15 epic things to do in Sintra in Portugal

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There are few places in the world as spectacular as Sintra in Portugal. Here, in the west of the Iberian Peninsula, approximately 40 minutes from the capital of Lisbon, lies a town, hidden among its pine forest. This charming Portuguese town is a land of fairy-tale castles and palaces. It may be small, but it attracts millions of visitors every year. And yes, it’s touristy and gets very busy during summer. But most visitors see little more than its famous Pena Palace. However, it is well worth hanging around for a bit longer before you go. Whether you come here for one day or stay a little longer, there are many incredible things to do in Sintra in Portugal.

 

Why you should visit Sintra in Portugal

Sintra, Portugal: It is easy to understand why the Pena Palace is on top of the wish list of many visitors to Sintra in Portugal. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the crown jewel of Sintra and one of the most famous attractions in the country.

Sintra is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Portugal, and it’s an easy day trip from Lisbon. This pretty town was once a popular summer resort for kings and aristocrats. They built castles, palaces and villas here. They also planted beautiful gardens with thick tall vegetation.

You might not know it, but Sintra was the first European site listed by UNESCO as a Cultural Landscape. Sintra is famous for its unique microclimate and 19th-century Romanticist architecture. It’s also one of the seven wonders of Portugal. Hence, it’s well worth visiting Sintra in Portugal.

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a day trip to Sintra from Lisbon

 

15 Things to do in Sintra in Portugal

If this beautiful place is on your itinerary, these are the best things to do in Sintra, Portugal.

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1. Sintra Old Town

Sintra in Portugal: The Sintra Old Town is compact and easy to get around without a guide. Exploring the historic centre is one of the best things to do in Sintra in Portugal because the town is charming. Sintra Old Town has many pastel-hued townhouses, beautiful mansions, churches, and palaces. It has narrow cobblestone streets, various shops and museums.

If possible, arrive in Sintra early in the morning or the night before so you can explore this pretty town before it’s overrun with tourists. Start exploring the historical centre when the town is still waking up – you will not regret it. The historic centre of Sintra is compact and easy to get around without a guide. Sintra Old Town has many pastel-hued townhouses, beautiful mansions, churches, and palaces. It has narrow cobblestone streets lined with various shops and cafes where you can enjoy sweet pastries. You will also find here museums, such as the Sintra’s Natural History Museum or Museu do Ar (an aviation museum).

GOOD TO KNOW:

Start your day at the Padaria Saloia, where you can try the local specialities such as bread buns filled with various fillings from chorizo or fish with cheese to vegetables. They can even freshly bake a bun for you with your choice of filling if you have spare 10 minutes. Not only they are tasty, but they are also very cheap. Alternatively, stop for breakfast or lunch at Saudade, which serves delicious food.

 

2. Pena Palace in Sintra

things to do in Sintra in Portugal: Visiting the Pena Palace is one of the best things to do in Sintra in Portugal because this unique palace is one of the major cultural attractions in the country. Moreover, this fairy-tale-looking palace is a UNESCO Heritage site and one of the ‘’Seven Wonders of Portugal’’.

It is easy to understand why the Pena Palace is on top of the wish list of many visitors. It is the crown jewel of Sintra and one of the most famous attractions of Portugal. But that is not all – the Pena Palace is also one of the best expressions of 19th-century romanticism in Portugal. This exotic, fairy-tale-looking palace is a UNESCO Heritage site and one of the ‘’Seven Wonders of Portugal’’.

Visiting the Pena Palace is one of the best things to do in Sintra in Portugal because this unique palace is one of the major cultural attractions in the country.

Pena Palace: What makes the Pena Palace famous is a mix of decorative battlements and the colours used for its exterior. A colour palette of yellow mixed with red, tiles, and stone gives the Pena Palace an exotic look. This eye-catching castle is a UNESCO Heritage site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.

The Pena Palace is one of the most beautiful castles in the country and the main reason why millions of tourists flock to Sintra every year.

