Located just 30 km from Lisbon, Sintra seems to belong to a different dimension. This small town characterized by an aristocratic beauty every year invites thousand of visitors who come to admire its rich artistic and cultural heritage. And they are not the only ones.
Over the centuries, the charm of Sintra has fascinated kings and intellectuals. The romantic poet Lord Byron described it as the glorious Eden, while according to the writer Hans Christian Andersen, Sintra is the most beautiful place of Portugal. Hard to deny it: elegance and extravagance, splendor and modesty coexist harmoniously among the streets of the city center and among palaces, castles, and boulevards.
The greatest beauty of Sintra is the nature, a frame of extraordinary beauty which makes this destination unique. Breathtaking landscapes over the ocean, a pink sky, and lush forests wait for you in one of the world’s most romantic cities. Sintra is located just 18 km from Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of Continental Europe, where back in the days people thought that the world ended. Maybe the world does not end here, but time has certainly stopped.
It is incredible how such a small town managed to preserve such an amount of palaces of historical and cultural interest. However, we should not be surprised to know that back in the days Sintra was very popular among kings, nobles, and rich bourgeoises who decided to build their holiday home in Sintra. Due to its rich architectonic heritage, perfectly harmonised with the natural surroundings of the area, Sintra was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visit the charming attractions listed below, some of the most famous of Sintra, but do not forget to spend some time strolling around the narrow streets of the city center.
The most famous image of Sintra is the one of Palácio da Pena, a fairy castle with pastel yellow, pink, and violet walls located at the top of a hill from where you can see a breathtaking view above the ocean. It happens rarely that a postcard image that has been abused can still touch our hears, but it doesn’t matter how many postcards or videos you have seen before arriving here, nothing will prepare you to experience the beauty of this nineteenth century palace with your own eyes.
Dom Fernando of Saxe Coburg-Gotha, husband of the Queen Dona Maria II, wanted its construction; after falling in love with Sintra, he purchased an ancient convent and asked the architect Ludwig von Eschwege to restore it.
The eccentric palace that we can see today, which combines different styles like gothic, baroque, renaissance, and arab, is the result of the various tastes of the sovereigns who have succeeded here. Odd combinations of elegant and kitsch elements characterize the interior halls, where there are several bizzarre objects to admire.
The first historical building that one can see at the entrance of Sintra-Vila – the central area of Sintra – is the Palacio Nacional de Sintra, a royal medieval palace which has been modified and amplified over the centuries.
Known also as Palácio da Vila, it rises over the city with its peculiar 33 meters high kitchen chimneys, and its large square. It deserves a visit for its beautiful halls and for the impressive collection of azulejos, the colorful Portuguese ceramic tiles.
You’ll be left speechless as you admire the oriental ambience, Arabian halls and courtyards with bubbling fountains, Chinese pagodas and kitchens with huge fireplaces. Don’t miss:
Don’t miss a relaxing stroll through the Parque da Pena: 220 hectares of beautiful gardens with exotic plants, giant sequoias, fountains, belvederes, ponds, a camellia garden and even a romantic chalet built by Ferdinand to secretly love Countess Edla, whom he married for a second time.
The extensive park surrounding the Palacio da Pena is as much worth a visit as the sumptuous, decadent and fascinating rooms inside. Allow enough time to visit both at your leisure.
Another castle located at the top of the hills around Sintra is the Mouros Castle, which is much older than Palácio da Pena: it dates back to the VIII century. It was built by the Moorish, it was abandoned in the Sixteenth century and it was then restored in the Nineteenth century.
Today only a few ruins remain, perched on a rocky spur overlooking Sintra and its valley. Don’t miss out on the spectacular views – on a clear day you can even see the ocean!
To get to the castle you have to take a wonderful path through the woods. Don’t miss the chance for a wonderful walk and along the way you can also see an Arab cistern and the remains of a church, both covered in vegetation.
Prepare for the unexpected. The Quinta do Regaleira is a nineteenth-century Manueline-style villa surrounded by extravagant gardens with elements of mythology, alchemy, freemasonry and a mixture of the most bizarre styles: mystical, romantic, Gothic, medieval and Renaissance.
It was born from the visionary imagination of a rich collector of books and butterflies thanks to the proceeds of his coffee and precious stones trade with Brazil.
The façade is entirely covered with symbolic sculptures and looks like something out of a black Gothic novel, while the spiritual and romantic garden is an invitation to get lost in the discovery of all the philosophical and Masonic references.
It represents man’s spiritual path, also known as the “path of the initiates”, which will take you to the Descent into Hell, a well in the shape of an upside-down tower 27 metres deep with nine floors like the nine circles of hell, which you can reach by a spiral staircase.
At the bottom, once you have passed the circles of Purgatory, you climb up the Road to Paradise to reach the heavenly lake that will be your reward.
