Sintra is a small town located only about half an hour from the capital Lisbon and is packed with sights of a special kind. Sintra is home to castles, palaces, and other rather eccentric-looking buildings that you haven’t seen before (certainly in Portugal).
What highlights should you see on a day trip to Sintra? What do you have to look out for in Sintra? And is Sintra worth it at all? We will tell you now in our travel report.
We are Sabrina and Andreas, two adventurous travelers who never miss an opportunity to discover the world. Whether by plane to distant countries or with our campervan Bruno, we just love to travel. We hope to give you helpful tips for your next trip on our blog.
Sabrina & Andreas Globetrotters, Travelers, Adventurers
Sintra in Portugal
The small town of Sintra is famous for its palaces and castles, some of which are centuries old and spread throughout the town. Since 1995 the city is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and is not only because of that the destination of millions of visitors every year.
Most visitors come directly from nearby Lisbon to see the numerous sights. The Portuguese kings did the same for centuries and used the various castles in the city as summer residences. Since the small town is located at over 300 meters above sea level, it is always a bit cooler here than in neighboring Lisbon.
Things To Do in Sintra Portugal
Sintra’s numerous sights are spread over the entire city area. It is therefore not easy to visit them all in one day, especially not on foot. However, the highlights we recommend can be visited in one day without much effort.
#1 Palacio Nacional da Pena
The Palacio Nacional da Pena is undoubtedly the most famous highlight of Sintra and probably the sight you saw first when doing a Google search. With its colorful turrets and facade in yellow, blue and red, the palace really looks like something out of a storybook.
Originally, the palace was built in 1840 as a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family. Nowadays, millions of tourists come every year to visit the palace from the inside.
Even to see the palace only from the outside you have to buy a ticket, because the Palacio Nacional da Pena is located on a hill about 100 meters high above the city and is surrounded by a park, which can not be entered without a ticket. A ticket costs 14 Euro per person and should definitely be purchased online beforehand. It is almost impossible to get a ticket for the same day. So you should buy your ticket online the day before*.
You should take a cab or TukTuk from the old town, otherwise you will walk uphill for about an hour. For the tour you should plan several hours if you want to see everything. Dogs are not allowed in the palace or in the park.
#2 Castelo dos Mouros
The old Moorish castle Castelo dos Mouros is located directly opposite the magnificent Palacio Nacional da Pena on another hill. The Castelo dos Mouros is the complete contrast to the magnificent and colorful palace. Here everything is gray and dilapidated, there is only a ruin of the old castle left and actually only the castle wall is really standing.
From the old town you can walk up the hill in about an hour, or take a cab or TukTuk. The entrance fee is 8 Euro per person. Since the Mourish Castle is much less popular than the Pena Palace, you can also buy the ticket on the spot. Dogs are also allowed into the castle, although they are not allowed to run around freely, but must stay in a confined area.
#3 Quinta da Regaleira
The Quinta da Regaleira is an old mansion and looks almost like something out of an old James Bond movie. There are crazy sculptures around the garden and there are lakes, fountains and an underground tunnel system. The house itself also looks pretty special and there are many different rooms to explore.
The house was designed in 1910 by Portuguese entrepreneur and eccentric António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro (one of the richest Portuguese who ever lived) and combines different architectural styles.
Nowadays you can visit the mansion and its huge garden and discover some oddities. Since the mansion is located just outside the old town, you can visit the Quinta da Regaleira from the outside without buying a ticket. But you can see the garden and the inside of the mansion only with a ticket (10€).
#4 Palacio Nacional de Sintra
The National Palace of Sintra was also a summer residence of the Portuguese royal family from the 14th to the 20th century and is located directly in the old town of Sintra. You can’t miss it when you walk through the old town. It is also visible from afar, as it has two conical chimneys, which are the trademark of the palace.
Even though the Palace of Sintra has a strong name similarity to the Palace of Pena, the Palacio Nacional de Sintra is a completely different building. Much less bombastic and colorful, this national palace does not quite fit in with the spectacular Sintra buildings.
