Sintra, Portugal

The hilltop town of Sintra is what fairy tales are made of. A series of mosaicked, vibrant castles – fit for royalty- looking down over Lisbon and the Atlantic coastline of Portugal.

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Getting there

As a popular excursion for tourists visiting Lisbon, Sintra is quick and easy to get to/from. The journey to the castle requires a train from Lisbon to Sintra town, followed by a bus up the steep, pine-covered hills to the castles. We took the train from Rossio station, Lisbon’s central station, where a return ticket cost €5. The 40 minute train chugs through Lisbon’s suburban districts terminating at Sintra town. I would recommend spending some time strolling through the quaint little town full of cute cafes and boutique shops, or alternatively you can take the bus upon arrival from outside of the station to the hill’s summit. The buses are frequent, and will set you back a further €5.

The Castles

Contained within the small town of Sintra are 10 castles, the most impressive being Pena Palace. Entry to the grounds is relatively costly, or at least far more than we were expecting. We opted to pay for entry to the gardens and the grounds of Pena Palace which left us enough for a sandwich and a coffee after.

The castle is magnificent: the blood-red and mustard-yellow walls radiate in the sun, which casts enchanting shadows and shapes through the delicate arches and patterns of the building. The ground are perfectly manicured and unspoilt by the volumes of tourists. We were enjoying the fresh air and views so much we decided to walk the 3 km walk back down the cobbled stairways to the station, which was a little adventure within itself

Sintra was one of the highlights of my travels to Portugal, and an absolute must for anyone travelling to Lisbon.

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Sintra castle price list

 

 

 

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Lisbon, Portugal

There’s something to be said about a place where you don’t have to be doing anything to  enjoy it. This is precisely the case with Lisbon, the effortlessly-cool capital of Portugal which feels like a life-size game of Snakes and Ladders: with yellow funicular trams taking you up the steep, cobbled streets, and narrow secret stairways leading down to the coast.

The city just oozes charm…

Walking through the labyrinth of typical white-washed homes  around the imposing Sao Jorge castle (which glow a sort of gold in the Mediterranean sun); enjoying espresso coffees and Pasties de Nata’s (Portugese custard tarts); perusing through snoozey local markets and by night getting lost is Biarro Alto sipping Sangria until the wee hours was enough for us. Three days passed at a leisurly pace, more time or poor weather would have meant we’d have been able to explore the other hilly districts, visited some of the museums/ castles and made the short journey to Balem (home of the Pasties de Nata, yum). We were quite happy keeping it casual around Alfama and our fabulous afternoon in Sintra but have left much more for my next trip to Lisbon – which there certainly will be.

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Arriving into the main station in Lisbon from our 3.5 hour train from Lagos

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Waking up fresh from our fantastic hostel Liv In about to start a day of hiking (in style) around the town

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Little trams

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A level part of Lisbon – a rare site – looking up at Sao Jorge

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Rossio Station

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Beautiful Lisbon

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Residential Streets

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Secret passages

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Meow

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Nearly at the top!

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Alfama

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X Marks the spot

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Thought-provoking street art is evident all over Portugal

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Tatty, tratitional houses

 

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Pasteis de Nata… mmmmm

 

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Heading back down from Alfama

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Sangria O’Clock!

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Delicious fresh peaches

 

 

 

 

Liv’in Hostel, Lisbon

I really feel compelled to share with you the Liv’in hostel in Lisbon, not because I’m being incentivised to, but because it was probably the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in.

 

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The stylish reception/ lounge area

It can be difficult to find a comfort and style in budget hostels, so after picking the cheapest hostel in Lisbon I was astounded by quality of the facilities and the funky vibe of Liv’in. Why? Firstly all bunk beds have memory foam mattresses. That’s right MEMORY FOAM: Say goodbye to dubious stains, bed bugs and loose springs my friends!

 

 

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The most comfortable bunks I’ve ever slept in!

Secondly, Liv’in hostel has nailed its service. Not only in terms of the fun and attentive backpackers they recruit on reception, but also the kitchen and bathroom facilities which make you feel like you’ve walked into a trendy, airy apartment. For a mere £12 per night the hostel includes breakfast, but not your run-of-the-mill coffee and limp toast, rather pancakes with spreads, yogurt and jam and muesli. Impressive, huh!

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Brilliant kitchen facilities to make your own meals in

If one evening you’re looking to do something a little more social, or something a little more cheaply, the hostel lays on an evening meal for €4 which includes a couple of glasses of sangria! It was a super informal and relaxed way to connect with our dorm-mates which was followed by a (not so relaxed) bar crawl, if you felt so inclined. For us, we rolled into the little convenience shop next door called Namaste for a €2 bottle of wine and Portuguese snacks, and sunk into our mattresses giggling.

Liv’in, you rocked it.


Street Art in Portugal

There’s a story to be told on every street corner in Portugal, with the street art giving the likes of Berlin a run for its money. These public masterpieces are as impressive as they are thought-provoking, making some of the uglier structures more beautiful and some traditional areas more contemporary. These were just a few of my favourite/ most memorable…

 

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