Pena Palace: King Ferdinand II built the Pena Palace on the site of an old monastery. This eye-catching castle with onion domes with was his summer residence. Today it is one of the most popular attractions in Sintra in Portugal. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You might not know it, but King Ferdinand II built the Pena Palace on the site of an old monastery. This eye-catching castle with onion domes was his summer residence.

It is easy to understand why the Pena Palace is on top of the wish list of many visitors. It is the crown jewel of Sintra and one of the most famous attractions of Portugal.

A Disneyland fantasy outside of Lisbon

 

Why is the Pena Palace famous?

What makes the Pena Palace famous is a mix of decorative battlements and the colours used for its exterior. A colour palette of yellow mixed with red, tiles, and stone gives the Pena Palace an exotic look. This brightly-coloured palace with mythological statues, surrounded by densely forested hills, is also full of mystery and myths.

GOOD TO KNOW:

Visit the weekday mornings at 9 am before the crowds arrive at 10 am. Alternatively, explore the Pena Palace before closing late in the afternoon – after 5 pm. This way you will miss the bus tours that cause queues in getting to the inside of the castle.

TIP:

Microbuses depart from the entrance of the Pena Palace every 15 minutes. You can pay € 3 for a ride, or you will need to walk 10 -15 minutes uphill.

 

3. Pena Park, Sintra

things to do in Sintra in Portugal: The forested grounds of Pena Park are together with the Pena Palace, a protected site. King Ferdinand II designed the 200 hectares of this park with plants from all over the world. Because of that, visiting Pena Park is one of the best things to do in Sintra in Portugal.

Afterwards, take time to explore Pena Park too. The forested grounds of Pena Park are together with the Pena Palace, a protected site. King Ferdinand II designed the 200 hectares of this park with plants from all over the world.

Did you know that Pena Park has over 2,000 species of plants within its boundaries? Because of that, the government labelled it a protected site.

Sintra in Portugal: The Parque de Pena, with secret sculptures and romantic gardens, is a perfect place for a break from the crowded terraces of the palace. Because of that, discovering the hidden corners of Pena Park is one of the best things to do in Sintra in Portugal.

Here you can find tropical plants, fern trees and sequoias that rise to astonishing heights. Yes, that is right, most trees and plants have matured, and the park has labyrinth-shaded paths. The Parque de Pena, with secret sculptures and romantic gardens, is a perfect place for a break from the crowded terraces of the palace. Because of that, discovering the hidden corners of Pena Park is one of the best things to do in Sintra in Portugal.

 

4. Cruz Alta, Sintra

things to do in Sintra in Portugal: Hiking to the Cruz Alta is one of the best things to do in Sintra in Portugal because this scenic viewpoint offers views of the Pena Palace from a distance. The Cruz Alta is the highest point of the Sintra Mountain range. It is also a unique attraction in Sintra, and you will not find many tourists here.

While in the area, do not miss the Cruz Alta. The Cruz Alta, or high cross in English, is the highest point of the Sintra Mountain range. But that is not the only reason to find this monument on the hill. Cruz Alta is a scenic viewpoint in Sintra which offers breathtaking views of the coast. And yes, you can see the colourful Pena Palace with the surrounding gardens from the stone cross.

Hiking to the Cruz Alta is one of the best things to do in Sintra, Portugal because it offers views of the Pena Palace from a distance. It is also a unique attraction in Sintra, and you will not find many tourists here.

GOOD TO KNOW:

You can find the Cruz Alta in the heart of Pena Park. All you need to do is follow a trail through the park to the highest point, the Serra de Sintra. The Cruz Alta is a replica of the cross which once stood here. The King João III of Portugal ordered the installation of the cross hundreds of years ago. Later, a storm destroyed it, and King Ferdinand II put a new cross here. It was also felled by a lightning strike in 1997. What you see today is a replica of the cross from 2008.

 

5. The Statue of the Warrior, Sintra

statue of the Warrior: The Statue of the Warrior is another monument you can spot when exploring the Pena Palace. This bronze sculpture of the knight represents King Ferdinand II. You can find the Statue of the Warrior on a pile of stones in Pena Park.

