Discover the palaces of Sintra
Sintra is a lovely village! It is famous for its castles and the green lush Sintra Cascais national park that surrounds the village. If you stay for one day visiting the palaces is perfect. We do, however, recommend you to stay for a night or two in this charming village.
Below we give you some tips to get the most out of your visit in Sintra, where to stay and eat inlcuding how to get to Sintra from Lisbon and/or the airport.
What to see in Sintra and how to get there?
Sintra is located 300 metres above the ocean surrounded by the cooling Sintra mountains. The city is from the 12th century and is a Unesco World heritage.
Today Sintra is mostly famous for its totally stunning palaces, once privately owned villas. Some of the beautiful palaces and villas are today open for the public. The most famous of them is the Pena palace situated on the top of a hill and seen from a far distance. This colourful palace in red, yellow, blue, purple, grey,... is a must thing to see and to take photos of.
Besides Pena palace there are 3 other beautiful palaces that are open to the public, all of them well worth a visit. You also have the moorish castle just beside Pena palace.
Pena palace / The coloured palace
Quinta da Regaleira / The palace with the underground tower
Montserrat / The secluded palace
Palacio Nacional / The white palace
If you arrive by train there is a one kilometres beautiful walk to the old town of Sintra and you will pass the beautiful townhouse (photo below) and the white Palacio Nacional de Sintra with its caracteristic two large chimneys once built by the moors and later renovated in different architectural styles. It is possible to visit the Palacio Nacional if you like.
There are also regional buses (bus 434), tuk-tuks, bike rentals and sightseeing buses that take you to the major attractions.
The Pena palace
The number one palace in Sintra is the Pena palace built in the 19th century by Ferdinand de Saxe-Coburg Gotha on a hill above Sintra. The palace is a mix of several architectural styles – moorish, renaissance, baroque, gothic colored in yellow, red and blue. A lovely garden with pathways and little lakes surrounds the castle.
There is a lovely 2 kilometres path - the Caminho de Vila Sassetti - starting just above the old town leading you straight up to the castle passing by the Vila Sassetti. The path is well signed all the way up and it takes you about 45 minutes up to an hour to reach the Pena palace.
After about 10 minutes along the path you reach the Vila Sassetti.
Another 20 minutes later you reach a sigh where you can choose to turn right or left. The path to the right takes you to the lush gardens of the Pena palace and is a lovely walk passing by little lakes. The path is about 500 metres long and upwards..
The queu is actually shorter by the gardens entry (if you take right) so that could actually be a better choice. You can then take the other way down passing by the Moorish castle.
The path to the left takes you pass the entrance to the Moorish castle and to the parking of Pena palace.
To enter the Pena palace you need to be there early, preferably at opening (9:30 in October) if you want to skip the lines. The entrance fee is 13 Euros (adults) and is for the palace, the terraces and the garden.
The main attraction at Pena palace are the terraces. That is where all the lovely pictures are taken.
To go to the terraces you pass the long queu on the right hand side all the way up on the stairs until you reach a sign ”Terraces”. The queu is for entering the palace, not the terraces.
If the queu is short it might be a good thing to visit the palace, if not maybe it is a good time to try to overcome your fear of missing out and go straight to the terraces. That will save you a lot of time..
"The main attraction at the Pena palace are the terraces.
That is where all the lovely pictures are taken."
Unfortunately you cannot pay to visit the terraces only and a guess is that explains why people visit the palace at all – they have paid to enter and want to make use of that.
There is a café on one of the terraces and a restaurant inside where it is nice to have a cup of coffée before leaving the Pena palace.
The Moorish castle
On your way down, you pass the moorish castle (8 Euros) just besides Pena palace. This place gives you more beatiful views of the landscape including a distance view of the Pena palace (photo below). Besides that it is not much to see unless you are interested in the historiy of the castle. From the moorish castle you take the same path down back to Sintra (about 20 minutes), i.e. Caminho de Vila Sassetti.
Coming back down along El Caminho de Vila Sassetti to Sintra you are probably hungry and ready for lunch! Our favorite place was the Tascantiga that serves great tapas. The restaurant is very close to where the trail ends in Sintra.
You choose the tapas you want (2-3 each) by boxticking on a menu. The fried prawns with garlic are great and the fried potato peels with dip probably a must. Dishes from 3 Euros up to 12 Euros.
You can sit outside or inside. Pre-booking is possible and probably necessary during peak season. We were here in October and had no problem finding a table outside or inside.
Quinta de Regaleira
After lunch it is time to visit the Palace Quinta de Regaleira from the 20th century about 15 minutes walk from the restaurant Tascantiga. After returning up on the street above the restaurant turn right and then follow the road until you reach the palace Quinta de Regaleira.
The palace, simply called la "Quinta" by the locals has a lovely garden with lots of little towers to climb up in, lakes, grottoes and fountains. The Regaleira tower is the main attraction at la Quinta and after going down the 27 metres high Regaleira tower you enter grottoes and underground lakes.
The garden including the Regaleira tower were built to represent symbolism.
"After going down the stairs for 27 metres down the Regaleira tower
you enter grottoes and underground lakes."
Monserrat is a little less than 4 kilometres west of Sintra. Take the local bus 403 in direction Cabo da Roca and step off at Monserrat palace. The garden and the palace are lovely with impressive interior and exterior decorations (entrance fee 8 Euros). Have a cup of coffée in the restaurant before you leave.
Sintra Marmoris Palace is perfect when it comes to location (5 minutes from the train and bus station). The rooms and the level of service is exceptional. Free parking and complimentary wine, cheese and charcuteries at 6 p.m. every day. There are 9 rooms, of which only 6 are in the palace so be sure to book early. The "blue room" is lovely.
Where to eat?
Eating out in Sintra is cheap and the food we had there easily beat the food we had in Lisbon.
Incomun serves portuguese food with an elegant twist. It is just across the street from the train station. Prebooking is necessary since it is very popular.
Romaria de Baco has a more rustique athmosphere and it is a very small restaurant right in old town that serves great portuguesian food. Prebooking is necessary since it is very popular.
Tascantiga serves great tapas for lunch. Not to be missed. You can sit inside as well as outside.
How to get to Sintra from Lisbon and/or Lisbon airport?
Sintra is about 25 kilometres west of Lisbon and 30 minutes drive from the airport by taxi (Uber 24-50 Euros depending on choice of car). Uber cannot pick upp at arrivals but will park in the parking garage a little to the left when you exit the airport at arrivals. This might be a bit confusing but the Uber drivers are helpful to guide you to them.
Another (cheaper) option is public transportation for about 6 Euros. You then take the metro to the Orient station – takes a little less than 10 minutes. At Orient you change for the Sintra train that will take you to Sintra in a little less than 50 minutes. Depending on where in Sintra you choose to stay it might be a good thing taking a taxi from the train station.
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