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A Visitor's Guide to Sintra, Portugal

If you’re reading this then you probably have some idea of how incredible Sintra is.

The charming UNESCO site at the foot the Sintra Mountains ticks all of the boxes. The town itself is incredibly picturesque and showcases some the most breathtaking sites Portugal and even Europe has to offer.

Here are a few of the reasons we loved Sintra;

Natural beauty everywhere

Incredible architecture 

Rich and interesting history

Good choice of vegan restaurants

Very easy to reach and get around

Great place to get outdoors

Cheaper and more relaxing than Lisbon

All sounds pretty damn good, right? Well you’re not the only one who thinks so. Being a 40 minute journey from Lisbon, this is a well travelled neck of the woods, so it’s all the more important to plan your trip well and beat the crowds!

This visitor’s guide to Sintra will give you everything you need to discover this amazing destination properly – there’s a hella lot to see in this small town so don’t miss out!

A Visitor's Guide to Sintra, Portugal
Did someone say pose?

What to see and do?

Considering the small size of Sintra there’s lots of places you’re gunna want to see – we were seriously impressed by all of the beauty packed into one small town. All the sites are individual and unique so you’ll be very disappointed if you miss out. Here are just some of the places that will make a trip to Sintra unforgettable.

Pena Palace and Gardens

A Visitors Guide to Sintra, Portugal - Veggie Vagabonds
Just like a….fairy tale?

One of the most popular sites in Sintra, The Pena Palace definitely gives the town it’s fairy tale reputation. Like the setting of a movie, the Romantic period palace sits high upon a hilly peak and can be seen for miles and miles. With a diverse and varied history, the palace was originally constructed in the middle ages and after earthquakes, wars and revolutions it was finally completed in 1854 by King Ferdinand II for Queen Maria II as a romantic retreat. The architecture is absolutely mind blowing and when you’re inside it’s like stepping back in time. The royal dining room, mosaic domed ceilings and crystal chandeliers all add to the incredible atmosphere.

The park surrounding the palace is where we spent most of the day – an incredible area filled with miles and miles of leafy paths, winding streams and dense green woodland. Whilst the palace is generally busy with tourists the park is often empty and is a great place to wander for hours and relax. It’s also a great place for adventuring, with high rocky peaks you can scramble to the top of to get perfect views of the palace. Make sure you don’t miss out on the Countess of Elda’s Chalet, it’s an earthy dream home!

€14/€12.50 Palace and gardens (adult/child)

€7.50/€6.50 Gardens only (adult/child)

***tip*** €14 can be expensive for the budget traveller, unless you particularly want to see the inside of the palace then just buy a ticket for the gardens (€7.50). The gardens on their own are incredible and you can still walk through the outdoor parts of the palace!

Palace and gardens – 3 hours / whole day

***tip*** Take some lunch with you and explore the park first. Climb up the lookout points and get an amazing perspective of the palace from afar! Afterwards, take your time exploring the castle and then relax with a book on the terrace. What’s the rush, soak up your surroundings!

10 am / 6 pm
Open everyday except December 25th and January 1st  

(Check opening times for holidays)

***tip*** due to it’s close proximity to Lisbon Sintra can get very busy on the weekend. Make the most of Pena’s park and palace by coming during the week when it will be quieter!

Late afternoon, watch the sun set from the palace!

***tip*** Timing is key! If possible, avoid weekends and public holidays. The palace is the busiest in the morning, so spend this time and the early afternoon in the gardens which will be much quieter. After 2 –  3 pm go towards the palace and you’ll miss a lot of the rush!

***tip*** €14 can be expensive for the budget traveller, unless you particularly want to see the inside of the palace then just buy a ticket for the gardens (€7.50). The gardens on their own are incredible and you can still walk through the outdoor parts of the palace!

***tip*** Take some lunch with you and explore the park first. Climb up the lookout points and get an amazing perspective of the palace from afar! Afterwards take your time exploring the castle and then relax with a book on the terrace. What’s the rush, soak up your surroundings!

***tip*** due to it’s close proximity to Lisbon, Sintra can get very busy on the weekend. Make the most of Pena’s park and palace by coming during the week when it will be quieter!

***tip*** Timing is key! If possible, avoid weekends and public holidays. The palace is the busiest in the morning, so spend this time and the early afternoon in the gardens which will be much quieter. After 2 – 3 pm go towards the palace and you’ll miss a lot of the rush!