The Statue of the Warrior is another monument you can spot when exploring the Pena Palace. This bronze sculpture of the knight represents King Ferdinand II. You can find the Statue of the Warrior on a pile of stones in Pena Park. However, you should know that it is impossible to access this unusual statue.

At the feet of the Warrior, you can find the Queen’s table. This octagonal stone table was one of the favourite spots of Queen Amelia. You can also find here a bench in the shape of a flame.

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6. Chalet of the Countess of Edla

If you want to get well off the beaten track in Sintra, visit the Chalet of the Countess of Edla. The Casa do Regalo – as some people call it, was a place of refuge for King Ferdinand II and his second wife, the Countess of Edla. Elise was an opera singer who won the king’s heart after Ferdinand II lost his first wife, Queen Maria II.

Together with Ferdinand II, they built an alpine-style chalet on the western side of Pena Park. Chalet of the Countess of Edla was once a romantic refuge for the couple. Today it is a part of the Sintra Cultural Landscape and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For those reasons, visiting the Chalet of the Countess of Edla is one of the best things to do in Sintra in Portugal if staying in town for a few days.

This 19th Century Alpine house preserves the memory of one of the great love stories in Portuguese history. Once here, pay attention to mural paintings and the restored dining room with cork-inlaid walls. Don’t miss the monumental granite stones in the garden and beautiful views from the balcony.

 

7. Castle of the Moors 

things to do in Sintra in Portugal: Castle of the Moors is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a part of the Cultural Landscape of Sintra. The Castle of Moors was once an important military stronghold and now is the oldest monument in the area. For those reasons, visiting the Castle of the Moors is one of the best things to do in Sintra in Portugal.

If there is one place you cannot miss after exploring the Pena Palace, it’s the nearby Castle of the Moors. Castelo Dos Mouros is a medieval hilltop castle, which stands high above Sintra.

Castle of the Moors is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a part of the Cultural Landscape of Sintra. The Moors built this castle in the 10th century during the Islamic period. The Castle of Moors was once an important military stronghold and now is the oldest monument in the area. For those reasons, visiting the Castle of the Moors is one of the best things to do in Sintra in Portugal.

Castle of the Moors: Even though the Castelo dos Mouros is today in ruins, it is well worth a visit. This medieval hilltop castle is one of the top attractions in Portugal because it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Castle of the Moors is an important military stronghold and one of the oldest monuments in the area. The Castle of the Moors provides the best views of the Pena Palace, along with the other palaces in the town.

Even though the Castelo dos Mouros is today in ruins, it is well worth a visit. Hike up to the top of the Castle of Moors. On your way to the castle, see the ruins of the old chapel, cistern and Guard’s house. Find the remains of the original structures, such as Islamic houses, a tomb and underground silos.

Castle of the Moors: If there is one place you cannot miss after exploring the Pena Palace, it’s the nearby Castle of the Moors. Castelo Dos Mouros is a medieval hilltop castle and one of the most famous UNESCO World Heritage sites in Portugal. King Ferdinand II restored the main walls and towers, which witnessed the Islamic presence in the region. Climb its walls, which snake across the hill and see beautiful palaces in the distance.

King Ferdinand II restored the main walls and towers, which witnessed the Islamic presence in the region. Climb its walls, which snake across the hill and explore its square towers, which offer the best views in Sintra. The Castle of the Moors provides the best views of the Pena Palace, along with the other palaces in the town.

 

8. Quinta da Regaleira

things to do in Sintra in Portugal: The Quinta da Regaleira is one of the most beautiful palaces in Sintra in Portugal and it is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is famous for its unique architecture and mystic symbology. Because of that, visiting the Quinta da Regaleira is one of the top things to do in Sintra in Portugal.

No trip to Sintra would be complete without visiting the Quinta da Regaleira. The Quinta da Regaleira is a beautiful opulent palace hidden in a forest. This wonder with unique architecture and mystic symbology is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Because of that, visiting the Quinta da Regaleira is one of the top things to do in Sintra in Portugal.

