When I mentioned that I was visiting Lisbon to a friend, he immediately replied, “That’s awesome. Make sure to take a day trip to Sintra, if you can.” Others echoed the sentiment, so needless to say, I was pretty excited about the prospect of visiting Sintra and seeing its palaces.
However, there was just one thing I did not account for: rain. It rained on and off my entire weekend in Lisbon, but for the first two days, it was a light rain, and the sun would always peek back out eventually. Inconvenient and annoying, sure, but hardly unmanageable. The day I visited Sintra, however, was another story entirely. The skies were grey and it rained the entire day. No, it didn’t just rain: it downpoured. And the wind didn’t just blow: it howled. My boots were soaked through, my hair was officially a disaster, and my poor umbrella was battered and repeatedly flipped inside out by the frequent wind gusts.
So, I am sad to report, my day in Sintra was not as magical as I had hoped for. Even in the rain, though, it was evident to me that the town was lovely. And while it was difficult to muster up enthusiasm for sightseeing in such conditions, touring the palaces was still a worthwhile activity. I can’t in all honesty say I loved my time in Sintra, but perhaps if I went back another day – when the sun was shining, of course – I just might.
I began my day at Sintra’s National Palace, the less impressive – by far – of Sintra’s two palaces. While the palace’s exterior is unique (my guidebook noted that its two towers bear more than a passing resemblance to Madonna’s infamous cone bra), the interior is rather drab and unremarkable. I sped through it, a little let down by the lack of bling – I mean, isn’t this supposed to be a palace?!
(This swan-themed ceiling was the one redeeming feature of the National Palace’s interior, in my humble opinion.)
My next stop, Pena Palace, was much more satisfying. Pena Palace’s exterior is incredibly beautiful, and with the rainy conditions came a misty fog that enveloped the palace and only added to the magical quality of the place. To my relief, the rooms at Pena Palace were also better decorated and stocked with many more treasures than those at the National Palace.
Sintra is a super easy day trip from Lisbon, and even though my experience there was somewhat dampened (har, har) by the terrible weather, I would still recommend it. Pouring rain or not, palaces – and particularly Pena Palace – are almost always worth a visit.