Sintra is the most charming village in Portugal. The Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle alone are more than enough reasons to visit, but the village has much more to visit and explore. Come and discover what to visit and do in Sintra.
With so many things to do in Sintra, you won’t know where to turn first. If you only have one day to visit the town, we recommend visiting the Moorish castle, the Pena National Palace, and Quinta da Regaleira. And, of course, eat some travesseiros from Piriquita, one of the best sweets in Portugal.
But the ideal is to have 2 or 3 days to explore Sintra. This way you can also go to the wonderful Quinta de Monserrate its gardens, visit the historic center of Sintra, and much more. In this article, we explore all the best things to do in Sintra.
The village of Sintra is very close to Lisbon, just 30 km, half an hour away. That’s why it’s also the ideal place for a day trip from Lisbon. And it is a mandatory place to visit in Portugal.
What to do and visit in Sintra? Ten things not to miss
Castelo dos Mouros is one of Portugal’s most emblematic and beautiful castles. It is camouflaged in the Serra de Sintra between trees and mountains. However, on sunny days it has a beautiful view of the Atlantic coast.
The Moors built the castle during the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. A village was established with houses, castle walls, and silos for storing food and water.
In 1147 it was conquered by D. Afonso Henriques. But, since it did not have an important military function, it was eventually abandoned until it was recovered by D. Fernando II, the artist king, who restored the walls and planted trees in the surrounding area.
The castle is next to the Pena Palace in the Sintra Mountains. The road to the Moorish castle, as well as the Pena Palace, is now forbidden to private cars. It can only be reached with public transport, taxis, uber, or tours.
You can also choose to walk from the center of Sintra. But unfortunately, part of the Sintra Park path is closed (2023) due to a landslide a few years ago. So you have to hike on the road where the cars pass. It’s not a long walk, but it’s always uphill.
You can buy the castle ticket at the entrance or online. There are combined tickets with other Sintra monuments, which makes entry cheaper.
It’s a beautiful place in the middle of the Sintra mountains, surrounded by an enchanting forest – one that stimulates the imagination and the fascination with history.
Pena National Palace and Park
Pena National Palace is a mythical place with an intriguing history that impresses the world with its beauty. It is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Pena Palace is often a postcard image of Portugal. A colorful palace with architecture influenced by various styles, Manueline, Moorish, and Neo-Gothic. It was built in 1840 by King Consort D. Fernando II, known as the artist King.
D. Fernando II fell in love with the Sintra mountains and, with his personal fortune, bought the former Monastery of S. Jerónimo and the surrounding park, which was abandoned and in ruins. He built a palace as a summer residence for the Royal family. In addition to the palace, he restructured the park and planted Asian camellias with winding paths.
When he died, he left the palace to his second wife, Elise Hensler, who later sold it to the Portuguese State and the monarchy. The Palace was the royal family’s residence until the Republic’s establishment and was later converted into a museum.
The interior of the palace is beautiful. It is still decorated and furnished according to the monarchical period. And the palace park is enchanting, full of treasures to discover, including the Chalet of the Countess of Edla. You need at least a morning or afternoon to explore it.
As you might expect, Pena Palace is very touristy, so we advise buying tickets in advance. Furthermore, as mentioned above, the street leading to the palace is only accessible by public transport, taxi, or Uber. You can buy a combined ticket with other National Monuments. Find out the prices here.
Chalet and Garden of the Countess of Edla
The Chalet and the garden of the Condessa d’Edla are inside the Pena Park, 2 km from the Pena Palace, located at the opposite end of the park.
The chalet belonged to King Consort D. Fernando II and his second wife, Elise Hensler after the death of Queen D. Maria II. D. Fernando II built the chalet in an alpine style and served as a residence and refuge for him to live with his wife. Surrounding the chalet is Condessa’s garden, with exotic plants. And from the chalet’s balcony, you can see the sea, Pena Palace, and the Moorish castle.
To visit the Condessa d’Edla, you can visit it with the Pena National Palace or buy a ticket just for the Pena Park that gives access to the chalet.
It is a very romantic place, and the house is very beautiful, in tune with nature, and thought out in detail.
Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira has everything you could want in a landmark. A Renaissance palace, beautiful gardens, conspiracy theories, and eccentric monuments. It is also one of the most visited places in Sintra besides the Pena Palace.
Quinta da Regaleira and the Woods were built by Dr. António Augusto de Carvalho Monteiro in 1904, the architect being Luigi Manini. The palace was built in Gothic and Manueline style, surrounded by gardens, lakes, caves, a chapel, and some enigmatic buildings.
Quinta da Regaleira and its gardens are mysterious places of symbolism and conspiracies. Monteiro wanted a place that expressed his beliefs and ideals, which is why everything has a meaning and symbolism, with ideals of Freemasonry, Templar, Nationalism, and Rose Cross.
One of the most emblematic and photographed places in Quinta da Regaleira is the Poço Initiático. It is a well with a staircase that descends to some caves and tunnels—representing a scene from the passage of Dante’s Divine Comedy. It has a very dramatic effect.
