The best independent guide to Sintra
The best independent guide to Sintra
Sintra is a charming Portuguese town situated within the cooling hills of the Serra de Sintra. Once a summer retreat for Portuguese nobility and royalty, this UNESCO World Heritage Site captivates visitors with its wealth of opulent palaces, extravagant villas, and historic sites, all set amidst lush forests and jagged hills.
These world-class tourist sights include the whimsical Palácio da Pena, the ruins of the Moorish castle, the mystical gardens of the Quinta da Regaleira, and the Arabian-inspired Palácio de Monserrate. Venturing beyond the well-trodden tourist routes, reveals an alternative side of Sintra, one with dense forests, rugged coastlines, secluded religious sites, and wondrous viewpoints—all awaiting exploration by intrepid travellers.
This variety of fascinating sights, abundance of Portuguese charm and stunning natural scenery, makes Sintra an outstanding tourist destination, which is regarded as the best day trip of the Lisbon region. A visit to this wonderful town is often a highlight of a trip to Portugal, and it will make a fantastic addition to your holiday plans.
This article will show you why you must visit Sintra and how to get the most from your trip here.
There is so much to see in Sintra, and sights which can't be missed are:
The Palácio Nacional da Pena – One of Europe's finest palaces, with a vividly painted exterior, and an interior restored to how it appeared in 1910 when the Portuguese nobility fled the country (guide here)
The Pena Palace as seen from the Cruz Alto viewpoint
The Quinta da Regaleira – A neo-gothic mansion but the real attraction are the gardens, which conceal secret passages, mystical symbolism and even a Knights of Templar initiation well (guide here)
The Poço Iniciático well in the grounds of the Quinta da Regaleira
The Palácio Nacional de Sintra – The original medieval palace of Sintra, which was a favourite with the early Portuguese rulers.
The Castelo dos Mouros – The ancient ruins of a Moorish castle that stands atop a craggy peak and once guarded the entire region (guide here)
Monserrate Palace – An Arabian inspired villa with intricate latticework stone carving and tranquil gardens. This is where to escape the tourist crowds of Sintra
If you are fortunate to have a car, there is also a lot to see within the hills of the Serra de Sintra. There is the stunning driving along the N247 between Almoçageme and Almuinhas Velhas, there is the forest-covered monastery of Convento dos Capuchos, the amazing viewpoint from the Sanctuary of Peninha and the Cabo da Roca cliffs - the most westerly point of mainland Europe.
The Sintra coastline also boasts many magnificent beaches, and these include the wild surfing beach of Guincho, the charming beach town of Praia das Maçãs, or the untamed natural beauty of Praia da Ursa.
Most visitors only consider Sintra for a day trip, but there is an amazing amount to see and do in within the region!
The interactive map below displays the highlights of Sintra and the Sintra region.
The green markers and line display what is usually seen in the first day of sightseeing in Sintra, the blue markers and line on a second day of sightseeing and the yellow pins display the best sights of the Sintra region, but a car (or guide) is needed to see them.
Note: Zoom out to see the regional yellow markers
Key: 1) Palácio Nacional de Sintra 2) Castelo dos Mouros 3) Palácio Nacional da Pena 4) Quinta da Regaleira 5) Palácio de Seteais 6) Vila Sassetti 7) Palácio de Monserrate 8) Convento dos Capuchos 9) Sanctuary of Peninha 10) N247 scenic drive 11) Cabo da Roca 12) Praia das Maçãs 13) Praia do Guincho (beach) 14) Praia da Ursa (beach) 15) Praia da Adraga (beach)
Related articles: Sights & attractions in Sintra
Insight: During the peak season there can be very long queues for tickets. Tickets for the main tourist attractions can be purchased prior to your day trip from Getyourguide:
• Palácio Nacional da Pena (€20)
The battlements of the Moorish castle provide spectacular views over the Sintra region
The majority of tourists visit Sintra as a day trip, either from Lisbon or the resort towns of Cascais and Estoril. Sintra is an enjoyable day trip, as it has a lot to offer visitors, while being suitable for all ages.
Travel to Sintra is hassle-free, as there is a regular train service between Lisbon and Sintra, or a direct bus service from Cascais and Estoril (travel details are found later in this article).
The most common route to combine the main sights in a single day of sightseeing is:
• Train or bus to Sintra
• Palácio Nacional da Pena (highlight of the day)
• Palácio da Pena gardens
• Castelo dos Mouros (optional)
• Lunch in the historic centre
• Explore the historic centre of Sintra
• Quinta da Regaleira (or Palácio Nacional)
Most day-trippers to Sintra follow the same order, as this is the route of the 434-tourist bus. The 434 bus route connects Sintra train station to the Castelo dos Mouros and the Palácio da Pena, before returning to the train station via the historic centre of Sintra.
Related articles: A day trip to Sintra – Lisbon to Sintra – 434 tourist bus
Advice: Generally, we recommend Sintra as the first-day trip if you are based in Lisbon, or as the second-day trip if your holiday is to Cascais or Estoril (the first-day trip would be to Lisbon).
