14 things you need to know about Sintra in Portugal
Ah Sintra… The name already sounds like we are going to a place out of a fairytale, right? Sintra in Portugal is a dream destination for everyone who loves beautiful palaces, colorful buildings and impressive castles. And don’t forget about the nice views in the mountains. If you’re heading to Lisbon in Portugal you should definitely visit Sintra as well. It’s only a couple of kilometers away from the capital, so it’s a perfect destination for a day trip (although you probably wanna stay for more days). Because there is so much to see and explore! In this travel blog you will find everything you need to know about Sinta in Portugal.
1. Sintra: the name of the village ánd of the mountains
So when people talk about Sintra they will proably mean the village called Sintra. But…. The surrounding mountains are actually also called Sintra: Serra da Sintra. So it’s a perfect destination if you love nice cities and culture, but nature lovers will enjoy this place as well because of the location.
2. Sintra in Portugal is on the world heritage list of UNESCO
No real surprise, but Sintra is since 1995 on the world heritage list of UNESCO. A lot of writers, poets and artists through the centuries came to Sintra to get inspired by this place. One of the most famous ones was Hans Christian Andersen. You maybe know him because of all the fairytales he wrote, right? Sintra has something romantic, something magical. So people from all over the world are mesmerized by this place.
3. If you’re in Lisbon, Sintra is the perfect day trip destination
Sintra is located in the western part of Portugal, about 25 kilometers west of Lisbon. If you’re making a citytrip to Lisbon you can’t skip Sintra. The easiest way to go from Lisbon to Sintra is by train. From train station Rossio in Lisbon you will reach Sintra in 40 minutes. A ticket from Lisbon to Sintra and back will cost you €4,50 euros.
Don’t leave the train at the train stop Portela de Sintra. This is actually still far away from the historical city center of Sintra. And you’re probably already walking a lot in Sintra, so you don’t want to do that. So leave the train at the station called Sintra. From here you will walk to the old city center of Sintra in 10-15 minutes. You can also take the bus from the train station to some of the sights in Sintra if you don’t feel like walking.
4. … But you can easily spend a couple of days (or even weeks) in Sintra as well
So there is a lot to see in Sintra in Portugal. You can see some of the highlights in one day. But it’s actually better to spend 2-3 days in Sintra. If you really love the place you can even spend some weeks here.
5. So where are you gonna sleep in Sintra?
If you stay multiple days in Sintra in Portugal – and I would recommend you doing that – it’s good to stay in the city as well. I really liked Nice Way Sintra Palace. They have dorms and private rooms, so it’s a nice place to stay for both solo travellers / backpackers and couples or families that wanna visit Sintra.
The hostel is not too big, so there is a chill atmosphere and you will meet most hostel guests quite fast. In the living room they sometimes organise game night or movie night. There is also a garden where you can chill and have a drink. The breakfast is included in the price and is a good way to start the day. Nothing too fancy, but you can eat as much as you want and there is some fruit to take along as well. Only downside is that you have to walk down if you come from the city center of Sintra. So at some point you have to walk up again as well..
There are some nice hotels and hostels in Sintra, but if you love to have more privacy I would recommend renting a private apartment via AirBnb. Especially when you wanna stay multiple days. This way you have a lot of privacy, but also things like a kitchen to prepare some breakfast or dinner. If you never booked before with AirBnb you can use this discount link to get €25 euros discount for your first booking.
6. There are some things to do in Sintra for free
So for most sights in Sintra you have to pay an entrance fee. But there are a couple of places that you can visit for free. Here are some that I enjoyed:
– Town hall of Sintra
The town hall of Sintra, named Câmara Municipa, is so adorable. You would not think they use this place for politics, but just as the decor of a fairytale. If you walk from the train station to the old city center you will definitely see this building.
– City park of Sintra: Parque de Liberdade
Parque de Liberdade, translated as the Park of Liberty, is also on your way from the train station to the old city center of Sintra. The park is built on a small hill. So you have to climb a bit to walk through this park. But I loved how many trees they have here. As well as the peace that you will find here. It’s lovely, because Sintra can be exhausting with so many people around you.
– Fonte Mourisca
Maybe you have already seen enough azulejos – the colorful ceramic tiles. But let’s be honest: you can never see enough of those beaufitul tiles, right? You see a lot of those in Lisbon, but do stop at Fonte Mourisca in Sintra as well. It’s a small fountain that’s decorated with beautiful azulejos as well. And free to visit!
– The historical city center of Sintra
Bring your camera with ya, because the historical city center of Sintra is quite photogenic. There are just so many colorful and beautiful buildings to check out! Tip: if you still have to get some food to visit sights like Pena Palace or the Moorish Castle I would buy some things here. At most sights you can’t really buy proper food or drinks.
– Miradouro da Ferraria: view over the city center
The city center of Sintra is almost like a maze, with all those small streets going up and down. One of those streets leads you to a nice view point: Miradouro da Ferraria. From here you can see the Palace of Sintra, the town hall and some other nice buildings in the center.
