If Portugal isn’t on your life list, add it immediately! In December my friends and I visited this magical place called Sintra and since it’s so close to Lisbon you should see it on your next trip to Europe. The colors of the Pena Palace are vibrant and the people are even better. Due to Spain and Italy being widely-popular, Portugal is one of the most underrated countries yet it’s probably one of my favorites to visit in Europe. The architecture is straight out of Candyland and while it wasn’t initially high on my list, I’m glad I got the chance to experience its beauty. So…why do I think you should you visit this Wonder of Portugal?
1. IT’S FULL OF PALACES AND CASTLES
I only visited Pena Palace, but I wish I’d had more time to see the others! Sintra is full of little parks that have castles in every nook and cranny. There’s Monserrate Palace, Castle of the Moors, Quinta da Regaleira, Seteais Palace, the National Palaces of Queluz and Sintra and more! Make a whole day or two devoted to palace hopping.
2. YOU CAN TOUR IT IN A TUK TUK
Sintra was the only place in Europe where I rode around in a Tuk Tuk and I couldn’t imagine a better way to see it. Walking tours are the cheapest way to see a new city, but because there are hills and unmarked trails to get to palaces in Sintra, I suggest paying for the tour and transportation. You get to ride through the beauty of the town with a local who knows all the best photo-ops and hideaways between the roads and the forest. My Tuk Tuk driver even brought my friends and I to his favorite restaurant nearby to indulge in some local cuisine!
3. IT’S STUNNING
Sintra is surrounded by nature, which helps the colorful palace brighten the area. The Pena Palace is the most popular and you can see why! The colors are made of a child’s Disney fairytale getaway and Crayola crayons all-in-one. I’ve never seen any palace like it in my travels. It’s not only memorable, but makes for a great photo to send to family and friends or a lock screen on your phone. You’ll have the holiday card to beat with Pena Palace in the background…
4. YOU GET OUT OF THE CITY
Lisbon is not as busy as other major European cities, but it’s still a city. Sintra is just a train ride to the woods outside tram-life of Lisbon, which makes for a nice getaway. A little fresh air is always welcomed! However, Sintra can be packed with tourists in Spring and Summer so buy your tickets online to avoid lines.
5. THE HISTORY
With old palaces such as these comes a history lesson, of course. Just like their Spanish neighbor, Sintra was once occupied by the Moors. Their influence is still prevalent in the bright color scheme and style of their castles, similar to structures you see in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia such as Córdoba, Granada and Sevilla. Understanding the history of the beauty we see on Google searches and Instagram makes visiting all the more real.
Full of life, culture, and history, Sintra is less than an hour away from Lisbon. Its palaces are UNESCO Heritage Sites that can be seen from Lisbon too…some days. As a country, Portugal is a hidden treasure of Europe that you should see it for yourself. Take time out of your European adventure to check it out all it has to offer!
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