What to do in Sintra – Discover the Best Wonders

What to do in SIntra

Located straightly on the Portuguese Riviera, just a short distance from Lisbon, Sintra with its beautiful yet intriguing architectural style offers a great place to be explored within a few days. Descending slowly from the green hills to the blue ocean waters, you will see plenty of marvelous sights that will stay in your memory. Its strategic position along with other waterfront towns makes it one of the favorite destinations throughout Europe

Sintra is also considered the first Center of European Romantic architecture and combined with its landscape, it is classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage center in 1995.

Table of Contents

How to get from Lisbon to Sintra:

By Train

The cheapest way to get to Sintra from Lisbon is by taking the train. There are two train stations in Lisbon that have direct trains to Sintra: Rossio and Oriente.

During the day, there are trains almost every 15 minutes and the trip is about 45 minutes.

The price of the tickets is around 2.50€ per person or free if you have the LisboaCard, and it will give you discounts on the major sights, like the Palacio da Pena.

By Car

The easiest way to get to Sintra is by car. Renting a car for a day is an excellent option because it will give you the freedom to explore the mountain and visit the several beautiful sites in Sintra and visit the Portuguese Riviera.

Read our Self Guided Tour in the Portuguese Riviera

Check out the best prices for renting a car in Lisbon.

From the Lisbon airport (LIS)

In case you are not staying in Lisbon, but staying in Sintra, besides the options of the train or car, you can also book a transfer and your driver will be waiting at the airport when you land.

Take a look at the best prices for transfer in Lisbon airport

What to do in Sintra

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Sintra Self Guided Tour

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One of the best things you can do in Srintra, even if you are staying in Lisbon, is to take a full day to discover the best of Sintra by yourself.

Discover the beautiful Sintra Mountain, were you will find an ancient castle, luxurious romantic palaces, beautiful exotic gardens, and with its lush hills meeting the ocean, all under its microclimate creates a place with a magical and cinematical aura.

Pena National Palace

Pena Palace

The Pena Palace is a magical place and it is one of the seven wonders of Portugal. Built-in the 19th century to be the summer residence for the Portuguese royal family, it was the first building in Europe to be designed with an architectural romanticism style.

The first time you see this palace it will make you feel that you are looking at an enchanted castle, coming straight from a fantasy movie.

The Pena Palace is divided into four sections: the outside walls with two main gates and one are accessible only by a drawbridge; the old convent with its clock tower; the arch patio, with its Moorish inspired design; and the main palace itself.

Moorish Castle

Moors Castle

Located right on the hill, between the Pena Palace and the old town center of Sintra, it’s the ancient ruins of a Moorish Castle. Built on a rocky area with a panoramic view over the region of Sintra, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

Built by the Moors and used for centuries of years, this castle was extremely important for the occupancy of the Moors in Portugal, due to its perfect location of the dominance of the maritime routes arriving at Lisbon.

These days only a few ruins remaining from this ancient fortress on the hill of Sintra can be seen, but it is still possible to explore the old castle walls and admire the landscape. And when there, you will understand the importance of the location of this castle over the region of Sintra and how it would be possible to view incoming ships.

National Palace of Sintra

Sintra National Palace

Right in the middle of the historical town center of Sintra is another beautiful Palace, from the 14th century, that was used by the Portuguese Royal Family, until 1910, when the monarchy in Portugal suddenly ended due to a revolution.

The National Palace of Sintra during the several centuries was the official residence of the King of Portugal, it went under several renovations and the addition of new wings. Because of this, you will see different styles, like medieval, Gothic, Manueline, Renaissance, and romantic architecture.

Looking from the outside, it will look like the Palace is surrounded by many buildings, but when you are exploring the inside, you will notice the organic flow of the different wings.

Quinta da Regaleira

Quinta da Regaleira

Close to the historical town center of Sintra is the Quinta da Regaleira, an estate where the main palace is the least favorite attraction.

The original owner wanted a grand and luxurious estate, in which he lived surrounded by all the symbols that mirrored his interests and ideologies. A conservative, monarchist, and Gnostic Christian, Carvalho Monteiro wanted to bring back Portugal’s most glorious past, and that is why the user of the Neomanueline style with its connection to discoveries, but also with Gothic art and some classical elements. The diversity of Quinta da Regaleira is enriched with the symbolism of esoteric themes related to alchemy, Freemasonry, Templars, and Rose-cross.

A good example is the main well, where the architecture took the inspiration from Dante’s Divine Comedy, to create a well that represents the nine circles from purgatory to hell.

Old Town of Sintra

Sintra Town Center

The Old Town center is both simple and exquisite with its fascinating National Palace that dominates the whole area. The whitewashed building dating back to the Moorish era underwent many alterations during the past centuries when it was considered the summer residence of the Portuguese royal families. The Islamic-Manueline architecture hosts a Historic House Museum today. The old town is also going to gratify your needs with multiple boutique shops and cafes scattered over there.

Filled with small and narrow streets and Romantic architecture, it provides a beautiful but wonderful stroll, and in the meantime, you will discover a lot of small shops and pastries. While you are there, you need to try the famous local pastry, called Travesseiro de Sintra.

Praia das Maçãs

Praia das Maças

Sintra has one of the smallest beaches, called Praia das Maçãs, but it is one of the most beautiful in Portugal, with a river coming alongside the sand until reaching the ocean.

The translation of Praia das Macas is Apple’s Beach, and the name originates from a time when the fallen apple from the trees was carried by the small river to the beach. So it was normal to see apples in the water and scattered on the sand.

These days you will see no apples, but the peace and tranquillity that this beautiful beach provides you and with all of its commodities make for one of the most complete beaches in Portugal.

And if you are staying in Sintra and don’t have a car, or even if you do, consider taking the vintage tram, which is next on this list.

Sintra’s Tram

Sintra Tram

Created in 1904 to help the locals to get around the small villages in the mountains of Sintra, it was deactivated in 1974. After 30 years of not being used, on its 100th anniversary in 2004, the tram line was reactivated.

These days, these trams only carry tourists around, but you will have the opportunity to ride some of the original trams from the 19th century and the course between Sintra and the Beach, which will give you amazing views, ending in a spectacular beach.

Hiking

Sintra Hike Trail
Sintra Hike Trail

Sintra has many hiking trails, either going through the center of the old town, to the mountains. It does quite matter which one you choose to do, the views and experience will be magnificent.

The most popular goes from the Pena Palace to the old town center, and besides that amazing romantic atmosphere you feel on this course, you will see an amazing and old summer house, that its construction was inspired on the castle of Lombardy and even a 45 meters cliff, where you can enjoy a picnic on the top.

Where to stay in Sintra

Sintra has many offers of accommodation, from luxury resorts in historic buildings to small hotels in the city center.

If you have a car, then consider staying in some of the resorts, as they normally include parking and it is easy to get around. The city center does not have resorts and it is very difficult to drive in it and even more difficult to park.

If you are not driving, then consider staying in the city center, as it is close to almost every monument and attraction, as it is close to public transportation, like the main train station.

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