Sintra in Portugal has been the summer of kings for centuries. Today it is a major tourist destination featuring three distinct attractions - The National Palace, The Castle of the Moors, and The Pena Palace.
Sintra is an easy day trip from Lisbon. Trains leave every fifteen minutes from Lisbon's Rossio station. It is a pleasant 45 minute journey. Sintra is the end of the line so there are no concerns about missing the stop. Trains in Portugal are well maintained, clean, and safe.
There is a small tourist information desk at the train station where a bored clerk will give you a map but not a lot of information. Once exiting the train station, follow the sidewalk to the right to the bus stop for bus #434. This bus takes a circular route from the train station to the three major sights. Tourists can get off and on whenever they like for one fare. Guidebooks say that it is possible to walk to each of the palaces but it is very far on either hiking trails or the side of winding roads. It is also uphill the whole way to the Pena Palace. Unless you thrive on extreme exercise, take the bus.
The first stop the bus makes is nearby the National Palace. This is in the center of town near many shops and restaurants. It is considered the best preserved Royal Palace in Portugal since it was occupied up to the 19th century. Now it is used for official state occasions.
The second stop the bus makes is the Castle of the Moors. This is a 9th century fortress that was restored in the 18th century. Information is given on archeological findings on the grounds. Tourists can walk up on the walls of the castle. On a clear day, you can see to Lisbon.
The last stop is the Pena Palace. This is on top of the mountain. The bus drops you near a tram that can take you up to the gates. This castle was built by King Leopold II, a cousin of Ludwig of Bavaria of Neuschwanstein fame. The castle is brightly colored in yellows and purples. Many styles of architecture are shown on the exterior. No photoCredit: authors are allowed inside this castle. There is a nice cafe and a snack bar at this palace.