With fairytale castles, lavish gardens, hiking trails, monuments, and museums, there’s no shortage of cool places to see in Sintra. Sintra is one of my favorite Portuguese cities to visit and I love taking friends and family when they come to town.
The cultural region of Sintra is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site and it’s located just outside Lisbon in the Sintra Cascais Natural Park. Here are 18 of the best things to do in Sintra, Portugal to help you plan a fabulous visit.
Short on time? Here are some resources to help you quickly start planning your visit to Sintra.
- Sintra Tour: If you’d like to take a day trip to Sintra from Lisbon and want to see the highlights, this tour covers the Pena Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, and Monserrate Palace.
- Sintra Accommodation: If you’re spending the night, Chalet Saudade (charming guesthouse) and Moon Hill Hostel (budget-friendly hostel with private rooms) have great ratings and are centrally located to all Sintra attractions.
18 Things To Do In Sintra, Portugal
#1 Pena Palace
If you’ve seen postcards from Portugal, you’ve probably seen a photo of that striking rainbow palace high up on a hill. That’s the Park and National Palace of Pena (Palácio da Pena), and it’s just as spectacular in person. This colorful castle is one of the most famous landmarks in Sintra and all of Portugal.
The site dates back to the 12th century and was later turned into a summer residence for Portuguese royals by King Ferdinand. Today visitors can see elaborate architecture, royal living spaces, the chalet of the Countess of Elda, and gardens that seem to stretch for miles. On a clear day, you can see the Atlantic ocean and panoramic views of the Serra de Sintra.
Visiting Pena Palace and Park:
You can get to the Pena Palace by public transport, tuk-tuk, or hiking trail. Bus 435 runs every 15 minutes from the Sintra train station and stops at the town center, the Moorish Castle, and the Pena Palace.
If you hike, the trails are steep but well-maintained and you’ll see beautiful viewpoints along the way.
- The Santa Maria trail starts near the Santa Maria church and takes about an hour.
- The Seteais trail starts at the Seteais Palace and takes around an hour and a half.
- The Vila Sassetti trail starts off Estrada de Pena and takes about an hour.
The Pena Park and Palace is open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm. You can buy tickets at the door or book tickets in advance here. (I strongly recommend getting your ticket in advance since there can be long lines to buy tickets at the door.)
#2 Quinta da Regaleira
With a looming castle, massive gardens, and a mysterious network of towers, tunnels, and grottos, Quinta da Regaleira looks straight out of a storybook. I nearly stopped in my tracks the first time I saw it for myself!
Built in the late 19th century, this Sintra sightseeing attraction is a celebration of whimsy, romanticism, and creativity. There are lots of nooks and crannies to explore, making this great for families. You can also check out the initiation well, which is said to have ties to the Knights Templar. It’s a spiral staircase that appears to go deep underground, and at the bottom, it leads you into a series of cave tunnels.
Visiting Quinta da Regaleira:
Quinta da Regaleira is about a ten-minute walk from the Sintra historic city center. You can also take bus 435 from town or the train station.
Quinta da Regaleira is open from 10:00 am until 6:30 pm from January through March and 10:00 am until 7:30 pm from April through September. You can buy tickets at the door or online.
#3 Palace of Monserrate
The Palace of Monserrate (Palácio de Monserrate) is one of my favorite Sintra places to visit because it has a relaxing atmosphere and amazing gardens. It’s one of the best places to spend an afternoon and every time I’ve gone there have been people with picnic blankets reading books and enjoying the grounds.
The elaborate palace was designed by Sir Francis Cook and it draws inspiration from architecture around the world. If you go upstairs, there’s a room where you can watch a short documentary about what it was like to grow up living at the palace of Monserrate.
Visiting the Palace of Monserrate:
You can get to the Monserrate Palace by taking bus 434 or driving. There’s a small parking lot across the street from the entrance. The park and gardens are open from 9:00 am until 7:00 am. You can grab tickets online here.
#4 Sintra National Palace and Gardens
The Sintra National Palace (Palácio Nacional de Sintra) is located in the center of the historic district and you’ll see it from a mile away, thanks to the two giant cone-shaped chimneys. The palace likely dates back to the 10th century and has served as a royal residence for hundreds of years. Inside, you can see beautiful living spaces, courtyards, artwork, tiles, and other artifacts from the lives of the elites.
You’ll need to pay to visit the interior of the palace, but it’s free to explore the gardens.
Visiting the Sintra National Palace and Gardens:
Since the National Palace of Sintra is located in the center of town, it’s one of the easiest monuments to get to. Bus 434 and 435 stop here and you can also walk from the train station. The palace is open from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm and you can purchase tickets online here.
#5 Moorish Castle
The Moorish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros) is a 10th-century fortification overlooking the town of Sintra. You can walk along the ancient walls, see storage silos, explore the medieval necropolis, sightsee from the royal tower, and experience what settlements would have looked like hundreds of years ago.