– Walking through the gardens of Villa Sassetti
If you wanna visit the Pena Palace or the Moorish Castle you have to go up. There’s nothing you can do about that. While most people take the bus to the top it’s actually much nicer to walk via Villa Sassetti. Villa Sassetti is a garden that leads you from the city center of Sintra to the top (where you’ll find the Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle). In about 1 hour I only met 3 tourists and 2 people who were climbing.
During the walk you have some pretty nice views over the area of Sintra. If the weater allows it you can even see the coast in the west! I loved how many different plants and trees I saw during my hike. I felt like I was exploring like Alice in Wonderland.
7. But you do have to pay entrance fee for most sights in Sintra in Portugal
So keep in mind you have to pay an entrance fee for most sights in Sintra. If you wanna visit multiple places it can actually become a pretty expensive (day) trip. So keep this in mind while you’re planning your trip to Sintra.
So where do you have to pay an entrance fee in Sintra?
– Highlight of Sintra: the Pena Palace
Palácio da Pena, or the Pena Palace, is definitely the highlight of Sintra. This beautiful palace was built in 1840 as a summer palace for the royal family of Portugal. It’s amazing how colorful and full of details this place is! From here you also have a nice view over the Moorish Castle, nearby the palace.
Entrance fee: €14 euros for adults. You can use this ticket for the Pena Palace and the gardens of Pena. If you only want to visit the gardens (and explore the outside part of the castle) you pay €7,50 euros. It’s not possible to buy a ticket only for the palace, since you have to enter the gardens to reach the palace.
– Wandering in the Gardens of Pena (or Pena Park)
The Gardens of Pena – also called Pena Park – are REALLY big. So it’s easy to spend some hours here and just wander around. You can visit some places within the park. Like Cruz Alta, the highest viewing point in Sintra. From the castle it’s about 1 kilometer to walk to this point, marked by a big cross. Also Chalet da Condessa D’Edla is worth a visit. Most visitors skip this place, because it’s not located nearby the castle, but it’s a lovely place with beautiful rooms.
Entrance fee: €7,50 for adults. With this ticket you can also visit the outside parts of the Pena Palace.
– The Moorish Castle
Castelo dos Mouros – the Moorish Castle – is on a mountain top of Sintra. You can already see this castle if you’re in the old city center of Sintra. The Moorish people, from northern Africa, build this castle when they conquered this area. The entrance to the castle is nearby the Pena Palace. So it’s super easy to combine a visit to both places.
Entrance fee: €9 euros for adults.
– Palace of Sintra
So in the city center of Sintra there is another palace: the Palace of Sintra. Don’t confuse this one with the Pena Palace on top of the mountain! This palace is maybe a bit less impressive than the Pena Palace, but still amazing. You can’t miss this building, since there are 2 gigantic chimneys on top of it.
Entrance fee: €10 euros for adults.
– Monastery hidden in the mountains of Sintra: Convento dos Capuchos
Convento dos Capuchos is hidden in the mountains of Sintra. So it’s not the easiest place to reach. It’s quite a walk if you’re up for it. If you’re in Sintra with a (rental) car you can easily go to a parking lot nearby the monastery. There are thousands of cork trees around the monastery, so the people called it the ‘monastery of cork’ in time. The monastery was built in the 16th century. Only a couple of monks were living here, with almost no belongings. They didn’t want anything, so they can focus on the connection with the spiritual and devine world. Those people back in the days were pretty small; everything is so small and the doors are only 1 meter high!
The tourist bus doesn’t stop at the monastery, so it’s not really busy at this sight. The walk from the Pena Palace to Convento dos Capuchos is about 1,5 – 2 hours. From the parking lot it’s 10 – 15 minutes walk to the monastery.
Entrance fee: €7 euros for adults.
– Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira is also named the House of the Millions. This building – including the park – was built by a millionaire. This person was dreaming of a fantasy world and wanted to realize it with Quinta da Regaleira. A really Instagrammable place in the garden of Quinta da Regaleira is the spiral staircase. These stairs symbolize both death and rebirth. The gardens are pretty big so you can easily wander around for 1,5 hours.
Entrance fee: €6 euros for adults
– The Palace of Monserrate
The Palace of Monserrate is a bit outside of the city center of Sintra, but also worth a visit. If you love a combination of European and Moorish (northern African) influences this is the place for you! The architecture is simply amazing here. Because of the location a lot of people skip this place as well, but if you have more time you should pay a visit to this beautiful palace.
Entrance fee: €8 euros for adults
– Storytelling about Sintra in Sintra Mitos E Lendas Museum
There is a cool museum in the Tourism Office of Sintra (Posto de Turismo): the Sintra Mitos E Lendas Museum. This museum is all about the stories and legends of Sintra. I loved this place, because it’s interactive and it makes the places that you will visit even more mysterious and fairylike. You’ll receive an audioguide that will automatically play on specific points in the museum. There are also a lot of videos and even video games to play! I would recommend to stay in this museum for 1 hour.
