. A few people did get off but the majority stayed on the bus. At the second stop, things looked more promising. There was a ticket kiosk and a gate with an official ticket taker. We got off there. I think we paid 50E each. (Next tip- after the ticket person scans your ticket- remember where you put it. You will need it again. And, it will be more convenient if each person has his own.) We walked into the complex and was immediately awestruck with all the decorative architecture. There is a photo op every 2 feet. One of the guys bought the audio tours inside the visitor center. (Another tip- buy the audio- it makes a huge difference). Along with a smattering of history, the audio points out details one would never notice or understand. We were there in May 2012 on a drizzling rain sort of day so the crowds were light. We were able to amble about at our own pace without any difficulty. When one finally enters the castle, after several courtyards, there is another ticket person who will want to scan that elusive ticket again and photos are no longer permitted. From that point on, we roamed from one room to another- dining room, kitchen, bedrooms, a peek into a bathroom, living rooms, sitting rooms etc. Each room had fascinating furniture and architectual details. Some of the rooms were being renovated and it was fascinating to see the steps in their project. There was an elaborate set of Oriental furniture in one room which I could have studied for hours. We finally visited all the rooms and returned back outside to another courtyard and wall towers. There is a small food place with tables outside in the courtyard. I think they sold sandwiches, snacks and drinks including beer! We brought our own sandwiches but bought our drinks from there. The sun started to peek out of the clouds showing us Sintra in the distance. More photo ops. After lunch, we headed out through the park to the second's wife house. If one walked purposely without stopping for photos, it would probably take 20 minutes to walk there. It took us much longer. There are small houses and outbuildings, farm animals, lots of flowers, cool trees, and tiny waterfalls along the way. When we got to the second wife's house, there was another person who scanned that elusive ticket. This house is small and under a massive renovation project. The renovators have taken great "before" photos so one can gain a huge appreciation of the magnitude of this project. The house had fallen into a sorry state. Now the state is re-doing the house and the surrounding gardens. We continued through the park, rather than returning to the castle, and exited near the lakes where there is another tiny visitor center with public bathrooms and bus stop on the road. We had thought the entire Pena Castle would take about 3 hours. Instead we had spent 5.5 hours!! We waited for the bus and then returned back to town. (Another tip- watch your times--the last bus back to town is early--maybe 5 or 6PM. We saw people getting off to see the castle as we were leaving. They would only have maybe an hour or so to see it all.) Initially we planned on visiting the National Sintra Palace but we had enough information for one day. So we went off to find a great Pastel de Nada!. But, that is another story!
A day trip from Lisbon to Sintra
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