There are so many things to do in Sintra, Portugal. The history of the area dates back to the 1400s when a single monastery was placed on a hilltop in Sintra during medieval times. When the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 destroyed most of the city, the area sat untouched and empty for many years. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s when one of the King’s sons was so fascinated by the forested area, that his father decided to acquire all the surrounding land, and bring it back to life.
Top Things To Do In Sintra, Portugal
Sintra is located just 45 minutes north of the capital city of Portugal, Lisbon. The town has a rich history and cultural significance, which is reflected in its many ancient castles and palaces, such as the Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle. These buildings are known for their ornate decoration, history, and beautiful locations, which offer panoramic views of the surrounding area.
In addition to its castles and palaces, Sintra is also known for its charming streets and neighborhoods, which are filled with colorful houses, quaint shops, and cool restaurants. This picturesque town has a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere, and it is a popular destination for people who are looking to experience a more authentic and traditional side of Portugal.
1. Visit Pena Palace
One of the most popular attractions in Sintra, the Pena Palace is a stunning 19th-century Romantic palace that sits atop a hill overlooking the town. The lavish palace was commissioned by King Ferdinand II and stands proudly over the landscape. We loved the vibrant colors and mix of architectural styles, including Gothic, Manueline, and Moorish.
Visitors to the Pena Palace can explore the palace’s beautifully decorated rooms, including the throne room, dining room, and bedrooms. Its setting high on a hill will remind you of Ludwig II’s Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. But Pena Castle was actually built first!
Pena Palace is surrounded by Pena Park, a beautifully landscaped garden filled with exotic plants and flowers. The Park is a great place to take a leisurely walk and enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
Tickets for Pena Palace cost €7.50 for adults. For visitors aged 65 and over and children between the ages of 6 and 17, the cost is €6.50. A family ticket is also available for €26. Sintra offers a bus to take you from the entrance through the gardens and will drop you off in front of the Pena Palace. Or you can book skip-the-line tickets here.
Or you can choose to do what we did, which was walk through the gardens (uphill) to get to Pena Palace. If you choose to walk, be sure to wear comfortable shoes and give yourself an hour to reach the top.
2. Explore the Moorish Castle
The Moorish Castle is a well-preserved medieval castle located on a hill above Sintra, Portugal. This castle dates back to the 9th century and was used by the Portuguese royal family as a summer palace. The Moorish Castle is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Sintra, known for its well-preserved walls and stunning views.
The castle is a mix of architectural styles, including Gothic and Mudéjar, and features a series of defensive walls and towers. Visitors to the castle can explore the castle’s interior, including the royal apartments, chapel, and cistern. The castle also has a small museum, where visitors can learn more about its history and the role it played in the region.
In addition to touring the castle, visitors can also enjoy a variety of outdoor activities in the surrounding area, including hiking, picnicking, and birdwatching. The Moorish Castle is a must-see for anyone interested in medieval history and architecture.
The cost to enter is for Adults: (18 – 64 years) 8 €, (6 – 17 years) 6,5 €, (over 65 years) 6,5 €, Family ticket (2 adults + 2 youths) 26 €. Or you can get the Audio Tour and Skip the Line by booking here.
3. Visit Cabo da Roca
Located just a short drive from Sintra, Cabo da Roca is the westernmost point of mainland Europe and is a popular tourist destination known for its stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Cabo da Roca is a rocky promontory that juts out into the sea, offering breathtaking views of the rugged coastline and the open ocean. Visitors to the cape can take in the views from the observation deck and enjoy the fresh sea air.
Cabo da Roca is also home to a lighthouse, which was built in the 17th century to guide ships safely into Lisbon. The lighthouse is open to visitors and offers panoramic views of the surrounding coastline.
You may need to wait in line to take a picture in front of the plaque, but it will be worth it to show people you made it!
4. Tour the Sintra National Palace (Palacio nacional de sintra)
Have you heard of the Sintra National Palace? It’s a beautiful 15th-century palace located in the heart of Sintra, Portugal. The palace was once the residence of the Portuguese royal family and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Sintra National Palace is known for its mix of architectural styles, The palace is a blend of Manueline, Gothic, and Mudéjar, and its beautiful facade is a sight to behold.
