Just a short train ride from Lisbon, the charming town of Sintra makes for a perfect day trip and a great way to escape the hustle-bustle of the city. Sintra itself is a small, charming little town but the main highlights are the castles in which the town and surrounding area is literally filled! It's like being in a fairytale and you don't even have to venture too far to experience it. If you've rented a car, the drive from Lisbon is only about 30min or it is about 45min by train. Just take the Linha de Sintra from Lisboa Rossio station to the end of the line which is Sintra station and you're there. Regardless of how you get there, it is a must see, so plan accordingly! Here is what you should see and do while you're there:
Palácio da Pena - A colorful palace adorned with azulejos and perched on a hill with wonderful views. Highly recommend purchasing tickets to see this amazing place. Perhaps THE highlight in all of Sintra and my absolute favorite.
Castelo dos Mouros - A moorish-style fortress with views of the sea. Also a popular one to visit and you feel like you've taken a step back in time to the days of knights in shining armor.
Parque das Merendas - A lovely park full of trails through what feels like an enchanted forest. Forego the taxi to Pena Palace or the Moorish Castle and instead take these trails. Quite the little workout since it is mostly going uphill but not too rigorous. Enter the park from the street called Estrada da Pena.
Sintra Town - A charming little place with cobblestone streets and cute shops, restaurants and cafes. From the train station, about a 7-10min walk. Can get pretty lively and worth a stroll through.
Queijadas da Sapa - What's a day in Portugal without having the local pastry? Lisbon may have pasteis de nata, but Sintra has these delectable cheesecake-like tarts. You can't go wrong with the traditional and almond flavors from Fabrica das Verdadeiras so be sure to stop in.
A full day in Sintra should be sufficient to see the highlights but if you want to see more than 2 castles, I'd recommend staying overnight in the lux but surprisingly moderately priced Ritz Carlton Penha Longa Resort located in an old royal monastery just outside town in the Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais. Boa viagem!