6 Best Things To Do In Sintra (Including Valuable Tips)

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Sintra is a small Portuguese town that leaves anyone who visits it to fall in love using its charm. It is indeed a traveler’s dream, with so many things to offer for every kind of traveler.

Hidden behind the pine trees, you could spot the quirky, colorful Pena palace which is obviously one of a kind. Fancy walking through the ruins of a historic castle? The Moorish Castle should be a perfect pick. Maybe you want to soak yourself into the royal extravaganza by visiting some villas and palaces. Or have you already seen many European castles and palaces and want to enjoy hiking in nature or chilling on the coast? Sintra has got you covered.

And the best part is you don’t even need a car to enjoy the beauty of Sintra as the public transport is made very convenient with special buses which run in a loop covering all the touristy things to do in that area. Check out all the information you need to know during your visit to Sintra.

Let’s get started. Shall we?

Note for folks who want to visit Sintra by car! You can drive to Sintra, but consider taking the bus and public transport for the rest of your journey. It is not advisable to drive in Sintra, and it is almost impossible to find a parking spot near any of the tourist attractions.

Big Note! You can no longer drive to the Pena Palace and Castle of the Moors. The only possible options are to take bus 434 or hike up to the palace.

Always check for the latest information in the official website.

1. Tour the Pena Palace

We are starting with the Pena Palace, known for its colorful red and yellow colors, making it picturesque and a little more unique than any other palace. The palace is a romanticist castle that looks like a crown to the Sintra hill. This palace was built to be the summer house for the royal family, and the color choices were specifically chosen by the royal family.

The palace inside is worth visiting. It showcases beautiful art and furnishings to give you a peek into the life of the royals from the 1800s to the 20th century.

Good to know! Bear in mind, as it is also the most popular attraction in Sintra, the crowd is ridiculous. Believe me, it is no exaggeration for you may have to wait in multiple lines for hours before you can enter the palace. But don’t worry. Here are some tips to ease your visit to this unique palace.

Tips for a Better Visit

This section will be a little long, but trust me, this will also prevent you from making all the mistakes we did.

Plan Ahead!

  • Make sure to plan your itinerary for the day in such a way that you visit the palace either the first thing in the morning when it opens or right before it closes to capture some dramatic pictures of the palace during the sunset.
  • If you are short on time, I would advise you to reach the palace earlier in the morning, even a little before opening time to avoid the major crowd.
  • Make sure to get your tickets online, as there are two different queues at the entrance, one for the tickets and the other for the people with the tickets. You wouldn’t want to waste your time just standing in queues, would you?
  • Also, by getting your tickets online, you could get a discount. If you are planning on getting your Lisboa card, get your tickets to the palace along with it to get more value for money. (Check out the practical info post.)

Be Punctual!

  • Be sure to be there in the provided time slot, which is for entering the palace. The provided time slot is not for entering the park. It will take around 20 mins to walk from the park entrance to the palace entrance, provided there is no queue to enter the park (the waiting time will be less around the opening time). Well, there are two ways to get to the palace entrance:
    • One is by walking for around 15 to 20 minutes from the Pena Palace park entrance, where you have just validated your ticket. (Many sources would say it is a steep walk and should take around 30 minutes, but it is not; it should only take you half the time, and it is not difficult).
    • The other way is to take a shuttle to the palace entrance, the ticket for which can also be bought along with your Pena palace entry ticket. But the shuttle is very small and can only carry a few people at a time (which means another QUEUE), so I suggest walking if you can so there is less crowd for people who need the shuttle.
  • When you reach the palace entrance, check with the security staff at the gate to identify the queue for your time slot. If people have already queued up, then join the lines. For example, you could see the queue for 13:30 already in line before the people from the 13:00 slot are allowed inside. This means another 30 to 45 minutes of waiting based on the time of the day. Taking the first slot of the day saves you this time, and you will have the entire day to yourself to check out other places.

Is Pena Palace Worth a Visit?

If you ask me if all this trouble is worth visiting the palace, it’s absolutely up to one’s preferences. I absolutely enjoyed the palace, though, and got some stunning pictures despite the crowd we had, even during the off-peak season (but we visited it in the afternoon). Had I known about the situation in advance, I would have visited it during the first slot to enjoy the palace without exerting myself a lot in the waiting lines. Also, the palace loses its charm when you see through the camera with hundreds of people in it. Either way, I would have surely visited the palace but would have planned better.

But hey, know what? The reason I was not in Pena palace first thing in the morning is that we ended up in Moorish Castle first. Thanks to Google Maps! According to it, the bus had already crossed Pena Palace before we actually reached it (little did we know). So we got down immediately at the next stop where the bus stopped. This stop was, in fact, at the Moorish Castle, which was actually one stop before the Pena Palace. We realized this after getting down and couldn’t board the same bus back as it was packed.