As you step inside the palace, you’re transported back in time, to an age of opulence and elegance. The grand halls and spacious rooms are filled with ornate furnishings, a testament to the wealth and power of the royal family.
Visitors can explore the palace’s beautifully decorated rooms, including the throne room, dining room, and bedrooms, and learn about its rich history. The palace also features a chapel, which is still used for religious ceremonies today, and a beautiful garden filled with exotic plants and flowers. As you leave the palace, you’ll be struck by the sense of history and culture that surrounds you.
The Palacio Nacional de Sintra is open every day from 9:30 until 19:00 and the last entrance at 18:30. The entrance fee is €10.00/€8.50/€8.50/€33.00 (adult/child/senior/family). We recommend you grab a Fast Track Ticket to avoid the long lineups.
5. Visit Quinta da Regaleira
By far the most picturesque spot in Sintra is Quinta da Regaleira. It is the perfect spot to put down the map and see where the winding paths take you.
The Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra, Portugal is a place of mystery and magic. Nestled in the heart of the town, the 19th-century estate is surrounded by lush gardens filled with exotic plants and flowers.
It was built in the early 20th century by a wealthy Brazilian businessman named António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro. Monteiro was a collector of art and rare objects, and he used the Quinta da Regaleira as a showcase for his collection.
At the center of the Quinta da Regaleira stands the stunning palace, a masterpiece of architecture and design.
But the real attraction of the Quinta da Regaleira is its underground tunnels and caves. These mysterious passages were once used for initiation rites by secret societies, and their secrets still remain hidden to this day. Visitors can explore the tunnels and caves, discovering hidden chambers and hidden passageways as they go.
As the sun sets over the estate, the shadows lengthen and the magic of the Quinta da Regaleira comes alive. It’s a place where the past and present blend together, where the beauty of nature and the grandeur of man-made wonders meet.
If you drive, there is parking down the street from the main entrance and the fee to enter is €10.00/€5.00/€4.00/€25.00 (adult/child/senior/family), and this includes entrance to the house and the grounds. OR is you want to skip to the front of the line this is the ticket you want. It also includes a free audio tour.
6. Monserrate Palace
The Monserrate Palace in Sintra, Portugal is a place of wonder and enchantment. Tucked away in the rolling hills, the 19th-century palace is a hidden gem, a treasure waiting to be discovered.
As you approach the palace, the grandeur of the building becomes apparent. The palace is a blend of architectural styles, including Gothic, Moorish, and Indian, and its grand facade is a sight to behold. It was also once the home of Sir Francis Cook, a wealthy British businessman who was the first Visconde de Monserrat and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As you step inside the palace, you’re transported back in time, to an age of opulence and elegance. The grand halls and spacious rooms are filled with intricate details and ornate furnishings, a testament to the wealth and power of the palace’s former owner, Francis Cook, a wealthy English merchant.
But the real attraction of the Monserrate Palace is its gardens. These sprawling, verdant grounds are a wonderland of exotic plants and flowers, a paradise on earth. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll through the gardens, admiring the beauty of nature and the grandeur of the palace.
The entrance fee is €8.00/€6.50/€6.50 (adult/child/senior). The opening hours are 9.30-18.30, and the last ticket is sold 1 hour before the closing time. We recommend avoiding the crowds with this ticket.
7. Praia da Ursa
The Praia da Ursa is a beautiful beach located just a short drive from Sintra. The beach is surrounded by rugged cliffs and lush greenery, and the views of the Atlantic Ocean are breathtaking.
The Praia da Ursa is a great spot for swimming and sunbathing, and its secluded location makes it a perfect place to escape the crowds and relax. The beach is also a popular spot for exploring the hidden coves and caves along the shore.
After marveling at one of the most spectacular beaches in Portugal, visitors can also take in the stunning views of the surrounding landscape from the cliffs above the beach. It’s a great place to spend a few hours soaking up the sun and enjoying the beauty of nature.
8. Explore the Serra de Sintra
The Serra de Sintra is a beautiful mountain range located just outside of Sintra, Portugal. The mountain range is known for its hiking trails and its rich history with castles dotting the landscape.
The Serra de Sintra is a popular destination for hikers and nature lovers, with a variety of trails that wind through the mountains and offer breathtaking views.