A Visitor's Guide to Sintra, Portugal
Talk about colours, ey?

Quinta da Regaleira

A visitors Guide to Sintra, Portugal
Not your average garden!

The Quinta da Regaleira is like the psychedelic little sister to the Pena Palace. In 1982 Carvalho Monteiro designed this bewildering estate which pays tribute to alchemy, mysticism, Masonry and the Knights Templar. Walking through was like walking through a dream!

Once again for us, the gardens stole first prize. Dotted around are underground walkways and secret tunnels, stepping stones under waterfalls, hidden grottos and initiation wells with spiralling staircases. It really reminded us of the Mad Hatter’s tea party or hedonistic masked balls with dark corners that slip away into mystery. The underground areas endlessly swirl and spiral in darkness and then eventually surface 10 m from where they began. Some are easy to find and others concealed in the foliage and trees and require a map to locate!

The palace itself is a Gothic masterpiece, with five floors and stone gargoyles keeping watch from the outside. Each room inside is unique with unbelievable wood and stone work showcased in elaborate carvings and fireplaces. It would be amazing to experience one of the parties or events they held here hundreds of years ago but you can settle for one of the performances shown in the gardens during the summer months!

€6/€3 (adult/child)

2-4  hours

***tip*** the gardens are really amazing, so don’t rush. There are plenty of garden tables and benches you can sneak off to and relax in.

10.00 – 20.00 (Summer)  

10.00 – 17.30 (Winter)

Early morning or late afternoon

***tip*** Many day trippers will visit Pena Palace in the morning and then visit Quinta da Regaleira in the afternoon. Come early in the morning or later in the afternoon to miss the crowds.

***tip*** Many day trippers will visit Pena Palace in the morning and then visit Quinta da Regaleira in the afternoon. Come early in the morning or later in the afternoon to miss the crowds.

***tip*** The gardens are really amazing, so don’t rush. There are plenty of garden tables and benches you can sneak off to and relax in.

***tip*** There are events and performances on throughout the year. This page shows the details to the upcoming events!

A Visitor's Guide to Sintra, Portugal
What a view!

The Moorish Castle

A Visitor's Guide to Sintra, Portugal
Looking over all of Sintra

Towering above all of Sintra, the Moorish Castle was originally built during the 8th and 9th century and was used as a lookout point and to protect it’s inhabitants. The castle has experienced many owners, wars and battles, eventually resulting in it falling into poor condition, particularly after an earthquake which devastated the region in 1755. King Ferdinand II took up a restoration project in 1838 to preserve the famous site which you can see at the beautiful site today. From the top you get incredible views of the whole area, including the Sintra National Palace and Quinta da Regaleira!

€7/€6 (adult/child)

***tip*** If you’re planning on visiting multiple sites in Sintra then buy a combined ticket which will give you a discount

1.5/3 hours

9.30 – 20.00 (Summer)  

10.00 – 18.00 (Winter)

Last admission is 1 hours before closing

The later the quieter

***tip*** The castle is quite a steep walk from Sintra, consider going later in the day when it’s not as hot.

***tip*** If you’re planning on visiting multiple sites in Sintra then buy a combined ticket which will give you a discount.

***tip*** The castle is quite a steep walk from Sintra, consider going later in the day when it’s not as hot.

***tip*** Being open until 20.00 in the summer and being such a great vantage point means it’s a great point for some sunset photos!

Sintra National Palace

A Visitor's Guide to Sintra, Portugal
The famous chimneys from the kitchens

The famous palace is right in the heart of Sintra and it’s imposing architecture and can be seen from all across town. The origins of the castle started in 8th century and the royal residency has been lived in from the 15th to the 19th century. The palace is filled with priceless art pieces and has beautiful mosaic work you can marvel over.

The two large white cones are actually grand chimneys which lead straight from the kitchen! Who would have guessed!

€9/€7.5 (adult/child)

***tip*** If you’re travelling with children, go for the discounted family tickets to save some money

1 – 2 hours

9.30 – 18.00

Last admission 17.30

Gets busy during the middle of the day so visit before or after

Hiking

A Visitors Guide to Sintra, Portugal
Green. green everywhere!