This romantic palace was the home of Antonio Augusto Carvalho Monteiro. You might not know it, but Monteiro was a millionaire and an heir to a wealthy Brazilian Portuguese family. Monteiro built the Quinta da Regaleira and a chapel at the turn of the 20th century.

Quinta da Regaleira: The Quinta da Regaleira is one of the most beautiful palaces in the town. This beautiful UNESCO site is also famous for secret tunnels, grottos and wells hidden in nature. Keep your eyes peeled for various symbols related to the Knights Templar and alchemy. Do not miss the Manueline symbols and initiation wells which are top attractions in the Quinta da Regaleira.

Despite its proximity to Sintra Old Town, the Quinta da Regaleira is not overrun by tourists.

Once here, explore the beautiful palace and its nearby chapel with ornate stained-glass windows. Afterwards, wander around the park and discover secret tunnels, grottos and wells hidden in nature. Keep your eyes peeled for various symbols related to the Knights Templar and alchemy. Do not miss the Manueline symbols and initiation wells.

 

9. Initiation Well

Sintra in Portugal: No trip to Sintra in Portugal is complete without a visit to the Initiation Well. It's because this unique spiralling well celebrates Portugal’s historical connection to the mysterious Templar Knights. It is believed that the initiation wells with a spiral staircase were used for mysterious initiation rituals.

Of course, no trip to Sintra is complete without a visit to the Initiation Well. You can find it on the land of the Quinta da Regalia, near the top of the gardens. The Italian architect and designer Luigi Manini built it, at the same time, like the rest of the house.

But why is the Initiation Well so famous?

Well, the Initiation Well was never used to collect water. Instead, it is believed that the initiation wells with a spiral staircase were used for mysterious initiation rituals. It is because Carvalho Monteiro had a deep interest in the Templar Knights.

A 27-metre mysterious spiral staircase leads down to the bottom of the well through its several landings. Some say that this subterranean tower was used for ceremonial purposes. The others think that the spacing of 9 landings combined with 15 steps represents 9 levels of Hell from Dante’s Inferno.

Exploring the Initiation Well is one of the best things to do in Sintra in Portugal. It is because this unique spiralling well celebrates Portugal’s historical connection to the mysterious Templar Knights.

things to do in Sintra in Portugal: Exploring the Initiation Well is one of the best things to do in Sintra in Portugal. It is because this unique spiralling well celebrates Portugal's historical connection to the mysterious Templar Knights. Plus, the Initiation Well, with a striking spiral staircase, is one of the most famous attractions in Sintra.

 The Initiation Well, with a striking spiral staircase, is one of the most famous attractions in Sintra.

At the bottom of the Initiation Well, you will find a pink compass printed on the floor. It is the coat of arms of Carvalho Monteiro. Once at the bottom, explore the underground walkways which connect to the other entrances.

 

 10. Sintra National Palace

things to do in Sintra in Portugal: Many visitors will tell you that visiting the Sintra National Palace is one of the best things to do in Sintra, and they are not wrong. The Sintra National Palace is the oldest palace in the town and is designated a UNESCO site. The palace was home to the Portuguese royal family and is the best-preserved medieval royal palace in the country. Because of that, the Sintra National Palace is one of the most popular attractions in the area.

Many visitors will tell you that visiting the Sintra National Palace is one of the best things to do in Sintra, and they are not wrong. The Sintra National Palace is the oldest palace in the town and is designated a UNESCO site. The palace was home to the Portuguese royal family and is the best-preserved medieval royal palace in the country. Because of that, the Sintra National Palace is one of the most popular attractions in the area.

Different families occupied this castle with white conical towers over the centuries and they added their personal touch to the palace.

Sintra National Palace inside

Wander through the rooms and notice the different interior and architectural styles. The highlights are the Hall of Swans (named after the painted swans on the ceiling), Magpie’s Room, and the Arab Room. The Palace Chapel and Coats of Arms Hall are also stunning.