Psst! The public transport details shown in Google maps in Sintra are not very accurate. Check out the valuable information you need to know about how to travel using public transport in Sintra.

Phew, I know that’s a lot of stuff to remember while planning a visit to this place. But let’s also get to know some interesting things about this palace.

What to Expect Inside Pena Palace?

By now, we know that Pena Palace plays a crucial part in the cultural heritage of Sintra. There is so much to look at inside the palace, but here are some interesting ones:

  • There is a hard-to-miss giant carving of a Triton, a mythological character that is half-man and half-fish. You could see him sitting on one of the corals and a tree with many grape vines coming out of his head. Like the monster, this gateway indicates the division between the aquatic and terrestrial worlds. (Interesting, isn’t it?)
  • A highlight is the stained-glass paintings on the windows of the chapel. They look absolutely stunning!
  • The last is the paintings in the “Visitor’s Room”. This room is covered with paintings on the wall and ceilings. Why are the paintings in this room more special? Because it gives an optical illusion as though the room is covered with intricate carvings. It is an effect created by the trompe-l’œil paintings, which means “deceive the eye” in French.

Are There Any Food Options in Pena Palace?

There is a €1 coffee available from the machine, which is quite tricky to operate (but also has options to choose syrup), and a couple of vending machines at the main entrance.

There is also a small cafe on one of the terraces in the palace. You may grab a quick bite while enjoying the views.

Yes, I am finally done with everything I wanted to talk about Pena Palace.

What About Tickets for Pena Palace?

As of 2023, adult ticket is €14 (€13.30 online), youth/seniors ticket is €12.50 (€11.88 online), and family ticket is €49 (€46.55 online).

You can book your tickets online here.

2. Walk Through the Moorish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros)

This millennium-old castle is constructed strategically with a vantage point overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the Sintra Hills, and the surrounding plains. The castle was founded under Islamic rule, and there are artifacts proving the settlement of the Islamic population which was called the Islamic Quarter. Later during the medieval period, there was a Christian settlement when the Church of São Pedro de Canaferrim was built between the two rings of walls.

An interesting fact about the castle! During the restoration work undertaken by King Ferdinand around the 19th century, a part of the Christian burial ground around the church got destroyed, unfortunately. Hence, an order was given to build a tomb with all the remains that were found. At the time, it was impossible to identify whether the remains belonged to the earlier Moorish settlement or the later Christian settlement; hence, the tomb bore the inscription below:

What man brought together, only God may separate

How to Reach Moorish Castle?

It is located very close to Pena Palace. It is one stop before Pena Palace when you take a bus from Sintra, but the bus runs in a loop, so you cannot take a bus from Pena palace back to Moorish Castle. It is an effortless walk downhill, but you could also take a tuk-tuk or a taxi if you want to avoid walking.

Tip! Consider buying the ticket online. It is not only more economical, but also it could save you a lot of time.

From the main entrance where the bus stops, you have to walk a little further to the actual entrance. There are signboards at every intersection, so you will stay aware of the walking trails.

Tip for hiking enthusiasts! There are trails from Moorish Castle leading to Sintra palace, which is closer to the center of the town. You could take this trail on the way back after visiting the castle or hike up to the castle.

Good to know! There will be quite some walking and climbing involved in visiting this castle, and during rainy days it could be slippery too, so consider wearing some comfortable shoes for walking.

You will easily spend 2 hours visiting the castle, and there are no shops or cafes available inside, so plan accordingly.

What About Tickets for Moorish Castle?

As of 2023, adult ticket is €8 (€7.60 online), youth/seniors ticket is €6.5 (€6.18 online), family ticket is €26 (€24.70 online), and free for children under 6.

You can book your tickets online here.

3. Get Charmed by the Monserrate Palace

There are many palaces to see in and around Sintra. Still, the park and palace of Monserrate are a beautiful combination of unique intricate architecture and a romantic landscape that could almost instantly awaken your inner creativity.

How to Reach Monserrate Palace?

You could easily take a tuk-tuk or bus to the park’s entrance. It is not far away from the town of Sintra.

Tip! Get your tickets online for a discount and also to save standing in more queues.

It is not very popular among tourists who just visit Sintra for a day trip. Still, I highly recommend this even if you are here only for a day. It is truly a hidden gem of Sintra.

From the park entrance, where you buy or validate your online tickets, you have to walk for a while to reach the palace entrance. There are different ways to reach the entrance. The signboard at every intersection also shows you which way is the shortest and what more can be explored if you take various paths.