There are a number of beautiful hiking trails which connect the main attractions around town (another reason not to take public transport!). These would be suitable for any level of fitness as the trails are short and take between 1-3 hours. Although all of the roads are good for walking, there are three designated walking trails which take right into nature! These trails literally take you to the front door of sites like the Castle of the Moors, Pena Palace and PArk and the Seteais palace so we were amazed to find them empty when we visited.

For detailed maps and more information on the hiking trails check out this website. The Seteais Trail, the longest hike available takes you through breaktaking scenery and also to a rocky outcrop used by mountain climbers!

Map of Sintra Sites

A Visitor's Guide to Sintra, Portugal
Pena Park map
A Visitor's Guide to Sintra, Portugal
Pena Palace map
A Visitor's Guide to Sintra, Portugal
Quinta da Regaleira map
A Visitor's Guide to Sintra, Portugal
Moorish Castle map

Where to stay

We stayed at the Portuguese Hostel which was great. It’s always a bit hit and miss when you chose the cheapest place online. at €8 a night it was incredible value for money! Very close to the train station so it’s convenient when you arrive and it’s only €8 a night, including breakfast! The owner was extremely helpful and gave us all the information we need to know. It also had a good kitchen as well, so we were able to make lunches to take with us and dinner to save money.

For budget options, Hostelworld definitely had the best selection of places, with a good variety of hostels under €15 a night.

Although there didn’t seem to be many Air Bnb’s in the centre of Sintra, there were a number a short distance outside of the town, in what looked like incredibly quiet and quaint surroundings.

For our entire trip to Portugal, we tried very hard to find Couch Surfing hosts, to no avail. We contacted hundreds of hosts but all were either busy or didn’t respond – maybe they didn’t like the look of our profile! Maybe you’ll have more luck, so Couch Surfing is still definitely an option.

A Visitor's Guide to Sintra, Portugal
Home cooked vegan goodness!

Where to eat

With 4 vegan restaurants in close proximity you’re never far from an ethical eatery! There are also a number of fruit and vegetable stalls and supermarkets if you want to get ingredients to cook!

How to get there

Sintra is very easy to reach no matter where you are in Portugal. From Lisbon trains leave from the Rossio train station taking roughly 40 minutes and from the Oriente train station taking about 45 minutes. There are 3 to 4 trains an hour from both stations, starting from roughly 6 am until 1 am.

If you’re not in Lisbon, most trains travelling north or south with go through Lisbon and from there you can take a connecting train to Sintra.

The Sintra train station is located in the centre, easy walking distance to most sites, food and accommodation. Note, there will probably be lots of taxi drivers and touts as you leave the train station – if you’re in need of their services you’ll find much cheaper prices further into town.

For more information and up-to-date timetables, click here.

How to get around

Sintra is a small town, unless you’re going further towards the coastline or the Sintra-Cascais National Park, you can get everywhere by foot. Sintra is amazing for walking and obviously this is the most environmentally friendly option. The town itself is beautiful, well laid out and has clear signs to all sites and attractions.

The hike from Sintra centre to Pena Palace is really incredible, it would be a shame to miss it because a bus is chugging you around!

A Visitor's Guide to Sintra, Portugal
Walking, walking everywhere…

Tips

Don’t go on a day trip!
There is way too much to see in one day, there’s no need to rush! Our article on exactly why Sintra is NOT a day trip will be coming soon!

Take your time!
Take some snacks, a book, a notepad, a sketch book a bottle of wine… enjoy the parks and the gardens and forget about what you’re meant to be doing next.

Walk everywhere!
You’ll miss out on so much if you use the expensive transport options. The town has so much to offer besides the main sites, so stick to the healthy option and explore!

Use Sintra as a base!
It’s cheaper than Lisbon, much greener and more relaxing, it’s also very well connected. Consider visiting the capital from Sintra and you’ll have a much more relaxed trip!

Check out the coastline!
We never made it to the coastline and we sure regretted it. There’s camping and some great hikes we wish we could have tried.

Save some money
All the entry fees can be mighty expensive, you can get a discount ticket for multiple sites and family tickets are available. Also consider buying a Lisbao card which work on most Sintra attractions and can help you save a lot!

Right

now you’re all set

when are you leaving?

Have you been to Sintra? Do you have any tips that would be useful for readers? Tell us in the comments box below!

 

 

 

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