The Serra de Sintra is also home to a number of historical sites, including castles and palaces, which are popular tourist attractions.
9. Learn about the Knights Templar
The Knights Templar was a military order of knights founded in the 12th century to protect Christian pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land. Visitors can learn more about their role in the region by visiting the Convent of the Order of Christ, which was once their headquarters in Portugal.
10. Visit the Praia das Maçãs
Praia das Maçãs is a beautiful spot located on the western coast of the country, and it offers a variety of activities and attractions for visitors. Praia das Maçãs
One of the main reasons to visit the Praia das Maçãs is for its natural beauty. The beach is surrounded by rugged cliffs and lush greenery on one side with a picturesque town on the other. The beach is a popular spot for swimming and sunbathing, and its crystal-clear waters and the long stretch of sandy beach make it a great place to relax and unwind.
In addition to enjoying the beach and the water, visitors can also take in the stunning views of the from the cliffs above the beach. The Praia das Maçãs is also a great place for exploring the hidden coves and caves along the shore.
A serene and tranquil spot, Praia das Maçãs is a perfect place to escape the crowds and enjoy the beauty of nature. It’s a must-see for anyone visiting Sintra or the western coast of Portugal.
11. Take a hike in the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park
The park includes a number of sandy beaches and dunes, including the Praia da Adraga, a beautiful beach with a long stretch of sand and dunes that is popular for swimming and sunbathing. The beach is located near the town of Almoçageme, which is about a 20-minute drive from Sintra.
One of the main reasons to hike in the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park is for its natural beauty. The park is home to a variety of plant and animal species, and the scenery is breathtaking. In addition to its natural beauty, the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park is also home to a number of historical and cultural sites, including castles, palaces, and other landmarks.
Hiking in the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park is also a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the fresh air. The park offers a variety of trails for hikers of all skill levels, ranging from easy, well-marked paths to more challenging routes for experienced hikers.
12. Take a boat tour of the Sintra Coast
A boat tour of the Sintra Coast is something you have to do if you visit the city for more than a day trip. It usually includes stops at a number of landmarks, such as the Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of mainland Europe, and the Praia da Ursa, a secluded beach that can only be accessed by boat.
You can book a boat tour when you are in the city. The tours usually last a few hours and may include commentary from a guide or local historian. We find this is a great way to experience the beauty of the Sintra Coast and learn about the region’s history and culture.
13. Try some local cuisine
Sintra is home to a number of excellent restaurants that serve traditional Portuguese dishes. Visitors can try some local favorites such as pastel de nata (custard tarts), bacalhau (salted cod), or cozido à portuguesa (a traditional stew).
The Portuguese love their sardines. You can find them in most stores, and even at the bike and car rental shops in Sintra. In Lisbon, it feels like they are on every corner!
They may not be for everyone, but it’s a good salty snack to take with you as you traverse the grounds and travel to each attraction. There are sometimes a lot of flavor options so take your time reading each label. Read more: Portuguese Food: 26 Traditional Dishes to try in Portugal or at home
14. Visit the Sintra Museum of Modern Art
The Sintra Museum of Modern Art (Museu de Arte Moderna de Sintra) is housed in the former Palace of the Counts of Edla, a 19th-century building that was once the summer retreat of the Portuguese royal family. (That Portuguese Royal Family got around!)
The museum’s collection includes works by Portuguese and international artists from the 19th and 20th centuries, with a focus on modern and contemporary art. The collection includes paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other works of art, and it is known for its strong representation of Portuguese modernism.
In addition to its permanent collection, the Sintra Museum of Modern Art also hosts temporary exhibitions and events, such as lectures, workshops, and concerts. If you love art you are not going to want to miss visiting one of the most important cultural institutions in Portugal.
The museum visit is indeed free for people under 17 or over 60 years old and for student card holders. Everyone else pays 1 (one) euro.
Sintra is a beautiful and historic town with a variety of cultural and recreational activities to offer visitors. Whether you’re interested in exploring the town’s history, visiting Pena Palace, enjoying the great outdoors, or relaxing on one of the region’s beautiful beaches, there’s something for everyone when you visit Sintra.
This post was originally written by Gina of Jet Set and Forget and has been updated by The Planet D for the most up-to-date information.