To visit the palace from the inside, you have to buy a ticket for 10 Euro. In our opinion, you should only do this if you have a lot of time in the city, because the other Sintra highlights are (in comparison) much more exciting.
#5 The Old Town
The old town of Sintra is very touristy with souvenir stores and with restaurants geared towards tourists. But still the old town is very beautiful and worth seeing. It is fun to stroll through the old town on foot and also some sights are within walking distance from the old town.
However, since the old town is quite small, you will have walked through it in a short time. The rest of the time you should dedicate to the other, much more time-consuming, Sintra sights.
Sintra Portugal Travel Tips
By Tuk Tuk through Sintra
Sintra’s main sights, such as the Palacio Nacional da Pena and the Castelo dos Mouros, are both located on hills, and even on different ones. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to visit these highlights on foot and parking is very difficult.
That’s why there are tuk-tuks everywhere in Sintra, which will take you to the famous sights. They are cheaper than a cab and very easy to stop at the street.
Day Trip from Lisbon
Whether you are doing a road trip through Portugal or just a city trip to Lisbon. Sintra is definitely worth a visit. If you are traveling from Lisbon, you can of course drive to Sintra with your rental car. Otherwise we have 2 tips for you.
By Train to Sintra
If you don’t want to or can’t drive yourself, then you should take the train. The best connection is the train from Lisbon Rossio station to Sintra. Rossio station is located near the tourist center of Lisbon. The train runs every 20 minutes until late at night and takes less than 40 minutes to reach Sintra.
Tickets cost 2,30 € per person and can be bought at the ticket machine. Important: You need a rechargeable Viva Viagem card first. This costs 50 cents and is also available at the ticket machines.
Organized Tour to Sintra
Alternatively, you can take a guided tour from Lisbon to Sintra and be shown around. Tours should be booked online in advance*.
Best Time to visit Sintra
The main time to visit Sintra, as well as Lisbon, is in the summer, during the months of July and August. This is when most tourists are in Sintra and the town can get really crowded.
We would therefore recommend you to travel to Sintra in the low season. The months of April-June or September/October usually still offer very good weather and yet there are much less tourists in town during that time.
Hotel Recommendation for Sintra
In this cute little hotel* in Sintra you are right in the old town and at the same time have a beautiful View from the roof terrace.Santa Maria Casa Nostra in Sintra | Check Prices*
Is Sintra worth it?
Sintra may seem like a victim of overtourism at first glance and is really crowded with tourists, at least in the high season. Nevertheless, the city with its many sights is really unique in Portugal and we really recommend everyone to visit this city.
How long should I stay in Sintra?
It is actually impossible to visit all Sintra highlights in one day, but one day should be enough to see a selection of the most beautiful places. Most visitors coming from Lisbon don’t take more time than that anyway.
If you really want to see everything in Sintra intensively and also take your time in sightseeing, then we would recommend 2 days.
Parking in Sintra
If you are only in Sintra for a day and want to park your rental car or campervan for the day, there are several good options for free parking in Sintra. We parked at the following parking lot outside the old town (Google Maps). From here you can walk (in about 1h) to Mourish Castle or Pena Palace.
If you want to park directly near the old town to walk as little as possible, then we recommend parking on the following street. Here parking costs money, but you are within walking distance to the old town and Quinta da Regaleira.
Can I visit Sintra with a Dog?
It is unfortunately very difficult to visit Sintra with a dog. In most of the sights it is forbidden to bring a dog. Not even in the beautiful park that surrounds the Palacio Nacional da Pena are dogs allowed.
The only sight where you can take your dog is the Mourish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros). Here, the dog must be chipped (this is checked at the entrance) and is then allowed to be walked around an extremely restricted area within the castle.
However, you are not allowed to walk with him on the castle wall or enter the lookout point, for example. We think this is a pity, but the dog does not have to wait in front of the entrance. Of course, you can also walk with the dog through the beautiful old town of Sintra, because there is no dog ban.