Visiting the Moorish Castle:
The Castle of the Moors is on top of a hill and you can get there by bus route 435, tuk-tuk, or hiking trail. The castle is a short walk from the Pena Palace, so I recommend doing these activities back to back to save yourself an extra trip up the mountain.
The Moorish Castle is open from 9:30 am until 6:30 pm. You can book tickets in advance here.
#6 Convento dos Capuchos
The Convento dos Capuchos is a Franciscan convent that dates back to 1560 and was built to be a quiet place for reflection. It’s surrounded by nature and a short drive from the main attractions of Sintra, perfect for anyone who loves religious history and introspection.
Visiting Convento dos Capuchos:
You can get to the Convento dos Capuchos by driving or taking bus 1253 from the Sintra train station. The Convento dos Capuchos is open from 9:00 am until 6:00 pm.
#7 Palace of Queluz
Once belonging to the Portuguese royal family, The Palace of Queluz is known for luxurious extravagance. Wander the grand throne room, admire traditional azulejos in the tile room, or spend the afternoon lost in the botanical gardens.
The Portuguese School of Equestrian Art is also located at the Palace of Queluz, so you can see the horses and learn about Portugal’s equestrian history at the equestrian art library.
Visiting the Palace of Queluz:
The Palace of Queluz is located about halfway between Lisbon and the Sintra historic center, so it makes sense to visit this attraction on your way to or from Sintra, or as a separate day trip.
To get to the Palace of Queluz, you can drive, take a bus or train from Lisbon, or take the train from Sintra. The Palace is open from 9:00 am until 6:00 pm and the gardens are open from 9:00 am until 6:30 pm.
#8 Palace and Park of Biester
There’s no such thing as too many palaces! The Park and Palace of Biester is another fairytale-esque mansion located high on the hill with views of the Moorish Castle and the sea. Inside, the 19th-century interior is well preserved with artwork, intricate woodwork, and historic furniture.
Beyond the palace, visitors can take a stroll through the surrounding botanical gardens to see waterfalls and greenhouses, and grab a snack at the tea room. This is a lesser-known place to visit in Sintra and it opened relatively recently, so it’s a good spot if you want to avoid the crowds.
Visiting the Palace and Park of Biester:
There’s no parking at the Palace of Biester, but you can walk there from the center of Sintra town in about ten minutes. You can also take bus 435 and get off at the Quinta da Regularia stop.
#9 Villa Sassetti
Villa Sassetti is a unique holiday villa you can only access via a hiking trail. The inside of this Mediterranean-style estate is closed, but it’s free to walk through elaborate gardens and grounds. There are viewpoints along the way, and if you continue past the Vila Sassetti, you’ll eventually make it to Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle.
Visiting Vila Sassetti:
To visit the Vila Sassetti, walk up Estrada da Pena until you see signs for Vila Sassetti, Pena Palace, and the Moorish Castle. This will take you to the Sassetti trail that ends at the top of the mountain.
#10 Hike through Parque das Merendas
Parque das Merendas has cobbled trails and lookout points that offer a great view of the Sintra National Palace and the surrounding village. Walking through this park will take you to the Vila Sassetti, Moorish Castle, and Pena Palace, but you can do part of the trail to spend some quiet time in nature. There are flowers, little waterfalls, and places to rest along the path. It’s a steep climb, but the trail is well-maintained and the views were worth it.
You can get to Merendas Park by walking up Estrada da Pena past the Casa das Minas restaurant.
#11 Hike to the Lagoa dos Mosqueiros
Lagoa dos Mosqueiros is a lake in the Sintra mountain range located along popular hiking and walking trails. It’s a peaceful little spot and you can get there by parking at the Convento dos Capuchos or the Monserrate Palace and following the trailhead.
#12 Parque da Liberdade
Parque da Liberdade is a public park in the Sintra historic center. It’s shaded and quiet, the perfect place to rest after a day of sightseeing. Parque Liberdade is located off a road called Volta do Duche and the main entrance gate is just past the Fonte Mourisca if you’re coming from downtown.
#13 Fonte Mourisca
Fonte Mourisca is a grande public fountain that was built in the 1920s. Inside, you can see elaborate tile work, making this a popular photo spot in Sintra. Fonte Mourisca is also located off Volta do Duche road. You can walk there in about ten minutes from the historic center.
#14 Pelourinho de Sintra
The Pelourinho de Sintra is a monument that marks the chartering of the town. It’s located near the roundabout next to the Sintra train station so you can check it out on your walk to the city center.
Take a step forward in time at the NewsMuseum, a museum devoted to media and how TV, radio, advertising, and journalism have played a role in recent history. The NewsMuseum is open from 10:00 am until 6:30 pm and it’s located right in the center of the Sintra historic district near the Sintra National Palace.
#16 Museu Anjos Teixeira
Explore the work of famous Portuguese artists Artur Gaspar dos Anjos Teixeira and Pedro Augusto dos Anjos Teixeira. The museum is small with just a few rooms, but you can see several sculptures and drawings by the father-son duo. It’s located in town across from Parque Liberdade.