Entrance fee: €4,50 euros for adults
– Museum for Portugese writer Ferreira De Castro
Maybe you have never heard of the name Ferreira De Castro. He was a Portuguse writer and journalist in the 20th century. He lived for a while in Brazil and wrote multiple travel stories, about places all over the world. In Sintra there is a small museum dedicated to him and his work. Sintra was a place that inspired him a lot to write, so there is no better place to have the museum then here in Sintra. The museum is not really interesting if you’re not interested in the guy or travel stories, but I loved the old books and seeing his personal belongings. The information is in Portugese, but there are English explanations in a separate book as well.
Entrance fee: €1 euro
8. If you have only 1 day in Sintra, what should you do?
1. Walk from the train station to the old city center of Sintra. Along the way you can check out the town hall and the Fonte Mourisca. If you’re in the city center you can check out the Palace of Sintra from outside. It’s also nice to walk around a little bit in the city center.
2. Then take a bus from Praça da República to the Pena Palace. This will definitely be the highlight of your Sintra visit. From here you also have a nice view on the nearby Moorish Castle. If you really wanna save some time you buy a ticket only for the Pena Park. You can still walk around the palace and take some pictures, but you can’t go inside.
3. If you’re up for it you can walk through the Pena Park to the viewpoint Cruz Alta.
4. If you have explored the Pena Park you can start walking down to the city center again. You can take the road via Villa Sassetti. In these gardens you will see so many amazing trees and plants. It’s also a nice way to avoid the crowds. It’s much better than sitting again in that bus, right? The walk is about 50 minutes downhill.
6. If you still have time you should visit Quinta da Regaleira. It’s not too far from the city center of Sintra, you can walk to this sight. If you wanna explore the gardens you can easily spend 2 hours here. But just take as much time as you want here, there’s no rush.
7. To finish the day you can visit the Museum of Myths and Legends in the Tourist Office. This way you will learn a bit more about the area of Sintra, through the centuries. A visit to the museum will take you 1 hour.
9. If you only wanna pay for 1 sight in Sintra, which one should it be?
The ticket for the Pena Park is €7,50 euros, but it’s definitely the best entrance ticket you can buy. With this ticket you can not only visit the Pena Park and some sights within it, but you can also check out the Pena Palace from the outside. So all those colorful corners you can see and photograph as well!
10. Book your entrance tickets for the popular sights in advance!
Via Get Your Guide you can buy Skip The Line Tickets, for example for the Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle. This can save you a lot of time! And the prices of Get Your Guide are the same as when you buy the tickets on the spot. This is a perfect solution for people who visit Sintra during high season. Or simply don’t wanna wait in line once there are in Sintra.
Book your Skip The Line Ticket for the Pena Palace here (same prices as in Sintra on the cash desk)
Book your Skip The Line Ticket for the Moorish Castle here (same price as in Sintra on the cash desk)
11. Bring enough food and drinks for your day in Sintra
Surprisingly enough there are not a lot of options for food and drinks if you visit the sights of Sintra. There are some options, but they are expensive and it’s not even really great. In the city center of Sintra you have a couple of supermarkets. I would recommend to buy some drinks and snacks here and bring them for your explorings.
12. Take the Sintra Bus to save time
If you take the Sintra Bus you will definitely save a lot of time and energy. Some of the most popular sights of Sintra are on top of a mountain. If you don’t want to spend time and energy to climb that thing the Sintra Bus is the perfect solution. There are different busses with different routes. The most popular one is the yellow one: bus 434. This one will bring you from the historical city center to the top of the mountain, where you can visit the Pena Palace, the Pena Park and the Moorish Castle. Tickets for the bus cost €5 euros. Bus 435 will bring you to other sights in Sintra, for example to the Palace of Monserrate and Quinta da Regaleira.
If you don’t want to take a bus you can also travel around with a tuktuk.
13. Sights in Sintra are also open on mondays!
So in Lisbon a lot of sights are closed on mondays. But…. in Sintra everything is open on mondays! It’s perfect if you’re in Lisbon in a monday and you don’t know what to do or visit. But keep in mind this is also a reason why it can be a bit busier than usual in Sintra.
14. When is the best time to visit Sintra in Portugal?
Sintra in Portugal is actually nice to visit every month of the year. There are a couple of days the sights are closed because of holidays. Check them out on the website, so you won’t travel to Sintra for nothing. I visited Sintra in Portugal in december. It was surprisingly warm during the day, but cold at night! And it can be windy, especially on top of the mountain. But I loved that it wasn’t super crowded and at some places I was even the only visitor. If you visit Sintra in summertime, be prepared for some crowds. If it’s possible I would avoid the months july and august because of that.
I hope I answered all the questions you had about your visit to Sintra in Portugal! Please let me know if you have more questions in the comments or via an e-mail. Have you already been here and did you love the place as much as I did? Then share that love in the comments as well!
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