Spending 24 hours in Sintra, Portugal

If you're thinking about going to Lisbon, every itinerary will tell you to use one of your days to visit Sintra. I'm here to tell you not to do a day trip. Instead I'm going to suggest you stay overnight and spend at least one night in Sintra - two, if you can.

Let me start at the beginning though and how we ended up staying overnight. Because originally we weren't. We were going to be one of those day trippers - it only takes 40 minutes on the train from Rossio station to Sintra, costing €2.25 each way, or about €25 in an Uber - but, like it did for most of this year, COVID-19 derailed those plans... for the better.

I booked our flight to Lisbon back in January, a Sunday flight which landed at lunchtime. But that got changed when easyJet reduced their flight schedule from several flights a day to just one. That one flight landed at 9pm, which seemed a big waste, so I changed it to Saturday as that flight landed at lunchtime. I was hoping to add on an additional night's stay at our airbnb in Lisbon... not possible. So, rather than stay at another airbnb or hotel in Lisbon for just one night, staying in Sintra happened instead.

We headed straight from Lisbon airport to Sintra (I pre-booked a people carrier on booking.com for the four of us - when we visited in September 2020, normal cabs were limited to two people because of COVID-19). We stayed in a three-bedroom apartment in Villas de Cintra (a rather cheap €86 split between four), which is ideally located between the new bit of Sintra where the train station is and the old town, and it was exactly what we needed to begin our 24 hours in Sintra. (OK, we were in town roughly 28 hours, but that's not as catchy.) It was also a rare place that let us only book a one-night stay at a weekend. 

Our first stop after checking in was Tascatinga for awesome Portuguese tapas. The oxtail cheeks and chorizo lollipops were my favourite. Lunch for the four of us, including alcoholic drinks, cost €50. Can you imagine having an awesome lunch in London with alcoholic drinks for £11 each?! Impossible! That's the thing about Portugal though, it's very cheap. It's the second cheapest place to holiday in Europe, after Bulgaria. We went to Bulgaria last summer and I'd totally recommend visiting Portugal over Bulgaria. Hands down.

Full of delicious food, our next stop was Quinta da Regaleira. Read my post to find out more, but I'd definitely recommend you visit here if you're in Sintra as it's so dreamy. You don't need to take a bus or taxi there either as it's located in the town - either there or the National Palace are good places to visit if you arrive in Sintra later in the day.  

After a few hours exploring it was time to head back to our apartment to change for dinner, which we enjoyed at Romaria de Baco. Again, super nice, and super cheap - about £25 per person, which included several starters, a main each, plus two bottles of wine and beers. Try the octopus tempura. Our table was booked for 7.30pm and we were the only ones there when we arrived, but that's because the Portuguese tend to eat later. By the time we left, just after 10pm, the restaurant was much busier (for COVID-19 times, anyway).

The next morning we were up early(ish) to check out at 9am so we could grab some pastéis de nata and then head up to Pena Palace. (We left our luggage safely stowed at Villas de Cintra.) But, we were thwarted on two counts here. Firstly, I don't whether it was a COVID-19 thing or if this is just how Sintra is on a Sunday, but no pastéis de natas were ready between 9-10am. I had jotted down Fabrica das Verdadeiras  Queijadas da Sapa or Casa Piriquita/Piriquita II as the places to go to, but we ended up grabbing pastries from a very average bakery called A Padaria.

Secondly, getting to Pena Palace. In my post I explained how if you're visiting there or the Moorish Castle you should grab a taxi, bus or tuk-tuk up the hill. We couldn't do that as the road was blocked to all traffic due to fear that the national park would set on fire because of the hot, dry weather. So, we had to use our legs which meant we arrived there much later than planned. But, Pena Palace is the highlight of Sintra so was totally worth it. We headed to the Moorish Castle afterwards, then back to town for a late lunch.

Lunch was eaten at Bacalhau Na Vila, a restaurant specialising in cod dishes. It was all delicious - and the portion sizes are very generous - but my favourite dishes were the cod ceviche and the cod burger on Madeira bread (pictured below, along with bruschetta three ways). Again, super cheap. It worked out at about £15 each, which included alcohol (and some free port after lunch) - and we definitely over-ordered (we had more dishes than the ones above and below).

Our final stop of the day was Sintra National Palace - blogged about here - before we went to pick up our luggage as it was time to head to Lisbon. But, we could easily have stayed another night in Sintra. We didn't make it to Monserrate Palace - yet another stunning place in Sintra, and yet another reason why you shouldn't just do a day trip from Lisbon - ditto for the Convent of the Capuchos, the National Palace of Queluz, and Villa Sassetti. Then there's the museums in town, like the Anjos Texeira Museum, the Ferreira de Castro Museum and the Sintra Arts Museum - all reasons to stay a little longer. 

So, if you're thinking of just making a day trip from Lisbon, consider spending a couple of days exploring Sintra instead now you know how much you can actually do there - you won't regret it. x

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