GOOD TO KNOW:

You can find the Sintra National Palace next to the Natural History Museum of Sintra.

 

11. Monserrate Palace

There are two reasons why visiting the Monserrate Palace is one of the best things to do in Sintra, Portugal. It is because the UNESCO Monserrate Palace has incredible botanic gardens and is very picturesque.

An English aristocrat rebuilt this palace on the ruins of the previous chapel and turned this beautiful building into a summer residence for his family. Today, the Monserrate Palace is the most visually striking building in Sintra because it mixes different styles.

Once here, admire the symmetry and neo-gothic and Islamic influence. Pay attention to brightly coloured walls, elegant arches and Moorish and Romanticist architectural elements.

Afterwards, explore its botanic gardens bursting with plants from different corners of the world. The gardens are in pristine condition and are the perfect escape for a relaxing afternoon.

GOOD TO KNOW:

Because the Monserrate Palace is slightly removed from other palaces in Sintra, it is as crowded as other attractions. You can find the Monserrate Palace about four kilometres from the historic centre.

 

12. Convent of the Capuchos

When in the area, if possible, explore the Convent of the Capuchos. The Convent of Capuchos is a monastery built high in the Sintra Mountains.

Throughout centuries this Franciscan Monk convent was a place of worship and pilgrimage. Moreover, monks chose to live a life lacking unnecessary luxuries and comforts. It represented the ideal of the Order of St Francis of Assisi. It was in contrast with the luxury elsewhere in Sintra.

Today the Convent of the Capuchos is a part of the Cultural Landscape of Sintra. Therefore, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even though the Convent of the Capuchos is a less-visited attraction in Sintra, the ruins of the monastery are well worth exploring.

One of the Convent of the Capuchos unique features is the extensive use of cork in protection and decoration. The monks harvested the material from the nearby trees and used it for insulation from the cold and the heat. Now you can visit their small quarters and public spaces with cork-covered doors, windows and chairs.

 

13. Cabo da Roca

Another place you cannot miss is Cabo da Roca. Many years ago, Portuguese explorers believed that Cabo da Roca was the end of the world. However, it is not true – it is the most western point in mainland Europe. Because of that, Cabo da Roca is on the bucket list of many visitors.

Visiting Cabo da Roca is one of the best things to do in Sintra if you want to spend a day by the sea. Cabo da Roca is an incredible natural viewpoint on the edge of Sintra’s National Park. Even though the nearby area is undeveloped, it offers stunning views of dramatic cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean. Take a bus or a taxi to Cabo da Roca and follow the trail along the clifftop. Find a lighthouse and a stone monolith that marks the place as the westernmost part of Europe. Later, explore the nearby beaches.

 

14. Praia da Ursa

Next, walk to the Praia da Ursaone of the best beaches in the area. It is a little more difficult to reach, but it is well worth visiting this spectacular beach. Praia da Ursa is a white sandy beach with tall sea stacks at the northern end. This pretty beach is wild and unmaintained. Therefore, getting there is not easy, and it isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Walking a pedestrian dirt trail along the coast is easy, but the final part is more challenging because you will need to follow a steep cliff-side path. Hence, wear good walking shoes. Also, do not hike to Praia da Ursa if it has been raining or you have walking difficulties.

 

15. A day trip to Cascais from Sintra

things to do in Sintra in Portugal: If you stay in Sintra for a few days, squeeze Cascais into your itinerary. Exploring Cascais is one of the best things to do in Sintra in Portugal because it is one of the most beautiful seaside towns on the Portuguese Riviera. Cascais is one of the richest towns in the country. It has beautiful cobbled streets, a long promenade, lovely beaches and perfect hiking trails.

If you stay in Sintra for a few days and have one free day, make sure you squeeze Cascais into your itinerary. Cascais is a premier holiday destination not far from Lisbon. It is one of the most beautiful seaside towns on the Portuguese Riviera. This former fishing town became a popular resort when the Portuguese king made it his summer retreat in the late 1800s. Today Cascais is one of the richest towns in the country. It has beautiful cobbled streets, a long promenade, lovely beaches and perfect hiking trails. Because of that, exploring Cascais is one of the epic things to do in Sintra in Portugal if you want to spend a day in the sea.

