Even though I was in Portugal to have a proper summer holiday with friends and the idea was to just spend time hanging out in Sintra, eating, sleeping and relaxing, I really wanted to spend a day or at least half a day in Lisbon, Portugal’s capital city, seeing as I was so close – and not necessarily sure at this point whether I would return to Portugal.
I decided to look into what day tours were available. My first choice was to try out another free city walking tour, as these seem to be popular and available in most capital cities and I do find them really good for getting your bearings, meeting people and gaining some local knowledge. In my research for that, I stumbled across a couple of food tour options, which were even more up my street, and especially as I had decided I was not blown away by Portuguese cuisine – perhaps I needed to be guided to see what I was missing. I then remembered that Intrepid, who I have toured round Latin America and Vietnam with, also do day trips, which I had never tried before. When I looked into the description of the Experience Lisbon Walk, it seemed to be a combination of food and history, all with a local guide and was a reasonable 3-4 hours long, so I could get back to Sintra and spend the last evening with my friends. Continue reading
Next stop for medianoche was a proper summer holiday – a villa in Portugal bang in the middle of August with some friends. We decided on Sintra which was a 20 minute drive or 40 minute train journey from Lisbon so that we could also have the option of checking out Lisbon for a day. I understand that most people tend to do it the other way round – have their base in Lisbon and do Sintra for a day trip. Either way, the train was easy and very cheap for a return journey (around €4).
Sintra Historical Centre
All I knew about Sintra before I left was that it had a lot of castles. I can’t really describe it in any other way apart from being like a fantasy land. Lots of mountains, hills and forests yet minutes from the Atlantic and the most westerly point of Western Europe – and lots of castles! The historical centre itself is tiny and a real nightmare to get in and out of by car if you do happen to be staying on the outskirts. The streets are narrow, cobbly and winding with a confusing one-way system, and are not sufficient to keep up with the heaving demand of August’s peak season. Every taxi driver seemed to be visibly annoyed if you tried to get a taxi at the busiest times during the day but we believe they are going to try and make the centre completely pedestrianised at some point soon because it really was enough to put people off going into town and back. Continue reading