The decorative entrance to the Pena Palace
Sintra is often visited as a day trip from Lisbon, but there are sufficient attractions to easily fill two or three days of sightseeing. Suggested itineraries for two or three days in Sintra, which follow on from the 1-day trip include:
A second day in Sintra
• Quinta da Regaleira and gardens (or the Palácio Nacional de Sintra)
• Palácio de Seteais
• Palácio de Monserrate
• Vila Sassetti and gardens (optional)
• Hike up the Caminho de Vila Sassetti (optional)
Third day in Sintra
• Convento dos Capuchos
• Peninha Sanctuary and viewpoint (highlight)
• Cabo da Roca
• Praia da Ursa or Praia da Adraga
• Chalet da Condessa D'Edla (Pena Park)
• Hike to Cruz Alta (Pena Park)
Note: this day trip requires a car
Related articles: A second day in Sintra – Sintra’s secret sights
If you plan to spend two or three days visiting Sintra, it is recommended to stay within the town, instead of travelling in from Lisbon each day. The main advantage of being based in Sintra is that the town can be enjoyed once the day-trippers and coach tours have left.
The key national monuments of Sintra have extending opening hours, allowing you to visit before or after the daytime rush. The town offers a fantastic range of hotels to choose from, with many of these in keeping with the style and charm of the region.
The map below shows the location of hotels and rental rooms in Sintra, and by altering the date to your holiday, the map will display current prices:
Historically, the reason was due to the slightly cooler climate that the hills of the Serra de Sintra provide. This enticed the nobility of Portugal to construct their summer residences here. During the 19th century, Sintra was a popular destination for Europe's wealthy artisans and elite, who built elaborate mansions following the Romanticism style of architecture.
The Quinta da Regaleira
There are two regular and inexpensive train services that connect Lisbon to Sintra. The first service departs from Rossio station in central Lisbon, while the second departs from the Estação do Oriente. The train journey takes 40min (from Rossio) or 47min (from Oriente), and both cost €4.80 for a return. The services start early in the morning and continue late into the night, with up to three departures per hour.
Advice: Never drive to Sintra. The narrow hill roads were never designed for today's heavy traffic, and there is almost no car parking. In the summer, there is a constant traffic jam as frustrated drivers search for car parking spaces.
There are direct bus services to Sintra from the resort towns of Cascais and Estoril. The 417 service departs from Cascais bus station, takes 30 minutes and costs €4.25 for a single. From Estoril, the bus service is the number 418 route, which departs from the train station and takes 30 minutes.
Related articles: Lisbon to Sintra – Cascais to Sintra – Estoril to Sintra
There are many benefits of visiting Sintra as a part of a small group tour. Sintra is a destination where the main tourist sights are spread across a wide region of steep hills, and a tour eliminates the hassle of public transport. Portuguese tour guides are enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and the tours also cater for more worldly visitors.
An organised tour is the only way to visit both Sintra and Cascais in a single day, as taking this route by public transport does not provide enough time for sightseeing.
We have worked with GetYourGuide.com for the past six years, with some of their best Sintra tours including:
• Sintra Highlights Full-Day Tour (€65)
• Sintra, Cabo da Roca and Cascais Full-Day Tour from Lisbon (€63)
• Pena Palace and Regaleira Guided Tour from Lisbon (€65)
• Sintra, Cascais and Cabo da Roca Coast Day Tour (€85)
Unfortunately, Sintra often gets very crowded in the summer. This can mean long queues for admission tickets, tourist buses running out of space, and even long queues in Rossio station.
Our key advice would be to start a day trip to Sintra early in the day, or try to avoid the peak visiting hours of 11am to 3pm. Admission tickets can be purchased in advance to avoid some of the queues. Another tip to avoid the crowds is to visit the Palácio Nacional da Pena in the morning, as most visitors arrive in the afternoon when following the route of the 434-tourist bus.
There are quieter monuments and attractions in Sintra, and the best is the Palácio de Monserrate.
Other quieter and less touristy places to visit, include:
• Convento dos Capuchos
• Peninha Sanctuary
• Vila Sassetti Mansion
• Chalet da Condessa D'Edla
• The southern side of the Parque da Pena
The Santuário da Peninha is at the highest point of the Parque Natural de Sintra and is where to go to escape the tourist crowds
The walk from the historic centre of Sintra to the Palácio Nacional da Pena and the Castelo dos Mouros is up a very steep hill and can be very challenging walk. The 434-tourist bus removes the need for this walk, as it connects the train station to the historic centre, then climbs the hill to the Palácio Nacional da Pena (via the Castle of the Moors ) before returning to the train station.
The ticket for the entire route cost €7.60 (and is known as the ‘Pena Circuit Round Trip’), while the 24-hour unlimited use of all Sintra buses costs €15. The bus departs from Sintra train station every 15 minutes during the summer season.
Note: The 434-bus is the cheapest and best method to explore Sintra as a day trip.
The 435-tourist bus connects the train station to the Palácio de Monserrate, and passes the historic centre, the Quinta da Regaleira and the Seteais Palace. This bus is ideal for the second day in Sintra.
Related articles: The 434-tourist bus
The 435 and 434 buses waiting at the train station
Our favourite attractions in Sintra are:
1) Palácio Nacional da Pena 2) Quinta da Regaleira 3) Palácio Nacional de Sintra 4) Palácio de Monserrate 5) Castelo dos Mouros 6) Palácio de Seteais 7) Vila Sassetti
The Castelo dos Mouros is postioned high above the old town of Sintra
The town of Sintra is regarded as Europe's finest example of the whimsical and colourful Romanticism style of architecture. This elaborate, 19th-century design style was inspired by a love of art and the mysticism of ancient cultures, creating decorative and flamboyant buildings of which the Palácio da Pena is the greatest example.
Our most popular guides to Sintra
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