National Palace of Pena, Sintra and Cascais
For our last day in Lisbon, I had booked a day trip to Sintra and Cascais. The meeting point was at a hotel where we got arranged into vans and each group consisted of 8 people plus the guide/driver.
National Palace of Pena
The first stop on the trip was the National Palace of Pena (Palácio da Pena). The castle stands on the top of a hill in the Sintra Mountains above the town of Sintra. It is a national monument and constitutes one of the major expressions of 19th-century Romanticism in the world. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. In the Middle Ages a chapel was built on the top of the hill above Sintra, later King Manuel I ordered the construction of a monastery on the site. The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 destroyed the monastery. In 1838, Ferdinand II acquired the old monastery, surrounding lands, the nearby Castle of the Moors, and other estates in the area. He transformed the remains of the monastery into a palace (constructed in 1842-1854) that served as a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family. In 1889 the Portuguese State bought the palace, and after the 1910 Republican Revolution, it was classified as a national monument and transformed into a museum. The palace is impressive with rich and beautiful architectural details. I went a bit camera crazy in the palace. The park surrounding the palace is also beautiful, filled with various trees from around the world.
After exploring the palace we had free time in Sintra, exploring the old town. Sintra is a charming Portuguese town situated within the cooling hills of the Serra de Sintra. There were some local delicacies that our guide recommended so we had to try them. First, we tried the local pastry, travesseiro. It is a crisp puff pastry rectangle with a creamy almond filling. We got them at Casa Piriquita, in operation since 1862. The pastry was delicious. The second local specialty I had to try was Ginja cherry liqueur served in a small chocolate cup. Hubby skipped it because he doesn’t like cherries. I bought my drink from a small window in old town. We strolled around the old town taking some pictures. Before heading back to the van we stopped for a light lunch at a local café. Sintra was beautiful and I think I could happily spend a night or two in this quaint little town exploring its surroundings.
Cabo da Roca
Our next stop was the end of the world at Cabo da Roca. The cape forms the westernmost point of the Sintra Mountain Range, of mainland Portugal, continental Europe, and the Eurasian landmass. It is a rugged coastline adorned with rocky cliffs overlooking the roaring Atlantic Ocean. In Cabo da Roca you can also find Portugal’s oldest lighthouse inaugurated in 1772. The views here are amazing and the landscape is beautifully rugged. There is also a restaurant and a souvenir shop plus a visitor center with toilets, etc. I feel this cape is definitely worth a stop if you are in the area.
The last stop on our day trip was the beach resort town Cascais. Cascais is a traditional Portuguese fishing town that has developed into a resort town. It is full of pretty boutiques, and shops, cafés, restaurants, and beach bars. The reputation of Cascais as a famous holiday destination goes all the way back to the 1870s when King Luis I of Portugal and the Royal family started spending their summer days in Cascais. Cascais was originally a humble but lively fisherman’s village and an important port for the ships and boats heading to Lisbon. We had some coffee and frozen yogurt while exploring Cascais. The guide also recommended a local gelateria but the line was so long that we decided to skip this experience. I would happily spend a few nights in Cascais enjoying the beach town vibes. After exploring Cascais it was time to travel back to Lisbon.
This was a great day trip where we got to see a lot of interesting places. We also had a nice and knowledgeable guide, which made the experience even better. As we had a super-early flight back home the next morning we decided to stay in on the last night and have a picnic in our room.
We had a great holiday in Portugal and I’m sure we’ll return here to see even more of this wonderful country. In a couple of weeks, we’ll take a minibreak in Finland and in late August it is time for Tuscany. Stay tuned for these adventures.