We advise you to visit Quinta da Regaleira with a guide who will explain all the symbols you’ll miss if you do not know the history. You can also rent an audio guide, but our experience wasn’t very good; the quality of the devices wasn’t the best. We recommend you buy tickets in advance, due to the large number of visitors to the place.
Palace of Monserrate
Monserrate’s palace and gardens are among Portugal’s most beautiful places. And we do not say this lightly. The Palace has a mix of styles, Gothic, Indian, and Moorish, which is surrounded by a garden with exotic plants, lakes, and waterfalls. It’s a magical place.
Francis Cook, an English millionaire, commissioned the palace and gardens. He used the palace as a refuge and summer vacation. The garden has species of plants from all over the world, it has the Mexican garden, the Japanese garden, the fern valley, and the rose garden. There are 33 hectares of lush gardens and trees. The place is incredibly relaxing.
The palace inside is even more beautiful. The walls are all worked like lace, resembling the Alhambra in Spain. It looks like a fairy tale palace.
The Palace and the gardens are located a little away from the center of Sintra. It is necessary to go by car or public transport. It is not as touristy as the Palácio da Pena or Regaleira, and as the space is ample, there are no crowds, at least in the gardens.
Even so, we advise you to buy the ticket in advance, especially during the summer. You can buy a joint ticket with other monuments in Sintra, making it cheaper.
National Palace of Sintra
The National Palace of Sintra is an important historical landmark in Portugal. Constructed in the 10th century, it was used by Muslims and later by Portuguese monarchs. It was rebuilt and expanded over time, inhabited until the monarchy’s end in 1910.
With two unmistakable 33-meter conical chimneys, the palace has a silhouette that cannot go unnoticed by anyone. It is located in the center of Sintra, making it almost impossible not to pass by. It is an impressive and grand palace. It is furnished and has several rooms and halls decorated with tiles and murals.
Although beautiful, if you don’t have time and have already visited Pena Palace, there’s not much to lose if you can’t enter. To know more about opening times and entry prices, check the official website here.
Sintra historical center
Sintra is a charming village, 28 km from Lisbon, it is a village that was the scene of several important events in the history of Portugal.
As one of the places of residence of the Royal family and, later in the 17th century, a holiday destination of travelers, Portuguese aristocracy, and foreign millionaires, it became full of beautiful palaces, chalets, and parks. Sintra evolved into the favorite place for artists and writers and recovery from illness.
That’s why it’s a very beautiful village to explore and appreciate the houses, the gardens, the palaces. Not to mention the delicious pastries with queijadas and travesseiros at the top of the must-try list.
Besides the palaces, we advise you to visit the fountain of Pipa and Mourisca, the Natural History Museum of Sintra, and the Church of São Martinho. The best way to explore the historic center of Sintra is on foot. It is a chaotic village to explore by car – with many people, traffic, one-way and blocked roads.
The Palace of Seteais is a beautiful Neoclassical palace built on the hillside. It was built by the Dutch consul Daniel Gildemeester in the 18th century.
It is currently a 5-star hotel called Tivoli Palácio de Seteais. This luxurious and romantic hotel has stunning rooms decorated as in the 19th century. It is a unique experience to stay at the hotel or eat at its luxurious restaurant.
But if this is not possible, you can visit the spectacular gardens and structure of the hotel, which is open to the public. And best of all, the palace gardens have an incredible view of the sea, the Pena Palace, and the Moorish Castle.
The convent of the Capuchos belonged to the order of the Franciscans and was called the Convent of Santa Cruz. It was an isolated and inhospitable place dedicated to meditation and contemplation by the Franciscan friars.
It is a simple and poor convent, without much decoration and in tune with nature. Even the vault of the chapel is formed in the rock itself. The convent was abandoned in 1834 with the extinction of religious orders in Portugal. It was acquired by Francis Cook, who built Quinta de Monserrate. And in 1949, it became part of the Portuguese state.
As of 2023, it is one of the most challenging monuments to visit in Sintra, and consequently, it is also one of the places with the fewest tourists. You can only visit it by taxi or Uber, private cars are not allowed on the Sintra mountain road, and there is no public transport. You can buy the entrance ticket here on the official website.
Biester Palace and Park
The Biester Palace was opened to the public very recently, in 2022. It was subject to restoration works. It is a majestic palace located near Quinta da Regaleira.
With a romantic architectural style, it was built in the 19th century. It is surrounded by a luxurious garden with exotic species. The palace is impressively decorated, with the library and chapel being the most fascinating rooms.
If you have time and want to visit one more palace in Sintra, the Biester Palace is a good option. To find out prices and schedules click here on the official website.
Where to stay in Sintra?
- Casa Mathilde Sintra
Casa Mathilde in Sintra is very close to the center of Sintra. You can walk to the historic area of Sintra, Quinta da Regaleira, the National Palace of Sintra, Biester Palace, and more. The guest-house owner is super friendly and gave us very good tips.
