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A Day In The Striking Spires Of Splendid Sintra
Member Name: chrisbriers567
Advantages: Cheap, interesting and can easily be done in a day
Disadvantages: The town is very hills so can be difficult for people with mobility issues.
This review will aim to give an in depth look at how to plan a day, how to travel to Sintra and also what to see in the picture postcard town. In my opinion Sintra is the perfect destination for many different types of tourist, this includes those looking to spend a holiday in a relaxing and generally quiet town to those keen cruisers who arrive regularly in the port of Lisbon but perhaps who have been to the city before. For the purpose of this review I will be describing it as though I just have one day in the town although it is very easy to spend much longer.
The hills top location of Sintra has meant that the development of large scale tourist resorts nearby to the quaint town have not been possible. On the one hand this has kept the town unspoiled but on the other hand it has meant that many people who come to the town have to use the difficult and over-used narrow road system that goes through the heart of the town. Parking is very difficult even during the quiet periods of the year and during my last visit during the month of July I can honestly say that the situation is not looking as though it is going to change in the not too distant future. There are multiple car parks but they fill up early in the day and are at least a quarter of hour walk up fairly steep narrow paths to reach the main central tourist attraction, the Sintra National Palace.
The best option for those based in the city of Lisbon or the surrounding areas such as the coastal resort of Cascais is the train. Commuter services are frequent even at the weekend and take approximately 40 minutes from several stations around Lisbon. I mentioned that I felt that a trip to Sintra was possible for cruise ship passengers who have not booked an escorted tour, a shuttle bus operates from the cruise terminal to the area around the Santa Justa Lift although sometimes it can be as far down as the Praca do Comercio, but is generally in one of the side streets around the area. The nearest railway station to this area is Rossio Station which is about 850m or half a mile along the Rua Aurea in a northwards direction, the station has regular services along the Sintra line as often as every 15 minutes at peak times during the working week. Weekend services are also in operation and tend to be approximately every 30 minutes. Trains operate at most hours in the day from about 06:00 in the morning through to just past midnight which is ideal for those with flights to catch at odd hours in the day, it also allows you to make the most of the final day in Sintra. The railway station is Sintra is only a short walk from the town centre but it is worth baring in mind that at times it is up hill and can be a bit of an annoyance for those with luggage.
Buses are a popular way of getting around Sintra and can be accessed at the railway station which is ideal for those who prefer not walk. The route 433 bus is the most common of the tourist buses and most of the drivers will speak some English, enough to tell you how much it costs at least! Other routes include the 434 which is very frequent during the summer period with services at least every 15 minutes. Services are also fairly frequent during the off-peak season. The 434 visits most of the key tourist areas including the Pena Palace, Toy Museum and the castle. It is worth mentioning also the 435 service which operates more frequently than any of the other services but only for limited hours, usually 10 o'clock in the morning to about 6 o'clock at night. Day passes can be bought on all of the buses and it may also be worth checking out if family day passes are available, all tickets are bought from the driver.
My Top 3 Attractions In Sintra:
1. The Pena Palace - This is arguably the most popular of all the attractions in Sintra and it is also unlikely to break the bank. The palace was created in 1847 after only a few years of construction on the ground of a former monastery that had been devastated by the earthquake in Lisbon back in 1755. The palace is certainly noticeable with the bright color scheme that has been employed in order to restore the appearance to how it would have looked all those years ago, this has had a mixed reception with the local population, many of whom believe it has given an unnatural appearance to the site. The whole tour of the palace covers not only its interior but also the exterior park and the Chalet of the Countess of Elda. Adults can gain admission for the whole visit for 13 Euros 50 cents, under 18's can go in for 11 Euros and under 5 gain admission at no cost. It is also worth noting that the Lisboa card can be used to gain cheaper admission to the palace and discounts for seniors can often be obtained. A family ticket can also be bought and this consists of 2 adults and 2 children and costs 46 Euros, be careful though as it may actually be cheaper to buy the tickets separately especially for families with at least on under 5. Tickets that exclude the interior of the palace can also be bought and in some cases this can reduce the cost of admission greatly for those who would simply like to appreciate the beauty of the stunning views that can be seen from the gardens and the terrace. Adult prices for these tickets start from as little as 7 Euros per person and they are ideal for those who may wish to take a picnic.
2. The Sintra National Palace - Palaces are undoubtedly the reason why the small town of Sintra has gained so much UNESCO attention through the years and this site has World Heritage status. Many tourists seem to make the mistake of underestimating the Palace due to the fact that it seems somewhat unloved from the outside, with bits of paint flaking off I agree it could do with some attention. However a visit to the Palace with engulf you in a world of fascinating history and enlighten you to the Arabic origins of palace. I must confess that the title of this review is a little deceptive as the palace does not in fact have any spires, what they are in reality are chimneys that rise far above the building and dominate the nearby skyline, but I am sure you can see why I chose to call them spires when I came up with the title! (alliteration for anyone only half awake). Admission is relatively cheap at only 7 Euros and all young people under the age of 14 can gain free entry, a visit to the palace is fantastic for any budding historians out there. The Sintra National Palace is open from 9:30 in the morning through to the last admission at 5:00, but it is not open on Wednesdays and during all of the Portuguese public holidays.
3. The Castle Of The Moors - The Moorish castle is located at the very top of the hill that towers above the town and in my opinion it gives the best views over the surrounding areas on a clear day. The walk up to the castle is very steep and should be attempted only by those comfortable with difficult and hot walking conditions, lots of water is certainly recommended. The tour bus that leaves from the station calls at the castle and this is the best alternative for the vast majority of people. The opening hours for the castle are generous with the first admission at 9:30 during the summer season and it does not close until 20:00 in the evening, the castle closes at 17:00 during the winter season. Tickets cost 7 Euros and as with all of the attractions in Sintra family tickets can be bought. Unfortunately for those on a tight budget it is not possible to get the panoramic views without entry into the castle itself but the walk up to the castle is free and does give some photo opportunities.
I believe Sintra is well worth a visit and the attractions that I have detailed will leave you spellbound just as they have left me, the appeal of Portugal must now be greater than ever as people become more aware of the environmental effects of long hall travel and also the cost of many places once your get there. Public transport in Sintra is cheap and most people in the town also how a strong knowledge of English, so welcome to my paradise!
This review has also been published on Ciao under the username chrisbriers567
Summary: A superb day out that is ideal for those who are staying in Lisbon or there for the day on a cruise