Like a bonbon with a lasting sweet taste, Lisbon continued to charm us on the 3rd day straight on. Have a read of our experience on day 1 and day 2 before we share with you how we rounded up our Lisbon exploration on the 3rd day.
We stayed at the conveniently located Sao Bento Hotel in Lisbon which was literally a stone’s throw away from the key attractions. After a sumptuous buffet breakfast at the hotel, we made our way to the historic Lisbon Cathedral, which happens to be the oldest in the city and which had its construction started way back in 1147. The actual site being witness to a series of historic turmoil including being occupied by Christians first, then being taken over by the Moors and being taken over finally again during the 2nd Crusade – the church remains as one of the oldest iconic sites bearing the long history of Lisbon.
After snapping up the serene experience at the Lisbon Cathedral, we had to make our way to pick up the rental car with Interrent, near the Lisbon Airport. Who knew that an agonising long wait was waiting for us because we had to count three hours before we could get our hands on the steering wheel of the Opel Astra after changing three cars before that due to GPS related problems. Finally when we got hold of the car which would be our house on wheels for the road trip in Portugal, we immediately set course towards Sintra.
It would certainly be a sin not to visit Sintra as part of saying ‘sayonara’ to Lisbon. Just over 40 minutes drive away including the usual highway traffic, Sintra is the fairy tale sitting just on the outskirts of Lisbon. There is infact a national park in Sintra and the Palacio de Pena or the Pena Palace is the jewel in the crown. A UNESCO heritage site and one of the seven wonders of Portugal, this romanticist castle situated on top of the Sintra mountains is even visible from Lisbon on a clear day!
The palace’s history goes as early as middle ages and this, like many other establishments in Lisbon, had to undergo the brunt of the devastating earthquake in 1755. Restored and revamped, what stands as the Pena Palace is like a fairy-tale kingdom on top of the mountains.
Bright and vivid colours of red, yellow, grey, blue – all with their intricate details along the columns, tombs, arches and walls – stand out as a surreal piece of architecture in the clouds. Especially when the palace actually got enveloped by clouds, the temperatures dropped below 20 degrees Celsius – a stark contrast to what we had experienced just a few hours ago in the same day in Lisbon where it was rather baking at 32 degrees!
There is an entrance ticket of 17 euros per person for entry to Pena Palace. There is also a shuttle bus for 3 euros only which takes visitors in the ascending route. It is a good idea to take the shuttle bus while going up and walk down while descent. It would not take more than a couple of hours to soak up the charm of Pena Palace. It is worth noting that the palace is more attractive from the outside than it is from inside, so the interiors of the palace are outclassed by the designs on the exterior.
The town Sintra itself and the national park have many other attractions as well such as Palace of Monserrate, Convent of the Capuchos etc. – all of which makes Sintra an ideal destination for a day out. However, if you are running short of time, visiting the Pena Palace will be a must do.
We finished the tour of the Pena Palace and hit the road to finally kickstart our roadtrip around Portugal. Our destination after Sintra was Porto which was another 3-4 hours of drive up north from Sintra.
Knowing that by the time we would reach Porto, it would be late – we stopped by at a gem of a restaurant called Barrete Saloio. A Michelin starred venue offering some authentic Portuguese fish dishes turned out to be a perfect stop over for dinner before we continued our drive to Porto.
In the next episodes of our Portugal Please! series of voyage posts, we will bring to you wonderful experiences of wanderlust from our roadtrip experience starting with Porto at north down south to the astonishing Algarve region. So stay tuned, get in to our car in the backseat while we take you with us through this fantastic discovery of Portugal.