We wanted to see some more of this lovely area and rode on the train West to see the town of Sintra. The National Palace of Pena and an old Moorish Castle could be found there about 20 km (12+ miles) away from the center of Lisbon.
To get there we took the Lisbon Metro for a few stops to the Rossio station and boarded a commuter train which terminated in Sintra. This town has the distinction of being named a UNESCO World Heritage site which puts it in good company on our trip thus far.
We visited the Pena Palacio first. Research told us the palace was built on a hill a couple of hundred meters higher than the train station. The 5 Adventurers chose to catch a ride up the mountain and then walk back down. We usually try to walk places – we have logged over 5 km per day (3.5 miles) for the last three weeks. Today was a 6+ mile walking day without the miserable 45 minute uphill climb.
The palace itself was an interesting place which had a mix of architectural styles. It was originally a 12th century monastery which was ruined by a significant earthquake in 1755. Over a decade in the 1840s, King Fernando II converted the site into a royal residence for the summer months and it remained a working palace until the Portugese Republic was founded in 1910.
We learned that it was best suited as a summer palace because the combination of the elevation and the prevailing winds made it a very cool place to visit in early April. The scarves and warm coats were in use today in Sintra.
We also got a little warm pick-me-up from the vending machine. The kids were fascinated watching the cup come down and the machine pour hot chocolate. Apparently this was their first vending machine made drink.
After visiting the colorful Pena Palace we walked down to the other castle on an adjoining hilltop which was covered in stone walls. This was the Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors) which was built in the 8th and 9th centuries and was occupied during the Muslim Iberian period when Islam ruled this area. The castle was eventually overun by Christians in the 12th century who established churches in the area and the monastery which would become the Pena Palace.
These imposing stone walls were difficult to climb and we had steep drop-offs on both sides of us as we walked the perimeter. There were truly spectacular views of Lisbon and the Bay at the mouth of the Rio Tajo to the East and the Portugese Atlantic Coast to the North.
We decided to take the walk down the hill back to the train station and were very glad that we did. We were treated to some lovely views of the historic resort town of Sintra and found ourselves stopping partway down to try a 3 olive oil tapas and some sangria.
On our way down, the kids of course couldn’t resist a swing set – they are in the lower right of the photo with the Moorish Castle we just left way up on the hill.
We caught the 5pm train and then wrapped up the day scarfing down some fondue at a neighbourhood bistro. It was delicious ending to a pleasant set of Monday Adventures.