How to get from Sintra to Cascais?

The quickest and easiest way to get from Sintra to Cascais is by taxi. The journey takes about 12 minutes and costs €30 –  €35. Alternatively, there are two direct buses between Sintra and Cascaisnumber 403 (more scenic) and 417 (faster bus route).

Both routes (operated by Scotturb) start at Sintra train station and terminate at Cascais bus station. The single ticket costs €4.25, and you can buy it from a driver when boarding a bus.

 

Getting to Sintra in Portugal

Sintra from Lisbon

Getting to Sintra from Lisbon is very easy. Direct trains that run every 30 minutes on weekdays (more frequently at rush hours) and every hour on weekends. Trains leave from Rossio Station in Lisbon’s city centre. Alternatively, use Oriente station or Entrecampos station – it is a stop on the Oriente-Sintra line.

The journey on the local suburban trains from Lisbon to Sintra takes about 40 minutes. A single ticket from both stations (Rossio-Sintra and Oriente-Sintra) costs €2.30 (as off June 2022). It is not possible to pre-book seats. You must validate your ticket by scanning your ticket before you step on the train.

Those with the Lisboa Card (the tourist pass) can travel on the Lisbon-Sintra trains for free as long as their card is valid. You can purchase the Lisboa Card for 24h, 48h or 78h periods. Plus, you get a free (or reduced) entry to most of Lisbon’s attractions and a discount on a few in Sintra.

Alternatively, you can buy a 24-hour train ticket with unlimited travel for €6.00 (including trains to Sintra and Cascais).

  

Getting around Sintra in Portugal

getting around Sintra in Portugal - Sintra bus map

  •  By bus: 

Getting around Sintra is the most convenient and the most affordable way. Two buses operate in Sintra – they have one-way or hop-on hop-off options. The number 434 and the number 435 of the local Scotturb Company connect all famous sites in the area. A daily tourist ticket with unlimited rides on all Scotturb busses costs €11.50.

The 434 bus route connects the Sintra train station with the Moorish Castle, the Pena Palace and the historic town centre. The path to the Pena Palace is very steep and would be a waste of time to walk the distance. Plus, it would take you more than one hour to walk from the station to the palace.

Due to the narrow roads, the 434 bus does not go to the Moorish Castle on the way back. Instead, it uses a different road. It goes straight to the town centre and then to the station. The 434 bus (Pena Palace Circuit) runs from 9.30 am until 7 pm.

Bus 435 connects the Sintra train station with the Sintra National Palace, the Seteais Palace, and the Monserrate Palace. The 435 bus (Montserrate Circuit) runs from 10 am to 6.30 pm.

GOOD TO KNOW:

A daily tourist ticket in Sintra (hop-on hop-off) with unlimited rides is valid on all Scotturb busses: 418, 403, 417, 433, 435, 434 and, also 441.

  • By Tuk-Tuk:

Alternatively, you can use a tuk-tuk (three-wheeled rickshaw). It can accommodate up to 6 people, but it is a more expensive means of transport. The tuk-tuk drivers charge €10 per person for a ride to Pena Palace.

 

  • By taxi: The quickest way from the Sintra train station the Pena Palace is by taxi. Expect to pay around €11.

 

  • By car:

You might think that getting to Sintra by car might be the easiest option, but there are not many parking spaces. The streets are narrow, many are one-way only, and there is also heavy traffic. Hence, avoid driving to Sintra by car.

 

Now you know what are the best things to do in Sintra in Portugal!

Have you been to Sintra in Portugal? Did we miss anything? Please let us know in the comments below. If you like our post, please save it to Pinterest 🙂

How much do you know about UNESCO Sintra in Portugal? Discover a charming resort town with fairy-tale castles and palaces. A day trip to Sintra from Lisbon.

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