When I was planning my trip to Lisbon, I had millions of things I wanted to do. Visiting Sintra and Cascais were definitely near the top of that list. Sintra and Cascais are nearby towns of the capital that have a lot of unique character and true Portuguese culture.
My friend who I studied with at university with and initially tried to get me to visit Lisbon was from Cascais. She used to always show me beautiful pictures and videos of her hometown that would just make you want to book a flight and go. The golden sand beaches, the reflective blue sea and gelato by the promenade under the hot Portuguese sun. I know these are things you can most likely do in England, but there is nothing quite like doing it there.
Sintra was the other place on my ‘to visit’ list. Sintra was home to Pena Palace, that has been a widely renowned sight and piece of Portuguese heritage, that never fails to impress any tourist or resident. I promised myself that I wouldn’t go all the way to Lisbon without seeing it.
Each of the towns are 45 minutes from Lisbon with many modes of transport. You can get on a train from Cais de Sodre to Cacais, that costs €2.20/€1.10 (adult/child) each way. I think it’s a great way of getting there, because you pass through the city and it blends out into stunning beach views along the way. However, there is also the option to take an Uber which will cost around €25 for the 45 minute journey. The train also comes back into Cais de Sodre from Sintra too, if you wish to do both places in one day.
I personally think it’s enough time, we left around 9:30am and returned back around 6pm, covering everything with enough time and at a leisurely pace. We took the train into Cacais, before taking a 20 minute Uber to Sintra and then taking another Uber back from Sintra to Lisbon. I would definitely recommend doing that on the way back from Sintra, as you won’t want to jump on a train after a long day of walking around, but it’s also cheaper going back from Sintra to Lisbon. It costed around €17.
Arriving to Cascais, you are presented by the warmth of the sun and the freshness of the sea. Take your time to breathe in that fresh, delicate air and slowly feel all your worries drift away.
Cascais is filled with the most authentic Portuguese mosaic stoned streets with small bright coloured designer boutiques and the best ice-cream places. I can see myself moving to Cascais when i’m retired and just living a happy, serene life.
I didn’t know one place to boast so many pale and bright colours. Everywhere you look, you find yourself staring at a beautiful, colourful building.
If you’re looking to make a pit stop whilst exploring, I would definitely recommend grabbing some gelato from Santini and wandering around. You cannot leave Cascais or Lisbon without trying Santini. I had a scoop of coconut and mango and it was just so heavenly under the basking hot sun.
After spending most of the morning at Cascais, we decided to pop up to Sintra. I would definitely recommend an Uber for this trip, as getting to Pena Palace is quite a challenge by foot. Your Uber will drop you right to the very top at Pena Palace. Personally, I think it’s the best place to start especially as you don’t want to be rushed for time. Especially as it is the jewel of Sintra. There is a entry fee to get into Pena Palace’s grounds and can be between €7.50-€14 depending on what type of ticket you buy.
Entering through the gates, you will find yourself wandering through paths passing through forests and tall trees. Following the path to Pena Castle will take you to the jewel itself. It gives you a small taster as you approach it through the trees too.
Pena Palace was commissioned by Ferdinand August Franz Anton who was from Austria. He married into a Portuguese royal family, therefore giving him the title of King Ferdinand II. Before the castle was built, it was just a rocky area and quite barren. As King, he wished to utilise the land and rival the castle the Neuschwanstein castle in the region of Bavaria, Germany. Barely any design input was put in my the King, but he required it to be the most elegant palace possible.
The palace was then reigned by himself and his second wife Elise, until Ferdinand’s death. Elise then inherited his wealth and Pena Palace until she passed away in 1929. In 1995, the palace and the grounds of Sintra was classified as a World Heritage Site and has been a famous tourist spot ever since.
We even had the chance to go inside and explore the many rooms and bathrooms that the King had in this castle. He even accommodated his working staff in the castle, but not in the same opulence that he lived in.
Imagine this being your view from your palace’s balcony. Just casually looking out over all the land that is yours. One day… 😉
Seeing the palace inside and out was such a treat. It was one of the things that was high up on my travel bucket list and it feels so good to have ticked it off.
However, I had my heart set on seeing the castle from afar and really getting it into perspective of how remote it actually is. We trekked North for about 25 minutes to High Cross. The highest point, of Sintra where we could see Pena Palace in its entirety.
This was a day I was never going to forget – a real ‘pinch me’ moment!
After such a climaxing moment, we decided to pop off to another of Sintra’s pretty gardens, Quinta da Regaleria for quiet stroll. You have to take a tuk-tuk or some other kind of transport down to Quinta as it is quite a long way. All of the smaller modes of transport have the same rate of €5 per person, which is set by UNESCO.
We even to the chance to go through underground caves and find ourselves at the bottom of a well. Complete with many stairs and staircases to get yourself out of the well, all still wet and slippery. Super surreal!
We had such an incredible day discovering the wonders of Cascais and Sintra. It moments like these that really make you appreciate the gift and experiences that travelling gives you.
Have you ever been to Cascais or Sintra?
Until next time…