If you have some time, try to explore more of the garden. It has a collection of plants and trees from all over the world. The garden feels very surreal, and also it could offer a lot of opportunities to capture pictures.

What About Tickets for Monserrate Palace?

As of 2023, adult ticket is €8 (€7.60 online), youth/seniors ticket is €6.5 (€6.18 online), family ticket is €26 (€24.70 online), and free for children under 6.

You can book your tickets online here.

4. Explore the Quinta da Regaleira

By now, you are probably in awe of Sintra’s charming palaces and villas, but we are not done yet. Quinta da Regaleira is such an intriguing 19th-century Villa located in Sintra. You could easily spot the villa from the top of Moorish Castle. This is quite different from the previous ones we saw, and that’s what makes Sintra different. Every monument has something different from the others but also something in common. They will all make you fall in love with Sintra.

What sets Quinta da Regaleira apart from the others is that this place has a lot of secretive passages and spiral staircases down to a well. The entire place gives you a mystical vibe. And obviously, this one also has a beautiful garden like all other palaces.

Good to Know! Unlike Monserrate, this one is more famous among tourists, and yes, you can expect big lines if you don’t buy your tickets online. When visiting Sintra, you should be mentally prepared to deal with the crowd. Plan your itinerary in such a way as to make the best use of your time here.

What About Tickets for Quinta da Regaleira?

As of 2023, adult ticket is €11, youth/seniors ticket is €6, and free for children under 5 and seniors above 80 years.

You can book your tickets online here.

5. Visit the National Palace of Sintra

Located right in the middle of the town, you can instantly spot this palace once you are in Sintra. If you are puzzled looking at a big white building with two inverted funnel-shaped towers and wondering what it is, yes, that’s the one. That is the National Palace of Sintra, and the conical structures are the chimneys from the royal kitchen (Hmmm, that’s interesting). The Royal Palace is known to have expanded a lot through the centuries, starting around the 10th or 11th century.

This building holds a lot of history of entire Portugal. Are you a history buff and want to know more? There are many guided tours that can give you more insight into the place during your visit.

Tip! Like every other place in Sintra, make sure to purchase your ticket online. As it is located in the middle of the town, you could visit around the closing hours, avoiding the crowd.

Are you running short on time? You could see the palace up close while passing around that area. It looks beautiful during golden hour with the sun fading behind the hills, and the lights of the palace are on.

What About Tickets for National Palace of Sintra?

As of 2023, adult ticket is €10 (€9.50 online), youth/seniors ticket is €8.5 (€8.08 online), family ticket is €33 (€31.35 online), and free for children under 6.

You can book your tickets online here.

6. Chill at Cabo da Roca

Cabo da Roca or the Cape Roca, located 18 km west of Sintra, marks the westernmost point of mainland Europe. This is one of the places I loved the most. There is no entry, and there isn’t anything specific to do here. But you could gaze at the Atlantic Ocean and its waves carving the rocks along the cliff. There is a lighthouse, although not open to the public to view from inside, which looks absolutely picturesque. If not for the constant wind, the place looks like we are inside a painting.

The view overlooking the ocean, the cliffs, and the cute little lighthouse is stunning. The cape is surrounded by vast lands covered by the growth of a not-so-common plant (Hottentot fig, which thrives in harsh windy, saline conditions). Overall, this place is so tranquil.

There is a small monument on the cliff where you can see most of the crowd taking selfies but just walk past the crowd along the fence. You can enjoy nature all to yourself as most of the crowd turns back a little after the monument. You can take many magical pictures but also take a moment to soak in all the beauty around you.

Good to know! Do not go beyond the fencing, even for a picture, as the winds are very strong and unpredictable. You could be literally blown away and injure yourself. 

Tip! Consider bringing a light jacket even in warmer months, as the winds could be really chilly up here.

Nearby there is a little cafe. You could enjoy incredible views while sipping your coffee from here. Also, there is a souvenir shop selling some personalized certificates that you visited Cabo da Roca.

You could easily visit this place by bus from Sintra or Cascais. The scenery along the roads is worth the ride through those windy roads.

Alright, these are some of the best things you could do in Sintra within 1-3 days. You could visit a lot of other palaces and coastal viewpoints and spend a whole day in Cascais if you are in this area for a longer time.

I have compiled some useful information to know before you visit Sintra. Also, if you are visiting Sintra in fall, don’t forget to read about the important things to pack for a fall season trip.

Kiki from RooKiExplorers posing in a field of pink hyacinths in the Netherlands.
The Face Behind the Post

Hey, I am Kiki! A full-time software developer and hardcore travel enthusiast who is always up for a new adventure and the author of RooKiExplorers. I love to travel the world and enjoy talking about it, helping everyone around me plan their trips, and avoiding making the mistakes I made.

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