The rooms are lovely with beautiful decor. There is a kitchen at your disposal where you can prepare meals. And in the guest-house street, you can park, which is excellent, as in Sintra it is almost impossible to find parking. It is a guest house with a good quality/price ratio. See if it’s available here.
- Quinta Das Murtas
Quinta das Murtas is a rustic mansion from the 19th century with a beautiful decoration, it will look like you are in a small palace. It is located near the historic center of Sintra. It has breakfast included, a garden to relax in, and an outdoor pool. Staying at this hotel is a spectacular experience. Book your stay here.
- Tivoli Palacio de Seteais
If you can and have the budget, this is the hotel to stay in Sintra. It is a historic and very luxurious 5-star hotel with spectacular views and delicious food. Well, it’s so great that visiting it is one of the best things to do in Sintra.
You will feel like royalty. See prices and availability here.
What to eat in Sintra?
- Travesseiro de Sintra: If it weren’t for the beautiful Palaces and the wonderful Pena mountain range, I’d recommend coming to Sintra just to eat the pillows. They are so good, I think they should belong to the UNESCO World Heritage list. They are one of the best sweets in Portugal. It is a fluffy and delicious pastry, made with a fluffy dough covered with sugar and filled with an egg and almond cream. The pastry was created at the bakery “A Piriquita,” founded in 1862.
- Queijadas de Sintra: Another Sintra food icon is the Queijadas de Sintra. There are several versions of queijada in Portugal; sometimes, they are very different. They are a conventual sweet made with a crunchy and crunchy dough filled with fresh cheese, sugar, eggs, and flour. Delicious.
- Roasted goat: Several restaurants specialize in goat in Sintra, but we cannot say it is a typical Sintra dish. Roasted goat is a very good traditional dish. The meat melts in your mouth and is served with roast potatoes and rice.
Where to eat in Sintra?
- A Piriquita: It is the obligatory place to eat the travesseiros (pillows) of Sintra. This old Portuguese bakery is shrouded in history. Even King D. Carlos used to go there. In addition to travesseiros, there are other good sweets to try. But the travesseiros are mandatory.
- Queijadas da Sapa: It has the best queijadas in Sintra, and note that several pastry shops claim to have the best queijadas. Please note that Queijadas da Sapa is closed on Mondays.
- Curral dos Caprinos: The specialty of this restaurant is the goat, but it also has other typical Portuguese dishes. The inconvenience is that this restaurant is far from the historic center, 2.5 km away.
Best things to do in Sintra and the surroundings
Azenhas do Mar
Azenhas do Mar is a coastline village 10 km from Sintra. The village is made up of white houses arranged in a cascade down the slope of the cliff to the sea, making it very dramatic and impressive.
The village has a fantastic beach and ocean pool. It is a great beach and holiday destination. Or just to have a little fishing from Sintra or Lisbon.
Roca Cape (Cabo da Roca)
Cabo da Roca is an important geographical landmark, as it is the westernmost point of the European continent. There is a stone on stone with a tombstone that marks the place.
From this viewpoint, you have an impressive view of the Portuguese coast and the Atlantic Ocean. It is a very interesting place and great for taking pictures.
It also has a lighthouse, the Farol do Cabo da Rocha, with a 22 mt tower, which has been in operation since 1772. The light from the lighthouse has a range of 48 km.
Guincho Beach is one of the most famous beaches in Portugal. It is a beach with a large sandy area surrounded by dunes and Mediterranean vegetation. It is practically in the wild.
It is a very popular beach for surfers, bodyboarders, and windsurfers. International competitions are often held there as it has excellent conditions due to waves and wind. It is one of the windiest beaches in Portugal.
Also, a great place to eat fish and seafood in the many restaurants nearby. And to stay at a beach bar enjoying the sea and drinking a cold drink or ice cream.
How to go to Sintra?
The best way to get to Sintra from Lisbon is by train. The Sintra line, which connects Lisbon to Sintra, is a historic line that has exists since 1887. Besides, it is a practical and less confusing way to visit Sintra.
Driving a car in Sintra is complicated, as many streets are off-limits to cars, others are only one-way, and consequently, traffic is terrible. On the other hand, going by train is an experience in itself. The landscape is beautiful, and the Sintra train station is enchanting.
From Porto, the best way to go to Sintra is by bus with Rede Expresso, which has a direct line to Sintra. It’s easy, cheap, about 4 hours. You can choose to go by train from Porto to Sintra, but you have to go all the way to Lisbon and take the train to Sintra from Lisbon.
Going to Sintra by car is easy and fast, but the problem is driving (or even parking) in Sintra, as mentioned above.
From Lisbon, it is 30 km and takes 30 min. The fastest is taking the A37 or A16 motorways. But if you want, you can take a more scenic route, you can choose to take the N6, always close to the seafront, passing through Cascais, Guincho Beach, and Cabo da Roca. The route is beautiful and passes through several points of interest mentioned above.
From Porto, it is 332 km and takes 3 hours via the A1 motorway. The highway is paid, and you can pay the toll with cash or card.