A view from Pena Palace, Sintra

Looking for awesome things to do in Sintra, Portugal? This visitor’s guide has everything you need to know!

*Updated for 2019*

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 you’ll love Sintra:

  • There’s natural beauty everywhere
  • You’re spoiled with incredible architecture 
  • It’s seriously rich with interesting history
  • There’s a good choice of vegan options
  • It’s very easy to reach and get around
  • You’ll find plenty of places to enjoy the outdoors
  • It’s 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.

In this guide you’ll find all the best things to do in Sintra along with tips to help you beat the crowds and make the most of this awesome destination.

 

Girl overlooking view from Pena Palace, Sintra
Definitely not a poser!

 

Top things do in Sintra

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 we really recommend fitting in as much as you can. With so much to do it’s worth spending a few days here – Sintra is much more than a day trip!

Here are just some of the places that will make a trip to Sintra unforgettable. 

 

Pena Palace and Gardens

One of the most popular sites in Sintra, The Pena Palace definitely gives the town its 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.

The whole estate has a long, diverse and varied history, being originally constructed in the middle ages. 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.

Surrounding the palace is a beautiful park 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!

€13.30/€11.88 Palace and gardens (adult/child)

€7.13/€6.18 Gardens only (adult/child)

*tip* The prices shown above are for tickets bought online which are often cheaper than buying in person.

*tip* €13.30 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 its 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* The prices shown above are for tickets bought online which are often cheaper than buying in person.

*tip* €13.30 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 its 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!

 

Pena Palace, Sintra
Just like a… fairytale? Pena Palace looking mighty impressive

 

Close up of Pena Palace in Sintra
Just look at those colours!

 

 

Quinta da Regaleira

The Quinta da Regaleira is like the psychedelic little sister to the Pena Palace and one of the coolest things to do in Sintra. In 1982 Carvalho Monteiro designed this bewildering estate which pays tribute to alchemy, mysticism, Masonry and the Knights Templar. Walking through is like stepping into a dream.

Once again, for us the gardens stole first prize. Dotted around are underground walkways and secret tunnels, stepping stones under waterfalls, hidden grottoes and initiation wells with spiralling staircases. It really reminded us of the Mad Hatter’s tea party or a 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 are concealed in the foliage requiring 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/€4 (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. 

*tip* Find out more about Quinta da Regaleira here

 

The wishing well in Quinta de Regaleira
What an incredible staircase, Quinta da Regaleira

 

 

The Moorish Castle

Towering above all of Sintra, the Moorish Castle was originally built during the 8th and 9th century being used as a lookout point and to protect its inhabitants. The castle has experienced many owners, wars and battles, eventually 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 castle which you can see at the site today. From the top you get incredible views of the whole area, including the Sintra National Palace and Quinta da Regaleira!

€8/€6.5 (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 to watch the sunset!

 

The Moorish Castle in Sintra
The Moorish Castle, overlooking all of Sintra

 

 

Sintra National Palace

Right in the heart of Sintra you can see the Sintra National Palace and its imposing architecture 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. Inside 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?

€10/€8.5 (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

 

The Sintra National Palace
The Sintra National Palace

 

Hiking in Sintra

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 only take between 1-3 hours.

Although all of the roads are good for walking there are three designated walking trails which are perfect if you love nature. These trails literally take you to the front door of sites like the Castle of the Moors, Pena Palace and 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 breathtaking scenery and also to a rocky outcrop used by mountain climbers!

Absolutely free

The longest of the hiking trails between attractions will take 3 hours though you can spend all day exploring. Our advice is to take a picnic and enjoy a day in the outdoors!

 

Man climbing on top of log pile
Get your hiking boots on in Sintra!

Useful Sintra Travel Information

 

How to save some money!

There are plenty of ticketed things to do in Sintra and if you plan on visiting multiple sights then you can get a discount. The Parques de Sintra manage almost 10 different attractions (Pena Palace, Sintra National Palace, The Moorish Castle etc but not Quinta da Regaleira) and give you a larger discount for the more places you book tickets for online. They also offer family and elderly discount. You find more more information on the official website here

 

Accommodation in Sintra

We stayed at the Portuguese Hostel which we found at Hostelworld and it was great for €10 a night, including breakfast. It’s very close to the train station, the owner was extremely helpful and it also has a good kitchen so you can save money and make your own food. 

You can also find a range of other options on Booking.com and AirBnb (save up to £35 with this code). These accommodation vary from the centre of Sintra town to the surrounding countryside. If you’re want to be close to the action then make sure you check the location of your accommodation and make 

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 could also be an option.

Looking for more Portugal inspiration?

 

Grand kitchen inside Pena Palace, Sintra
Unfortunately this wasn’t the kitchen in our hostel, this is the rather grand kitchen in Pena Palace

 

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, from the Oriente train station they take roughly 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.

There are plenty of transport options around town but if you’re able to we highly recommend enjoying the area on foot. The hike from Sintra centre to Pena Palace is particularly incredible, it would be a shame to miss it because a crowded bus is chugging you around!

 

Where to find vegan food in Sintra

With 16 different options on Happy Cow in a small area you’re never far from vegan restaurants or at least vegan options. There are also a number of fruit and vegetable stalls and supermarkets if you want to get ingredients to cook.

 

 

Chalet da Condessa d'Edla in the gardens of Pena Palace
Chalet da Condessa d’Edla in the gardens of Pena Palace

 

Sintra travel tips

Don’t go on a day trip
There are so many things to do in Sintra a day trip would be such a rush. Our article on exactly why Sintra is NOT a day trip explains why!

Take your time
Take some snacks, a book, a notepad, a sketch book, a bottle of wine… enjoy the parks and the gardens, forgetting 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 rather than vice versa  and you’ll have a much more relaxing trip!

Check out the coastline
Sintra has easy access to a beautiful coastline, ripe with hiking, camping and adventuring. 

Save some money
All the entry fees can be mighty expensive so remember 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 you save a lot of money!

Looking for a Portugal travel guide? The ones from Lonely Planet and Rough Guides are the most popular

 

A map of things to do in Sintra

 

 

A Visitor's Guide to Sintra, Portugal
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Awesome Things to Do in Sintra, Portugal: a Visitor’s Guide

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