Don’t miss it for its visionary originality: relax while photographing the pretty fountains or strolling idly along the paths.
Built on a steep rocky ridge, the Convento dos Capuchos (or Cork Convent) was abandoned by the last six monks in 1834. Its peculiarity is that it is covered internally with cork to protect the monks from the perennial humidity.
In total contrast to the delirious splendour of the other buildings in the valley and the luxury of the church, this convent is a world in miniature, where everything is tiny in size to remind us of the infinite littleness of man and to invite us to poverty, asceticism and meditation. It is a place full of charm and meditation.
Another romantic walk you should take if you have more than one day to visit Sintra and its surroundings is the Parque de Monserrate.
Perched on the side of a hill, the park was shaped by the extravagant imagination of its owners who had a Mughal-style palace built inside.
The park contains a botanical museum, exotic gardens with pools, ponds, waterfalls, chapels and picturesque paths. It is a true paradise for nature lovers, but bring suitable walking shoes!
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
Thanks to its beauty as well as its proximity to Lisbon, Sintra attracts a very high number of visitors all year long. In order to make the most out of the its magical atmosphere, we recommend to avoid visiting it on busy days; we suggest you to come here on weekdays or early in the morning, or maybe to stay until late in the evening, when all the tourists have already left.
This way you will have the opportunity to enjoy one of the wonders of Sintra: its sunset, which is one of the most romantic in the world. Looking at the sky that is slowly turning pink from one of the several lookouts, from the gardens, or from one of its historical palaces, will move your soul to the extent that you will feel like living in a fairy tale. You will forget about all your fears and problems, and you wish you could stay there forever.
If you have only one day and you want to visit all the main monuments, and you also want to see Cabo do Roca, Cascais and Estoril, we recommend to book a tour with a qualified guide: a scheduled program will help you seeing many interesting attractions in Sintra in such a short time.
If you don’t want to visit Sintra on your own, join a guided tour in Lisbon. Choose your favorite one.
Sintra can also be reached independently by rental car or by public transport from Lisbon. In this case, to visit the main attractions of Sintra we recommend that you buy individual tickets online; Being among the most visited attractions in Portugal, buying your ticket online in advance will allow you to skip the lines at the ticket offices and ensure your visit.
In addition, if you intend to purchase the Lisboa Card, you will have a discount on tickets to the Pena Palace and other Sintra attractions, as well as all the advantages of the discount card, such as unlimited transportation and, free or discounted, admissions to the Lisbon’s main attractions and activities.
Don’t be fooled by the dreamy atmosphere of Sintra: you are not here to sleep! There is so much to do! This little town is located inside the Sintra-Cascais park, in a natural context of great beauty. It is not a coincidence if many trekking lovers choose to come to Sintra for a long walk: from here you can choose among various paths of different length and difficulty.
An easy ring-shaped itinerary from where you can see beautiful landscapes connects some of the main historical monuments of the area. From the center, head towards the Mouros Castle, continue towards Palácio da Pena, go up to the top of Cruz Alta (529m) and go back to the center.
Those who want to walk but don’t feel like going on a hike on their own can book a tour with an environmental guide: there are tourist operators who offer hiking, but also mountain bike and horse tours. The lazy ones can book a SUV.
Another popular activity in Sintra is photography. Thanks to its rich architectonic heritage on the background and some breathtaking landscapes, Sintra is a real playground for photographers.
Why would you leave already? Instead of going on a day trip like most of the tourists do, enjoy a dreamy night in Sintra. Have dinner under the starts or a romantic walk while the city is slowly falling asleep.
There is a good choice of structures in Sintra, therefor you won’t have any problem finding the one that better meets you need. We recommend to book in advance as Sintra is a very popular destination. Booking in advance will help you find more advantageous rates.
Recommended hotels in Sintra
Among the many hotels in Sintra, we recommend three that we have chosen according to price, location, and atmosphere:
A 19th century residence surrounded by a garden and a pool. Beautiful view over the Moorish castle. This two-star-hotel offers simple rooms, some with exclusive toilets and colorful tiles.
A 4-star-hotel in the heart of Sintra. Great view above the city and the natural park of Sintra-Cascais.
elegant apartments with panoramic view on the mountains of Sintra and the Mouros Castle. The style is halfway between modern and old, and the apartments feature all the comforts and fully equipped kitchens.
It won’t take long to find a place where to have lunch in Sintra as there are plenty of restaurants, from family run taverns to luxury restaurants, but also bars and cafes if you prefer a quick snack.
Enjoy a beautiful sunny day to eat outside: you can stop for a pic-nic at Parque dos Castanheiros, which is very popular among families. For a sweet break taste some travesseiros and queijadas, two typical sweets of the area. At night enjoy a good glass of wine in a traditional tavern.
What's the weather at Sintra? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Sintra for the next few days.