The second part of our What To Do In Lisbon series talks about places and landmarks you should not miss in the city of the fado, in Sintra, São Pedro de Penaferrim or Cabo da Roca.
The relaxed traffic at 8 a.m., the people jogging at 9 or even 10 a.m. (when do these people go to work, anyway?!) and that fresh-cool-salty breeze blowing day and night are just some of the things that you would probably expect to find in a small fisherman’s village rather than in a metropolis with 3 million people, like Lisbon.
The capital of Portugal is really cool and tranquil compared to other capital cities around the world and this is only the first pleasant surprise Lisbon has for you if you visit it for the first time. There are lots of lovely places to discover here and we talked about some of them in the first part of our travel guide, so if you havent done so yet, you might want to read this too: Lisbon Travel Guide Part 1.
Still, if Lisbon is not enough for your relaxed and laid-back holiday break, then surely you should see Sintra, a town located about 25 km from the capital of Portugal, at the foot of the Sintra Mountains.
In some ways, Sintra looks like the typical medieval town, with narrow, cobbled streets and plenty of shops where you can buy souvenirs like handicrafts, traditional Portuguese costumes or drinks such as liquors and wines from the neighboring regions, Tejo and Almada.
However, there are things that make this place unique and that will imprint your memory for life: the mixed odors of firs, palms, magnolias, orange trees, wild roses or other exotic species growing just about everywhere, the old houses and buildings colored or decorated with pieces of tile depicting moments from the everyday life of the locals and the superb Manueline-style buildings. One such building is Sintra Town Hall (Câmara Municipal de Sintra), located downtown.
On top of the main tower you will see an armillary sphere – this symbol can also be found on the flag of Portugal and is a reminiscent of the glorious Age of Discoveries.
Pena National Palace a UNESCO World Heritage Site
In São Pedro de Penaferrim (close to the town of Sintra) you will find Pena National Palace (Palácio Nacional da Pena).
If you have a good physical condition and dont mind doing a little exercise, we recommend that you walk to the top of the hill, where the palace is located. The climb can be a bit tiring since the cobbled road is quite steep, but you can take short breaks whenever you want and enjoy the scenery – it will worth every minute!
The palace listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in1995, along with the Cultural Landscape of Sintra – was built on the ruins of a 15th century chapel and completed in mid-19th century, combining several architectural styles such as neo-Manueline, neo-Gothic, neo-Renaissance and Islamic.
The exterior walls are painted in orange, yellow, red and blue and decorated with painted tiles, carved arches, statues symbolizing sea creatures, tall towers and domes, while the interior space is divided into halls, bedrooms, a kitchen and even a chapel with old furniture, paintings, statues and many other works of art.
For a view that will leave you speechless, stop for a few minutes on the terrace: the Atlantic Ocean is stretching throughout the horizon with its turquoise waves shining under the sunlight, while in the middle of the forest surrounding the palace you will see the statue of a medieval guardian sitting on a rock.
For palace and park tickets go to: parquesdesintra.pt
Cabo da Roca the Western Edge of Continental Europe
If you are a romantic type of person and feel like the relaxing walks through Sintra or the visit at the National Palace of Pena are almost what you needed to see, then Cabo da Roca is the place you’ll want to go.
The contrast between the green and red vegetation growing on cliffs versus the bright turquoise and dark blue of the ocean is the essence of the beauty of this unique and magical place – the westernmost point of continental Europe, described by poet Luís Vaz de Camões in a verse that you will find inscribed in stone Aqui, onde a terra se acaba e o mar começa…(Here, where the land ends and the sea begins…)
Inside the lighthouse at Cabo da Roca is located a gift shop where you can buy a diploma that will prove your presence in the western edge of mainland Europe.
Back to Lisbon
On the way back from Cabo da Roca you can stop in the luxury resorts of Cascais and Estoril. Besides the great scenery, the resorts are renowned for their exclusive hotels and also the museums hosted by elegant villas that once belonged to various European royal families.
If you’re traveling on a budget, we recommend that you book Lisbon, Portugal with Hostelbookers.com and save money on accommodation.