If you love castles, like I do, you really must visit Sintra, Portugal. Sintra is a beautiful town less than an hour away from Lisbon where Portugal’s elite built exquisite palaces, extravagant residences, and decorative gardens. The “Landscape of Sintra” is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. I was really surprised and a little overwhelmed when I learned just how much there was to see – I couldn’t even fit it all in one blog post! I wanted to share what I learned from my visit to help you plan your own Sintra tour.
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Getting from Lisbon to Sintra
The best way to get from Lisbon to Sintra is by train. The train runs every 30 minutes from the Rossio Train Station in Lisbon and the journey takes less than an hour. We ended up taking the train back to the Oriente station in Lisbon since that was the next train out of Sintra, but there are no direct trains from Oriente to Sintra. When we rode the trains there were plenty of seats, it was clean, and overall the ride was pleasant.
You can buy your ticket at the train station. The cost for a round-trip ticket is €4.30. The fare can be charged to the reusable “Viva Viagem” public transport ticket, which is also used for the buses, metro, and trams. You must buy the card for €0.50.
I would not recommend driving to Sintra. Parking in Sintra is very limited and the roads are narrow and steep. The traffic was bad when we were there especially considering the size of the city.
What You Must See in Sintra
So I originally thought we would be able to see everything in one day, but now I have come to the conclusion that is not possible. If you can, I would allocate two days to spend in Sintra. We were able to visit the Moorish Castle, Pena Palace, and the National Palace. That was a pretty full day. I really loved Sinta but I did not have time to see everything I wanted.
The Moorish Castle was probably my favorite spot. It dates back to 9th century and the views are stunning. Pena Palace looks like a castle from a fairy tale, I just loved the colors. The National Palace of Sintra is located in the historical center of town and was a favorite with the Portuguese nobility. You can see what these attractions look like in my video, but I will go over each one of those spots in more detail in future posts.
Other Places to See in Sintra
If I could do it again, I would try to spend two days in Sintra. There were several sites that looked interesting, that we just didn’t have time to see. Well, hopefully, I can make it back to see the rest of my list:
Quinta de Regaleira
The Quinta de Regaleira is a decorative 20th-century residence situated in the town of Sintra. The grand house covers five floors and has an ornate gothic façade, but the real attraction is the enchanting gardens. The gardens were styled to represent ancient secret orders, with hidden tunnels, the Well of Initiation (perfect for Instagram), and concealed symbolism.
The Quinta da Regaleira is open 10 am – 8 pm during the summer and 10 am – 5:30 pm during the winter. The entrance fee is €6/3/18 (adult/child/family) and includes entrance to the house and the grounds.
The Monserrate Palace is supposed to be one of the most beautiful mansions of Sintra, but since it is located 3.5km from the historic center many visitors don’t make it there. Sir Francis Cook combined Arabic, gothic and Indian architectural styles to create a wonderful summer house surrounded by beautiful gardens. You will want to allocate around 2 hours to see the Monserrate Palace so that you have time to see the intricate details inside and explore the gardens around it. The gardens are full of hidden gems like the ruins of an ancient chapel.
The price to visit the Park and Palace of Monserrate for an adult is between €6.50 (low season) and €8.00 (high season). There are discounts for those under 18 and over 65. The opening hours are between 9:30 am -10 am and 5 pm -7 pm (for the palace) and 6 pm – 8 pm (for the park), depending on the season.
Chalet and Garden of the Countess of Edla
The Chalet and Garden of the Countess of Edla are located inside the grounds of Pena Palace. You can either walk or take a bus (for a few euros more) the 1.5 miles from the palace to the Chalet. The Chalet was originally built in the 19th Century by King Ferdinand II for his second wife the Countess d’Edla. It is modeled after the Alpine chalets popular at the time and was intended as a private recreational house for the Countess. From what I read, there is not much to see inside the Chalet but the gardens and exterior are lovely.
During the high season, the Chalet is open from 9:30 am to 7 pm and from 9:30 am to 5 pm during the low season. Tickets to the Chalet are €8/6/21 (adult/child/family) or you can save money by buying a combination ticket with Pena Palace.
Palace of Seteais
The Palace of Seteais was originally built in the 18th century for the then Dutch Consul. It later came into the hands of the 5th Marquis of Marialva who extended it significantly.
The Seteais Palace occupies a prime position on the edge of the Serra de Sintra overlooking the countryside and town. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens with many fruit trees and meticulously landscaped areas.
In 1954, it became a hotel. It is still also open as a tourist attraction, but wouldn’t it be amazing to spend the night in this palace? I did not get the chance to stay there, but it looks beautiful and has some great reviews. For a special occasion, it looks like the perfect splurge. Check availability and rates here.
The Capuchos Convent is a Franciscan monastery that is located in the dense forests and giant boulders of the Serra da Sintra National Park. The monastery was constructed to have minimal impact on the natural surroundings and the simplistic design is so different from the opulence and grandeur of Sintra. Capuchos doesn’t make many tourist lists but those who know Sintra think it as one of the best historical monuments of the region.
The Convento dos Capuchos is open every day from 9:30 am until 8 pm (summer season) 10 am – 5 pm (winter). The entrance fee is €7/€5.50 (adult/child) and there are one hour guided tours for €10
Getting Around Sintra
Sintra is not a big city so you could just plan on walking if you wanted to. However, Sintra is in the mountains and there are a lot of steep climbs, so you will get a workout if that is what you decide to do. To reduce the amount of walking, I suggest taking the bus. Luckily, there is a bus stop right outside the train station.
We bought tickets for the 434 bus which does a loop to go to the main attractions. I had read that it costs €5 per person for the day, but we were charged €12. Not sure if prices went up or we were scammed, but still it’s reasonable for transportation for the day. There is also the 435 bus which goes to some of the other sites. You do need cash for the bus tickets.
I should also mention that even though the bus supposedly comes every 15 minutes, it was packed! We had to stand from the bus station to the Moorish Castle. Also, we missed the stop for the National Palace because they just called it the Historic Center. So we ended up back at the train station and they made us get off of that bus and board the next one. We showed our tickets so we did not have to pay again.
We did still do some walking, actually a fair bit of walking. Sintra is not very friendly for those with mobility issues. It is very hilly and you will go on lots of stairs in the castles.
How to Plan Your Time in Sintra
Go early! Try to beat the crowds if you can. I think a lot of people start out at the National Palace because it is the closest to the train station. We went to the Moorish Castle first and it was so nice and quiet. By the time we got to Pena Palace, the crowds had caught up to us. I would recommend going to either the Moorish Castle or the Pena Palace first. Then head to the National Palace and any other attractions you can fit in.
Buying Sintra Tickets
You can save money by buying a combined ticket for the attractions you plan on visiting online on the Parques de Sintra website. With the combined ticket, you can still visit the different attractions on different days. I went ahead and bought a combined ticket for the Moorish Castle, Pena Palace, and the National Palace because I felt comfortable that we would be able to at least make it to those three. I figured if we had more time I could buy additional tickets at the other attractions.
Sintra Tour Options
I know this is a lot of information and you may feel overwhelmed. So if you don’t feel comfortable making your own Sintra Tour there are plenty of organized tour options through Viator (click here to see all the options).
Have you been to Sintra? Did you get to see everything you wanted to?
Expert Tips For Your Sintra Tour:
- Take the train and get there early to try to beat the crowds.
- One day will not be enough time to see everything. If you only have one day prioritize, what you want to see.
- Buy the combined ticket on the Parques de Sintra website for the attractions you are confident you will be able to see.
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