For the last few weeks I have been exploring Portugal with my boyfriend Simon. We arrived in Lisbon from Porto, after a very sickly train ride on one of those high speed ones that tilts and churns your stomach. The fresh air was lovely when we disembarked. After getting our bearings, we found our way to the fabulous Oasis Backpackers Hostel. The highlight of our trip was our Sintra day trip from Lisbon, and I’d love to share this with you today.
Oasis Backpackers Hostel Lisbon
Oasis Backpackers Hostel was a wonderful place to stay with a retro friendly atmosphere. We met some great people whilst having a beer over a BBQ. What came highly recommended from the other travellers was a trip out to Sintra with the hostel guide.
Sintra Day Trip from Lisbon
Sintra can easily be done as a day trip from Lisbon, and is something absolutely not to be missed. It’s home to the world famous hotch-potch of colourful architecture that is Pena Palace.
Jeronimos Monastery and Pasteis de Belem!
We left Lisbon by minibus, with an enthusiastic tour guide who was passionate about history combined with delicious Portuguese delicacies – what a perfect combination! We stopped off at the stunning Jeronimos monastery, a former monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome in Belém. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site where the Monks used to assist Seafarers as ships entered the sea from the River Tagus.
Near the Monastery we tried the Pasteis de Belem, Portuguese pastries sweet and delicious, pastry so good it almost melted in your mouth! These are a local secret recipe – don’t leave Lisbon without trying pasteis de Belem!
Sintra National Palace
Sintra Day Trip from Lisbon – Pena Palace
It was a short walk up hill to get to the spot of Pena Palace, and we were, of course, greeted by bakers with more pastries along the way! You won’t go hungry on this trip, that’s for sure!
The first site of Pena Palace is stunning. I was mesmerized by the mis-match of Neo-Gothic, Islamic and Renaissance style strewn in bright colours. It was intentional by architect Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege, of course.
The Castle or Palace was built on the site that originally started out in the Middle ages as a chapel to ‘Our Lady of Pena’, who had a vision of Mary. In 1493, it was visited by King John II, whose successor (King Manuel 1) ordered a monastery to built on the site. The Monastery was struck by lightening and seriously damaged in the 18th Century, and a further earthquake brought the monastery to ruin.
In 1838, King Ferdinand II bought the ruined site and surrounding lands, instructing the building of a summer residence for the Royal family, which is what we see before us today. The Park and Palace of Pena are therefore often described as the fruit of King Ferdinand II’s creative genius and the greatest expression of 19th-century romanticism in Portugal.
The entrance is embellished with blue decorative mosaic tiles and two twisted stone pillars at the main gate. To the left of the above image, you can see the yellow tower. The yellow tower (shown in more detail below) shows clear Moorish influence due to the dome like structure echoing many Mosques.
Below, you can see the beautiful Arches Yard, Chapel and Clock Tower, which contains elements of the old remaining Hieronymite (Order of Saint Jerome) convent and cloister.
It’s a beautiful walk around the palace with fantastic views from some of the towers and viewpoints. There are also stunning gardens in the National Park surrounding Pena, that deserve at leat an hour of exploring if you can spare the time.
Our trip ended on a high with a fabulous ice cream at a local Portuguese ice cream shop and then a lovely stroll on a nearby beach.