#17 Visit the Sintra Beaches
Head outside of the Sintra historic district and you’ll find some of the most beautiful beaches in the region.
- Praia da Ursa: Difficult to access since there’s no path but very beautiful with distinct rock formations and cliffs.
- Praia da Adraga: Wide sandy beach with powerful waves, restrooms, parking, and a restaurant.
- Praia das Maçãs: Beautiful beach with cafes and restaurants at the top of the cliff for a snack with a view. One of the best beaches for watching the sunset!
#18 Cabo da Roca
Last but not least, visit Cabo da Roca. Cabo da Roca is a lighthouse that marks the westernmost point of mainland Europe. (Funny enough, the lighthouse in Sagres down in the Algarve also makes this claim.)
Visitors love the expansive sea views that make it feel like you’re standing on the edge of the world. To get to Cabo da Roca, you can drive, take the bus 403 from Sintra, or go as part of a Sintra guided tour.
Planning your Visit to Sintra
Now that you know what to see on your visit to Sintra, Portugal, here’s how to plan an amazing trip. Many people visit Sintra as a day trip from Lisbon, and that’s wonderful! But if you have more time, I’d recommend doing an overnight stay so you have more time to see Sintra’s castles, palaces, and tourist attractions.
Getting to Sintra from Lisbon
You can travel from Lisbon to Sintra by train, car, or guided tour. A direct train leaves several times per day from Rossio Station and takes about 45 minutes. Driving takes about 35-45 minutes depending on traffic in the city. There are also plenty of guided tours to Sintra that include transit from Lisbon. More on that in a minute.
I prefer to take the train since it’s affordable and quick. Plus, dealing with parking in the historic district can be a pain. Sintra is a popular destination, so if you do drive yourself try to get there first thing in the morning so you beat the crowds.
The Sintra train station lets you out right by a major bus stop and it’s a short walk from the downtown area, so this is a great option.
Getting Around Sintra
Once you’re in Sintra, you have a few options for getting around. There are two main bus routes that cover the big attractions, Scotturb bus 434 and 435.
- The 435 bus stops at the Sintra train station, Sintra National Palace/downtown, the Moorish Castle, and the Pena Palace.
- The 434 bus will take you to the Sintra National Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, Seteais Palace, and Monserrate Palace.
You can purchase individual tickets for €3.95 per ride, or you can buy an unlimited day pass for €11,50 that covers all busses.
You can also explore Sintra by tuk-tuk (prices subject to your negotiation skills!) and walking trails. Several trails take you around the area to major sites, so if the weather’s nice and you’re feeling up for it, this can be a great way to see Sintra at a more leisurely pace.
Where to Stay in Sintra
Tivoli Palácio de Seteais [Luxury]: To experience something truly next level, check in to the Tivoli Palacio de Seteais – a renovated palace and UNESCO world heritage site. There’s a spa, pool, and elaborate gardens, and guests rave about the romantic, museum-like experience.
Chalet Saudade: Chalet Saudade is a charming guesthouse located just a short walk from the Sintra train station. Every room is unique and there are larger suites that can accommodate families or groups of friends. There’s also a beautiful outdoor terrace and garden area.
Moon Hill Hostel: Moon Hill Hostel is a comfy hostel with dorms, private rooms, and family rooms located close to old town Sintra and the train station. Breakfast is available and there are common areas and an outdoor terrace.
Guided Tours of Sintra
If you want to explore Sintra’s top attractions with a knowledgeable guide, you can also join a Sintra guided tour.
There are pros and cons of going the organized tour route. On the plus side, you won’t have to worry about logistics and your guide can answer questions about the attractions you’re seeing. If you’re short on time, this can be a good way to see the highlights, and some tours even include transportation from Lisbon if you’re staying in the city.
On the flip side, you won’t have as much freedom to explore the parks at your own pace. You may find a garden where you want to spend extra time or spot a different landmark that’s not on the tour route. I’ve always visited Sintra on my own and had a great experience, but it’s hard to go wrong either way.
Here are some highly-rated Sintra tours from GetYourGuide:
- From Lisbon: Sintra Highlights and Pena Palace Full Day Tour: On this 8-hour small group tour, you’ll visit the Pena Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, and Monserrate Palace. (Note: Palace admission fees aren’t included in the tour price.)
- From Lisbon: Pena Palace, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, and Cascais Day Tour: Start the day with a guided tour of the Pena Palace followed by some free time in historic Sintra. Then you’ll stop at Cabo da Roca and continue around the coast to Cascais.
- See all Sintra tours and experiences
More Sintra resources: Sintra is right in my backyard, and I love writing about how to make the most of your visit. Here are more guides about things to do in Sintra:
- Plan a Sintra to Lisbon Day Trip: How to make the most of one day in Sintra
- Best Castles and Palaces of Sintra: Discover the best Sintra castles and palaces (I visited almost all the palaces in one day to write this article, and it was a whirlwind, ha!)
More Portugal resources: