Julie Portugal 20 Comments

Sintra is a land of fairytale palaces, historic estates, and stunning coastlines. Pena Palace and the Initiation Well in Quinta da Regaleira may be Sintra’s most famous attractions, but you can also walk the walls of an ancient Moorish castle, tour the oldest palace in Portugal, and visit the westernmost point of continental Europe. In this guide, we cover the best things to do in Sintra, with essential tips to help you have the best experience.

An Overview of Sintra

Sintra is an area of Portugal that sits to the west of Lisbon. This area, also referred to as Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, is most famous for its palaces and castles that sit in the mountains, including Pena Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, and the National Palace of Sintra, but it is also home to a stunning stretch of coastline.

The town of Sintra is connected to Lisbon by a train with frequent connections all day. We will get into how to get here later in this guide, but basically, it takes under an hour to travel between Lisbon and Sintra.

The National Palace of Sintra and Quinta da Regaleira are located in the town of Sintra, making them the easiest of the major sites to get to on a day trip to Sintra.

Pena Palace and the Castle of the Moors sit high in the mountains above Sintra town. The best way to get here is to take a taxi, Uber, bus, or tuk tuk, since the roads are narrow, cobblestoned, winding, and once at the top, parking is almost nonexistent.

Monserrate Palace is farther away from the town of Sintra. Its more remote location helps keep crowds down, but those who venture out here are treated to one of the area’s most underrated sites. Stroll through the gardens, marvel at the ancient church ruins, and be captivated by the intricate and breathtaking interior of the palace. Monserrate Palace was our favorite experience in Sintra.

In addition to these palaces and castles, there are also a handful of sites to visit on the Sintra coastline, including Praia das Maçãs and Praia da Ursa, as well as Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of continental Europe.

Best Things to Do in Sintra

Our list of best things to do in Sintra is divided up between two geographical areas, the sites in and around Sintra town and sites along the coast.

With one day in Sintra, most people focus on visiting the palaces and castles in and around Sintra town, since that area is easy to visit on a day trip from Lisbon and has a handy network of trains, tuk-tuks, and taxis. It’s possible to add on one or two coastal sites to a day trip to Sintra, but if you want to visit the beaches, it is best to plan on spending two days in Sintra (or take two day trips from Lisbon).

Things to Do in and around Sintra Town

1. Pena Palace

Cost: €10 – €20
Shuttle: €3
Audio Guide: €1.09
Hours: Park da Pena is open from 9 am to 7 pm; the palace is open from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm; last entry is 6 pm
Website: parquesdesintra.pt

Pena Palace is the #1 attraction in Sintra.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal is famous for its mountain top setting, its whimsical blend of architectural styles, and its vibrant colors. It looks like something you would see in Disney World, with lines and crowds to match. Without a doubt, this is the busiest place to visit in Sintra.

A chapel and monastery stood on this site until the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 leveled the buildings. King Ferdinand II purchased the land in 1838 and turned the remains of the monastery into a palace. This palace brings together Gothic, Islamic, and Renaissance styles into a vibrantly colorful, eclectic palace that is a delight to explore and photograph.

Things to Do at Pena Palace

On a visit to Pena Palace, there are several things to do: explore the exterior of the palace, tour the rooms of the palace, stroll through the gardens that surround the palace, and walk out to the High Cross.

Exterior of Pena Palace

For us, walking around the exterior of the palace was the highlight. To walk on the walls and exterior courtyards and take some photos, it takes about 30 minutes. Even midday, when it is crowded, this is still a very nice experience.

Pena Palace Sintra Portugal | Best Things to Do in Sintra

Pena Palace | Best Things to Do in Sintra


Pena Palace Gates

Interior of the Palace

You also have the option to visit the interior of the palace. You will circle around the Manueline Cloister, visit the rooms of the palace, and, the best part, take in the view from the Queen’s Terrace. This takes 15 to 30 minutes without a line, 45 minutes or longer when it is busy.

In my opinion, this is only worth it for those with an interest in King Ferdinand II, those with a lot of time, and if you want to view Pena Palace from the Queen’s Terrace. Compared with the interiors of the National Palace of Sintra and Monserrate Palace, the Pena Palace rooms are not all that interesting.

We visited Pena Palace midday and it took us 30 minutes to wait in line to enter the palace and then it was a 45-minute slow march through the courtyard and rooms. It was not at all enjoyable.

Manueline Courtyard Pena Palace

Manueline Cloister | Best Things to Do in Sintra


Pena Palace Interior

Pena Palace Interior


Queens Terrace Pena Palace Photo | Best Things to Do in Sintra

The view from the Queen’s Terrace | Best Things to Do in Sintra

PRO TRAVEL TIP: If you have interest in touring the palace rooms, plan your visit for the first time slot of the day, to avoid the slow-moving line and walk through the rooms. You can also see photos of the rooms here, if you want to decide ahead of time if visiting the palace rooms is worth it to you.

The High Cross

The High Cross is located on the highest point in the Sintra Hills. To get here, it is a 20-minute one way walk from the palace. Your reward is panoramic views of Pena Palace and the Atlantic coast.

Pena Palace

The view of Pena Palace from the High Cross | Best Things to Do in Sintra

Park of Pena

Surrounding Pena Palace are forests and gardens. If you choose to walk up to the palace, you’ll walk through some of these gardens. You can also see the Grotto of the Monk and the Valley of Lakes and Little Birds.

Getting to Pena Palace

Pena Palace is located on the highest mountaintop above Sintra. A curving, steep, cobblestoned road from town leads runs up to the palace entrance. On this drive, you will pass the Castle of the Moors, just before arriving at Pena Palace.

There are just a handful of parking spaces here. I do not recommend driving here, since driving and parking is challenging and by mid-morning, this area is swamped with people, buses, cars, and tuk tuks.

The best way to get from Sintra town to Pena Palace is by tuk tuk or Uber, which you can hire in Sintra or at whatever site you plan to visit before Pena Palace (if you don’t plan to visit Pena Palace first). Tuk tuk costs range from €7.50 to €15 per person, depending on the where you are coming from. You can also walk from Sintra to Pena Palace, but it is a long, steep uphill walk the entire way.

Check bus schedules here. The bus is the cheapest way to go but they can run late.

Entering Pena Palace

There are two entrances into Pena Palace. The Entrance of the Lakes enters the Valley of the Lakes and the gardens. A little farther up the Estrada da Pena is the Main Entrance. You can enter either of them with a Park Ticket or a Palace + Park Ticket. The Main Entrance is much closer to Pena Palace and this is where you can take the shuttle up to the palace.

To enter Pena Palace, you will need to purchase a timed ticket. This is best to do online in advance because the ticket lines can be extremely long and on busy days, sell out before noon.

Your tuk tuk, taxi, Uber, or bus will drop you off at either entrance into the palace. There is a ticket booth at the main entrance and a line for ticket holders. Midday, both of these lines can be very long.

Once you get through the main gate, you still have to get up to the palace. At the entrance gate, you can board a shuttle that will drive you up to the palace. If you choose to walk, it is a steep uphill walk through the gardens that takes 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how fast you walk.

On a hot day, the shuttle is worth it. Just be prepared to wait in line. We chose to walk since the shuttle line was long.

Once at the palace, you can explore the gardens, photograph the exterior, and tour the interior of the palace.

Pena Palace Photo | Best Things to Do in Sintra

Pena Palace Tickets

  • Park + Palace Ticket: €20; this includes everything: the park, all of the terraces of Pena Palace, and the interior of Pena Palace. 
  • Park Ticket: €10; this includes the park and some of the terraces of Pena Palace. It does not include the interior of the palace or the Queen’s Terrace. If you only want to photograph the exterior of Pena Palace, and have no desire to tour the interior, this is your best option.

I highly recommend purchasing your tickets online in advance or through GetYourGuide. Not only does this save you a wait in the ticket line, but on busy days (particularly in July and August) tickets can sell out before noon.

If you choose to buy a Park + Palace Ticket, you will purchase a ticket for a time slot.The best times to visit without crowds are the first time slot of the day and before closing. However, in the morning, the mountaintop could be covered in a blanket of fog, which may or may not burn off during your visit.

Your time slot is for the entrance into the palace rooms, not the park. If you have an entrance ticket for 10:00 am, plan on entering the main gate no later than 9:30 am (but even earlier would be better), to give yourself enough time to walk or take the shuttle up the palace, and then potentially wait in line to enter the palace. The official website states this takes 30 minutes. In our experience, it took 40 minutes (a 10-minute walk to the palace and a 30-minute wait in line).

Clouds & Fog at Pena Palace

We visited Pena Palace midday because there was morning fog in the mountains when we arrived (our visit was September 13). This morning fog commonly occurs, as we were told by several locals here. It usually burns off midday, but on some days, it lingers all day and others, is clear in the morning and foggy in the afternoon. There is no way to know what it will be like ahead of time.

So, we saved our visit for midday, to take photos with sunny skies, even though we knew Pena Palace would be crowded. It was worth it, but in hindsight, I would have skipped touring the interior rooms, since that took almost an hour and a half.

How Long Does a Visit to Pena Palace Last?

If you simply want to photograph the outside of Pena Palace, plan on spending about an hour here. Adding on a visit to the interior of the palace adds on 30 minutes to an hour and a half (depending on crowd levels). If you also want to walk out to the High Cross or visit a few sights in Park of Pena, add on an additional hour.

2. The Moorish Castle

Cost: €12
Hours: 9:30 am to 6 pm, last entry at 5:30 pm
Website: parquesdesintra.pt
Getting Here: The entrance is located on Estrada da Pena, the same one-way road to Pena Palace, 350 meters before the entrance into Pena Palace. It is a 5 to 10-minute walk between Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle.
Time: 1 to 2 hours
GetYourGuide: You can also purchase your ticket on GetYourGuide

Castle of the Moors Sintra Portugal | Best Things to Do in Sintra

The Moorish Castle | Best Things to Do in Sintra

Located on another lofty perch not far from Pena Palace sits the Moorish Castle (also called the Castle of the Moors). With its snaking castle walls and numerous viewpoints, this is not to be missed, if you enjoy panoramic views and visiting historic sites.

The Moorish Castle is the oldest site on this list. It was built by the Moors between the 8th and 9th century and taken over in 1147 by Christian forces during the Fall of Lisbon. It is part of the Sintra Cultural Landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The best thing to do here is to walk the walls, which lead to the remains of several lookout towers. The views are stunning, as you can see Sintra, Pena Palace, and the Atlantic coastline.

However, you will climb a lot of stone steps, some of them quite large, as you walk the walls. This is the most physically challenging site to visit in Sintra, but well worth it for the views.

Castle of the Moors | Best Things to Do in Sintra

Moorish Castle Walls Sintra Portugal

The castle walls and a view of Sintra town in the valley below | Best Things to Do in Sintra

Walking to Sintra from the Moorish Castle

To get from the Moorish Castle to Sintra, you can take a bus, Uber, or tuk tuk, or you can walk. There is a 1.6 km trail that connects the Moorish Castle and the town of Sintra. It is a steep downhill walk from the castle to the town.

3. Quinta da Regaleira

Cost: 11€; Lisboa Card offers a 20% discount
Hours: May to September 10 am to 7:30 pm, last entrance at 5:30 pm; October through April 10 am to 6:30 pm, last entrance at 5:30 pm
Website: regaleira.pt
Food: There is a café next to the palace that serves food and drinks in a shady, garden like setting.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: Purchase your ticket online in advance to save the wait in the ticket line. You may still have to wait in line to enter the estate (we had a 10-minute wait at 10:10 am, which was just after it opened; at 11 am, there was no line to enter the estate).

Quinta da Regaleira is another extremely popular site to visit in Sintra. Its most recognizable sight is the Initiation Well, but there are also gardens to explore, a palace to visit, and a tower to climb.

Quinta da Regaleira | Best Things to Do in Sintra

Quinta da Regaleira | Best Things to Do in Sintra

What is a Quinta? According to Merriam-Webster, a quinta is a country villa or estate, especially in Portugal or Latin America.

Things to Do in Quinta da Regaleira

The entrance into Quinta da Regaleira is on N375, about a 15-minute walk from the town of Sintra. From the entrance gates, it is an uphill walk to the gardens, Initiation Well, and the Torre da Regaleira.

The Initiation Well

This is not only the most popular thing to see in Quinta da Regaleira, but also one of the most photographed spots on a visit to Sintra.

Initiation Well Sintra Portugal | Best Things to Do in Sintra

Initiation Well | Best Things to Do in Sintra


Initiation Well Portugal | Best Things to Do in Sintra

The Initiation Well is actually not a well. It was designed to represent the nine circles of Dante’s Inferno. At the bottom of the well is a tiled floor depicting the cross of the Knights Templar. The well gets its name because it was believed to be used in initiation ceremonies for freemasons.

On your visit to the well, you will start at the top and then walk down the spiral staircase to the bottom of the well. Since this is a popular place to visit, there is a very good chance that you will have to wait in line to enter the well, depending on the time of day and time of year you are visiting Sintra. On our visit in early September at 10:15 am, we had to wait in line for about 15 minutes to enter the well.

At the bottom of the well, you enter a labyrinth of tunnels, mentioned next.

The Tunnels

A network of tunnels connects the bottom of the Initiation Well into the gardens. There is a walking route through these tunnels that takes you to another hidden well and a waterfall.

From the Initiation Well, enter the tunnels. If you take the first right, you enter a low, somewhat claustrophobic tunnel that dead ends at a small well (photo below).

Quinta da Regaleira Well


Return to the main tunnel and walk away from the Initiation Well. Skip the next right turn (that leads to the exit). You will quickly arrive at a viewpoint of the waterfall.

Waterfall Quinta da Regaleira

Waterfall at Quinta da Regaleira

From the viewpoint of the waterfall, you can take a small tunnel to the left for a different vantage point of the waterfall and algae covered pools.

Green Pool Quinta da Regaleira | Best Things to Do in Sintra


Then, walk back towards the Initiation Well, turn left (there will be a sign marking the East Garden), and exit the tunnels.

Quinta da Regaleira Tunnel

Tunnels at Quinta da Regaleira | Best Things to Do in Sintra

Torre da Regaleira

The Torre da Regaleira (the tower) is another photogenic place to visit in Quinta da Regaleira. The small towers on either end of the walls are popular photography and selfie spots.

Torre da Regaleira Sintra | Best Things to Do in Sintra

Torre da Regaleira | Best Things to Do in Sintra


Quinta da Regaleira Tower Sintra

On the opposite side of the courtyard, there are two towers to climb. The taller tower gives you a bird’s eye view over Torre da Regaleira and the gardens. To get to the top, there are two narrow staircases, one of them a spiral staircase, that can become traffic jams of people midday. But we loved this viewpoint!

Things to Do Quinta da Regaleira | Best Things to Do in Sintra

Julie Rivenbark

The Gardens

You could spend hours walking the trails through the estate. In the gardens are small grottoes, the Promenade of the Gods (a walkway lined with statues of Greek gods and goddesses), and views over the palace.

Along these walking trails maps are posted, so you know exactly where you are.

The Chapel and the Palace

These two buildings sit at the bottom of the hill and are the last things you will see before exiting Quinta da Regaleira. The palace was being renovated during our visit so we could only visit a small portion of it. However, it is the exterior of the palace that is the highlight.

Quinta da Regaleira Interior | Best Things to Do in Sintra

Interior of the palace | Best Things to Do in Sintra

How Much Time Do You Need at Quinta da Regaleira?

If you move quickly and don’t have to wait in line to visit the Initiation Well, you can see the highlights in an hour (that is how long we spent here, but we did not dilly dally). But if you want to take your time, allow 2 to 3 hours here.

For suggestions on how to plan your time, don’t miss our article One Day in Sintra, which provides three different one day itineraries and lots of helpful tips for planning a day trip from Lisbon.

4. National Palace of Sintra

Cost: 13€
Hours: 9:30 am to 6:30 pm; last entry at 6 pm
Website: parquesdesintra.pt

The National Palace of Sintra is the oldest palace in Portugal. The first palace was constructed around the 10th and 11th centuries, when the area was under Moorish rule. From the Middle Ages to the 19th century, this palace was used by the rulers of Portugal to escape the summer heat. In 1910, it became a national monument.

Sintra National Palace

National Palace of Sintra | Best Things to Do in Sintra

The National Palace of Sintra sits in the heart of town, making it the easiest site to get to. On a visit here, you will stroll through a maze of beautiful rooms, some covered with blue tiles, others decorated with ornately painted ceilings. Don’t miss the Room of the Coat of Arms and the view from the gardens and terraces as you stroll through the building.

We visited the National Palace of Sintra right at opening time, so we had many of these rooms all to ourselves. It only took us about 20 minutes to walk through the palace, but again, we were moving quickly. Plan on spending about 30 to 60 minutes here.

Sintra National Palace Interior

Inside the National Palace of Sintra


Room of the Coat of Arms Sintra Palace | Best Things to Do in Sintra

Room of the Coat of Arms | Best Things to Do in Sintra


Sintra National Palace View

View from the National Palace of Sintra


Blue Tiles Portugal | Best Things to Do in Sintra

Blue tiles in the National Palace of Sintra | Best Things to Do in Sintra

5. Park and Palace of Monserrate

Cost: 12€
Hours: The park is open from 9 am to 7 pm, last entry at 6 pm; the palace is open from 9:30 am to 6 pm, last entry at 5:30 pm
Website: parquesdesintra.pt

Palace of Monserrate Sintra | Best Things to Do in Sintra

Palace of Monserrate | Best Things to Do in Sintra

The Park and Palace of Monserrate is the most underrated site in Sintra that we visited.

The interior of the palace is breathtaking in its beauty (visiting the interior of the Pena Palace was a big letdown after being here) and the gardens rival those of Quinta da Regaleira. Instead of picturesque Initiation Well, in the park at Monserrate you can visit the remains of a small chapel that is getting swallowed up by trees.

This property gets its name from Friar Gaspar Preto, who constructed a hermitage on this site in 1540, finding inspiration from Montserrat in Barcelona. The earthquake in 1755 damage many of the buildings.

In 1846, Francis Cook, a British art collector, purchased the estate and commissioned the construction of the present-day palace. This design of the palace was influenced by Romanticism and combines Indian, Gothic, and Moresque architectural elements.

Palace of Monserrate Interior

Interior Palace of Monserrate


On a visit to Monserrate, you can limit your visit to just the palace. The gardens are also very nice to explore, with a walk through Fern Valley (a shady, quiet spot filled with tree ferns from New Zealand) and a visit to the ruins of the chapel. Massive trees now cover the side of the chapel, resembling a scene from Ta Prohm in Cambodia.

Chapel Montserrate Palace Sintra

The chapel in the Park of Monserrate


Montserrate Palace Chapel

During our visit, there were very few people here, both in the gardens and the palace. The spectacular beauty of the gardens and palace combined with the low crowds makes this our favorite place to visit in Sintra.

Getting to Monserrate

Monserrate is one of the farthest sites from Sintra town on this list. It is about a 15-minute drive from the town of Sintra. It’s too far out to walk here, but you can get here by tuk-tuk (about 10€ per person when we did this), Uber, or on bus 435 (which connects Sintra, Quinta da Regaleira, and Monserrate; 5 euros; buses run every 20 minutes).

6. The Town of Sintra

The town of Sintra is small and compact, easily walkable (if you don’t mind a few small hills) and filled with great shops and restaurants.

Sintra View | Best Things to Do in Sintra

The view of Sintra town and the Moorish Castle on the hilltop from the National Palace of Sintra

For breakfast, we recommend visiting Piriquita to try their famous travesseiros and queijada pastries. Next door, at Fábrica da Nata, dine on fresh from the oven custard tarts.

Piriquita Sintra

Piriquita Pastries | Best Things to Do in Sintra

Pastries at Piriquita | Best Things to Do in Sintra

Tim and I had a great lunch at Tascantiga, dining on traditional Portuguese good and vinho verde. Bacalhau na Vila also gets great reviews. We have also heard good things about A Raposa and Tulhas.

Lunch at Tascantiga Sintra

Lunch at Tascantiga

7. Convento dos Capuchos

This Franciscan monastery is one of the least visited attractions in Sintra. It’s also the farthest from town. It dates back to the 16th century and the small collection of dormitories and chapels is located within the Serra de Sintra forest. It takes about an hour to visit Convento dos Capuchos.

Convento dos Capuchos

Convento dos Capuchos | Kartinkin77/shutterstock.com

The Best of the Sintra Palaces List

  • Best Palace Interior: Monserrate Palace
  • Best Palace Exterior: Pena Palace, followed by Quinta da Regaleira
  • Best Furnishings: Pena Palace
  • Best Place to See Blue Tiles: National Palace of Sintra
  • Best Gardens: Quinta da Regaleira
  • Best Place to Avoid the Crowds: Park and Palace of Monserrate
  • Most Crowded: Pena Palace
  • Best View: Moorish Castle

Purchasing Your Tickets

We recommend purchasing all of your tickets in advance in order to skip the ticket lines. This can save you a lot of time in Sintra.

You can purchase your entrance tickets using the official websites or through GetYourGuide. The official websites are more challenging to use. GetYourGuide is more user friendly and all of your tickets will be saved on their app, making it easy to keep track of your tickets.

Here are the links to purchase your tickets:

Pena Palace

Moorish Castle

Quinta da Regaleira

National Palace of Sintra

Park and Gardens of Monserrate

Portugal Travel Guide

Things to Do along the Sintra Coastline

The best way to get to these coastal sites is to get around by rental car, join a tour, or hire a driver for the day. There is a public bus that goes to many of these sites but having a car gives you the freedom to travel on your own schedule, which can save a lot of time.

1. Cabo da Roca

Cabo da Roca is the westernmost point of continental Europe. It’s also the most crowded coastal site that we visited along the Sintra coastline.

There is a large, stone column and cross marking this point. From Cabo da Roca, you also get a great view of the lighthouse and the rugged coastal cliffs. There is a restaurant and gift shop here as well as bathrooms.

Parking can be insane. This is a popular spot for tours visiting Sintra and Cascais, so expect to see quite a few tour buses here. Parking spills over into the nearby streets.

Cabo da Roca Portugal

Cabo da Roca | Best Things to Do in Sintra


Cabo da Roca View | Best Things to Do in Sintra

View of the lighthouse from Cabo da Roca

2. Praia da Ursa

If you are active and adventurous, this is one of the best things to do in Sintra.

Praia da Ursa is a picturesque beach lined with sea stacks and more astonishing views of the coastline. The only way to get there is by hiking. It’s a short, moderate hike to a viewpoint of Praia da Ursa and a longer, more strenuous hike to get all of the way to the beach.

How to Get to Praia da Ursa

Distance: 3.5 km/2.2 miles | Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous | Time: 1 to 2 hours for the hike, plus additional time at the beach

The hiking trail starts at Cabo da Roca, on Estrada do Cabo da Roca, at this point. Look for a small hiking sign in the picture below.

The first part of the trail has some ups and downs. There are a lot of side trails to take to viewpoints of the coastline, but the main trail is marked with small, wooden poles marked with white, red, and yellow lines.

Roughly halfway into the hike, you come to an awesome view over Praia da Ursa (photo below).

Praia da Ursa Sintra Portugal | Best Things to Do in Sintra

Praia da Ursa | Best Things to Do in Sintra

Beyond this point, the trail rapidly descends down to the beach. It’s steep, it’s a bit slippery with the loose gravel, and can be challenging with large steps and rocks to climb over. And don’t forget, you’ll have to hike back up this later in the day.

However, the beach is stunning. You can spend some time here sunbathing and stroll along the beach to photograph the sea stacks. To finish the hike, follow the same route back to Cabo da Roca.

Praia da Ursa Portugal

Praia da Ursa Sea Arch

Sea arch at Praia da Ursa

3. Praia das Maçãs

Praia das Maçãs is another beautiful beach. It’s not as popular as the others on this list, so this is worthwhile for those who want to spend some time at a quieter, picturesque beach. For the best view of it, hike up onto the cliffs on the opposite side of the beach.

Praia da Macas | Best Things to Do in Sintra

Praia das Maçãs | Best Things to Do in Sintra

4. Praia das Azenhas do Mar

This small town and its tiny beach comes up on a lot of lists. It’s easy to visit, as there are several free parking lots with a short walk to a viewpoint of the town. From this point, you have the option to walk the trail down into town, if you want to explore farther or grab a bite to eat.

To get to the viewpoint, visit “Miradouro das Azenhas do Mar” on Google Maps. This is also the location of the parking lots.

Praia das Azenhas do Mar

Praia das Azenhas do Mar | Best Things to Do in Sintra

5. Praia do Magoito

This long stretch of sand with its backdrop of dark cliffs is the least popular beach on this list but it’s one of the best. From the north end of the beach, you can gaze out at the coastline and in the far distance, see Cabo da Roca.

Praia do Magoito Portugal | Best Things to Do in Sintra

Praia do Magoito | Best Things to Do in Sintra

If you are visiting the beaches in the order listed above (traveling from south to north), this is a wonderful spot to end the day. At Esplanada Duna Mar, a small restaurant perched on the cliffs overlooking the beach, have a cold drink or a snack. This restaurant gets decent views, but a visit here is more about the view than the food. They are open until 6 pm every day except Wednesday, when they are closed. Double check their hours on Google before you go.

6. Lunch at Moinho Dom Quixote

One of our fabulous readers let us know about this restaurant and we liked the experience so much that we want to let you know about it as well.

Located in the hills above Cabo da Roca sits a small, lovely, outdoor restaurant. It has views of the coastline. As you dine, you sit in the shade of trees and are surrounded by lush gardens. The food is also fantastic. Tim had breakfast (granola, yogurt, scrambled eggs, and a croissant) and I opted for lunch (sardine bruschetta and salad with tuna and sweet potato).

Moinho Dom Quixote Restaurant

Moinho Dom Quixote Lunch

They are open for lunch and dinner every day of the week. You can see the menu and double check their hours on their website. Since this restaurant is located in the hills, it can be cooler here than on the coastline. Bring a jacket or borrow one of their blankets to stay warm (it was very chilly during our visit in mid-September).

Best Things to Do in Sintra: On a Map

How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (the points in and around Sintra town are blue and the coastal sites are red). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

How Much Time Do You Need in Sintra?

At a bare minimum, plan on spending one full day in Sintra. With one day in Sintra, there are several ways to plan your time. Most people spend that day visiting the palaces and castles in and around Sintra town. Another option is to start with the sites around Sintra town in the morning and visit the coastal sites in the afternoon. Finally, you can just focus on the coastal sites, skipping the palaces and castles, but I think it’s worth at least visiting Pena Palace and Quinta da Regaleira.

We have three different one day itineraries for Sintra, which has suggestions on the best ways to plan a day trip to Sintra from Lisbon.

If you want to visit both the coastal sites and the palaces and castles, you will need two to three days in Sintra. You can either spend a night or two in Sintra or plan multiple day trips from Lisbon.

Here is a sample three-day itinerary for Sintra:

Day 1: Pena Palace, Moorish Castle, National Palace of Sintra
Day 2: Park and Palace of Monserrate and Quinta da Regaleira
Day 3: Sintra coastal sites

What We Did

We visited Sintra on two day trips from Lisbon. We did this because we wanted to be able to watch the weather and visit the Sintra sites when the weather was clear, to take the best photos.

On day one, we visited Pena Palace, the Moorish Castle, Monserrate, Quinta da Regaleira, and the National Palace of Sintra in one very busy day. We cover how to do this in our guide How to Spend One Day in Sintra (coming soon).

On day 2, we spent the morning in Cascais and the afternoon visiting the coastal sites of Sintra.

Moorish Castle Sintra Portugal

View from the Moorish Castle | Best Things to Do in Sintra

How to Get to Sintra from Lisbon

Sintra is located 25 km west of Lisbon. You can get here by train, Uber, and car.

By Train

Taking the train is the most budget and eco-friendly way to travel from Lisbon to Sintra. By train, it takes 40 minutes to travel from Lisbon (station: Lisboa-Rossio) to Sintra (station: Sintra) with a price of €4.80 for a return ticket. Check train timetables here.

For the best experience, plan to be on one of the earlier trains of the day. Lines can be long to get on the train in Lisbon (especially in July and August) and it helps to start at one of the sites in Sintra right at opening time.

From the station, take Bus 434, Uber, or taxi to town or the first site on your to-do list or walk 10 minutes to the town of Sintra.

If you want to visit the coastal sites, you will have to hire an Uber, tuk-tuk, or private driver to drive you around.

By Uber (or Another Ride Share App)

By Uber, it takes 30 to 60 minutes to travel from Lisbon to Sintra, depending on traffic and your starting point in Lisbon. The advantage of using Uber is that you can hire the Uber to take you directly to your first site (such as Pena Palace or Monserrate) rather than the town of Sintra.

By Car

If you have a rental car, you can drive to Sintra. However, parking at the sites is extremely difficult, as the cobblestoned, winding roads become congested with cars, buses, tuk-tuks, and people, and parking is almost nonexistent.

I do not recommend driving in Sintra. However, you can park your car in Sintra and then use the buses, Ubers, or tuk tuks to get around. There are public parking lots next to the train station.

The advantage of having a car is the ability to visit the coastal sites at the end of the day, since these are more challenging and expensive to get to if you use Uber.

Sintra Town

The town of Sintra with the Moorish Castle in the hills above town.

Best Way to Get Around Sintra

The best way to get around Sintra town and the surrounding palaces is to use the buses, tuk-tuks, and Uber.

By Bus

Using the bus is the most economical way to get around Sintra, but it is also the least efficient.

Bus 434

Bus 434 is a hop on hop off bus that costs €8.40 for a day ticket. The bus makes a loop, with these stops:

  • Sintra Estacao (the Sintra train station)
  • Sao Pedro de Sintra
  • Moorish Castle
  • Pena Palace
  • Historic center of Sintra
  • Sintra Estacao

This bus runs from 9:15 am (9:30 am in the low season) until 7:50 pm (6:20 pm in the low season). It takes about 30 minutes to make one loop, although this will take longer midday once the road becomes a traffic jam around Pena Palace. Buses run roughly every 15 minutes.

If you purchase a Pena Palace entry ticket at 9:30 am, be aware that the first bus of the day will not get you there in time. So, if you plan to use the bus, you will not be able to book the 9:30 am time slot at Pena Palace (the best time slot to avoid the crowds).

Also, midday there can be very long lines to board the bus, so plan on adding extra time into your itinerary if you plan to use the bus to get around.

Bus 435

Bus 435 connects the town of Sintra to Quinta da Regaleira and Monserrate Palace. Tickets cost €6 for a day pass. The bus runs from 9:30 am to 7:50 pm in the summer, running every 20 minutes.

If you plan to use the bus, the 24 Hour Hop On Hop Off 24 Hour bus ticket includes both bus 434 and 435 for €13.50.

By Tuk-Tuk

We used tuk-tuks and taxis to get around Sintra town and the palaces and castles.

Tuk-tuks can be hired for the day or for individual journeys. In our experience, there was always at least one tuk-tuk waiting at the entrance into a site, which we would hire to take us to the next place on our list.

Fares range from €5 to €15 per person, depending on how far you will travel. These fees can add up over the course of the day. However, we never spent additional time waiting for a bus, so we were able to visit a lot of sites very quickly and efficiently. For us, our time was more valuable than the cost of the tuk-tuks since we only had one day to visit the palaces and castles in Sintra.

Monserrate is the most expensive site to get to, so consider using bus 435 to get to and from Monserrate and the tuk-tuks to get to Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle.

Ride Share App

It’s also possible to get around using Uber or another ride share app (we have heard good things about Bolt, which may be a little cheaper than Uber). We did not use Uber or Bolt to get around Sintra, so I can’t speak from personal experience how efficient or expensive this is, but one of our awesome readers wrote in and said they had a great experience with Bolt.

Sintra Pena Palace

Pena Palace | Best Things to Do in Sintra

How to Get Around the Coastal Sites in Sintra

The coastal sites do not have the same handy network of tuk-tuks and taxis like the area around Sintra town. We had a rental car, but you can also hire a private driver for the day or join a tour. You can also use the public bus but we have no experience with this and am not sure how efficient it is.

Best Tours of Sintra

This 8-hour small group tour includes Pena Palace, Monserrate, and Quinta da Regaleira.

This highly rated tour from Lisbon includes Pena Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, and historical Sintra.

If you want to tour Pena Palace, stand on the westernmost point of continental Europe at Cabo da Roca, and explore Cascais, this tour gets rave reviews.



Where to Stay in Sintra

In the historic town of Sintra, Villa Bela Vista, Sintra Marmoris Palace, and Chalet Saudade get fantastic reviews. Casa Azul Hostel sits just outside of town but is a great pick for budget travelers.

You can also make Cascais your home base (a good option for those with a car). The Albatroz Hotel, Cascais Sensations, and Casa Joana B&B all get great reviews.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you spend one day in Sintra?

With one day in Sintra, the best things to do are to visit the palaces and castles near Sintra town. On this list are Pena Palace, Quinta da Regaleira and its famous Initiation Well, the Moorish Castle, the National Palace of Sintra, and the Palace of Monserrate. However, there are also some stunning beaches to visit, so another possibility is to spend the morning visiting Pena Palace and Quinta da Regaleira and the afternoon visiting Cabo da Roca and several beachs.

Is Sintra worth a day trip from Lisbon?

The palaces and castles that sit around the historic town of Sintra are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pena Palace is one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. With historic castles, ornately decorated palaces, beautiful beaches, and the westernmost point of continental Europe (Cabo da Roca), Sintra is well worth the visit.

What’s not to miss in Sintra?

Pena Palace is Sintra’s most famous site, followed by Quinta da Regaleira and its famous Initiation Well. Sintra town is also a joy to explore. You can also stand on the westernmost point of continental Europe at Cabo da Roca and hike to Praia da Ursa, one of Portugal’s most beautiful beaches.

If you have any questions about the best things to do in Sintra, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to Portugal

BEST OF PORTUGAL: In our article Best Things to Do in Portugal, we list 25 amazing things to see and do in Portugal.

LISBON: In our Lisbon Bucket List, we list 40 highlights and hidden gems to visit in Lisbon. Plan your time with our one day in Lisbon itinerary. Here are 14 amazing day trips to take from Lisbon. Find the perfect place to stay in our Lisbon Hotel Guide.

PORTUGAL ITINERARIES: If you are just beginning to plan your Portugal itinerary, take a look at our 10 Day Portugal Itinerary for five different ways to spend 10 days in Portugal. We also have a detailed 10 day itinerary that includes Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve.

ALGARVE: Get started with our Algarve Bucket List, which lists the best things to do in the Algarve and learn how to plan your time with our Algarve Itinerary Planner. Learn how to hike the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, one of the most beautiful walks in Europe. Don’t miss our guides to Benagil Cave and the best beaches in the Algarve. Find out where to stay in our Algarve Hotel Guide, get a list of the best restaurants in Albufeira, and learn why October is the perfect time to visit the Algarve.

OBIDOS: Óbidos is a hillside town that is a joy to explore. Learn more in our Guide to Óbidos.

PORTO: Get started with our Porto Travel Guide, which lists where to eat, where to stay, and has lots of helpful tips for visiting Porto. We cover the best things to do in Porto in our Porto Bucket List. In our Guide to the Wine Cellars in Gaia, get recommendations on which wine cellars to visit and how to plan your time. See the best of Porto in our 2 Days in Porto Itinerary.

We have TONS more information about Portugal in our Portugal Travel Guide, including Lisbon, Sintra, Porto, the Algarve, and the Douro Valley.


Things to Do in Sintra Portugal


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Comments 20

  1. Avatar for Matt

    Thank you for your Sintra guide!

    I have some questions about Pena Palace. I think you’ve already confirmed that we cannot explore the exterior of the palace with a “PARK” ticket, so we need a “PALACE AND PARK” ticket to explore the exterior of the palace. But I’m still very confused about Pena Palace and I’m hoping you can help…

    1. If I book my time slot for 5:30pm, can I explore the exterior of the palace midday, go to High Cross and wander the park for a couple of hours and then come back to the palace to visit the interior at 5:30pm? Or is my only chance to explore the exterior of the palace immediately before and/or after my interior time slot?

    2. I was surprised to read that High Cross can only be visited with the Palace ticket (your comment on November 15, 2023). Do I need to make sure I visit High Cross immediately before and/or after my interior palace time slot? Basically, I’m worried about inadvertently exiting the Palace portion of the ticket without seeing everything I want to see (I’m assuming single entry). And based on their official map, it’s unclear what the Palace portion is.

    3. If I enter the line to access the interior of the palace at my time slot, but there is a wait to get into the palace (e.g. 30min, 1hr), will I be denied entry into the palace because I’m “late”?

    4. The official website indicates that the journey from the entrance to the park to the entrance of the palace interior takes about 30 minutes. But from your experience, it takes about 10 minutes?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Matt. These are all great questions. And I agree, the online map makes it hard to know which ticket you need and how to get to everything. Yes, you will need a park and palace ticket to visit the palace (exterior and interior) and the High Cross. Your entry time is the time to enter the interior of the palace. You can visit the park, gardens, exterior, and High Cross before you visit the interior of the palace. So yes, you can arrive several hours before your entrance time and enter the park (and walk out to the High Cross before you tour the interior). For example, if you have a 1 pm entrance time, you can enter the gate for the Pena Palace park at 11 am, see the exterior of the palace, and walk out to the High Cross, before touring the interior at 1 pm.
      How it works is that there is an entrance onto the property from the main road. You will enter through the gate/entrance and show your park and palace ticket. From this point, it is an uphill walk or shuttle ride to the palace. We did the walk in 10 minutes but we walk fast. 15 to 20 minutes is average. Or you can ride the shuttle (this could take 30 minutes if there is a line). Once at the palace, you are allowed to walk around the exterior of the palace and take photos, and if you want to walk out to the High Cross, you can do this before or after visiting the interior the palace (the trail starts near the palace).
      You should get in line for the interior 15 to 30 minutes BEFORE your time slot, 45 minutes if the line is very long. If you are a few minutes late, I don’t think it is a problem (we were a little late and they still let us in). But you want to line up before your time slot, not get in line at the time listed for your time slot. Again, how early to do this depends on the length of the line.
      I hope this helps and let me know if you have any other questions. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Matt

        Thank you for sharing more details from your experience!

        I’m still trying to wrap my head around when/how the tickets are validated. How do they prevent Park-only ticket holders from going to High Cross and the exterior of the palace? Especially if Park+Palace ticket holders can freely wander in between the Park and Palace?

        Or perhaps I’m misunderstanding. Let’s say I enter through the main gate at 11am. Can I go to the exterior palace, then High Cross, then the Chalet of the Countess of Edla, then the Valley of the Lakes and then make my way back to the palace for my end-of-day interior palace entry time?

        My goal is to get to the exterior of the palace (and High Cross) around midday for photography lighting and do the interior of the palace tour at the end of the day for a hopefully less crowded experience. In between, I would ideally visit some of the park.

        1. Avatar for Julie Post

          Hi Matt. Thank you for writing in again. I took a lot of time to dive deeper into this. It was always our understanding that the only way you can walk on the terraces of the palace is to have a palace and park ticket. However, I don’t think that is correct. Scouring the official website and other online information, I only think you need the palace ticket to tour the interior and have access to the Queen’s Terrace. With a park ticket, visitors can visit all of the sites in the park, including the High Cross, and most of the terraces of Pena Palace. Thank you so much for being persistent and questioning what I wrote.
          As far as the order, I recommend starting down the the Valley of the Lakes and seeing the Chalet first (there is an entrance down the road from the main entrance in Pena Palace. You can see it here on Google Maps and if you drop Pegman at this point you can see the entrance on street view). Then walk up to the High Cross (using the map you can probably wind your way through the gardens), photograph the exterior of Pena Palace, and end with the interior. Here is a link to the map so you can see the location of everything. Thanks again and I will update this guide as necessary.
          Cheers, Julie

          1. Avatar for Matt

            I appreciate you taking the time to look into my questions and thank you for the information. It seems like we have read the same conflicting reports online about whether the exterior of the palace is included in the Park ticket… I’m probably going to play it safe and buy a Park+Palace ticket when I go in a couple of weeks, but if I do find some official information about this, I will report back here.

            If I may add, Pena Palace seems like a strong contender for the worst-run tourist attraction in the world. I have a whole rant about it (and Sintra in general), but I’ll save it for my spouse. 🙂 Despite everything, I’m sure I will enjoy my four nights there. Thanks again for this wonderful guide!

          2. Avatar for Julie Post

            I have to agree. They oversell the number of tickets to the interior of the palace. Not only is the line to enter incredibly long, but the slow trudge through the interior in the constant line of people really takes away from the experience. Have a great time in Portugal! Cheers, Julie

          3. Avatar for Matt

            I visited Pena Palace this week. Based on my experience, you don’t need a Palace ticket to visit the exterior of the palace (we just walked past the interior palace line and got onto the first terrace). At the same time, I’m finding the big sites of Portugal a little haphazard so I could see a scenario where the staff may ask to if you have an interior ticket before entering any of the terraces (e.g. if they are too crowded). But purely based on our experience, there was no ticket check to get onto the terrace and we just walked to the left of the (long) interior palace line to get onto the terraces.

            Also, when we were there, there was a sign announcing what time slot was allowed entry. We had a 4:30pm entry. We arrived at the interior entrance around 4:40pm. There was a line to get into the interior, but they were kind of separated from the time slot sign. So we walked up to the ticket scanner, told them we were for the 4:30pm timeslot and they let us in right away.

          4. Avatar for Julie Post

            This is great news! Thank you so much for taking the time to write in with this update. And I hope you enjoy the rest of your time on your trip! Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for BGNP63

    As far as tickets in Sintra, it might be worthy of an edit to comment that Get Your Guide does not offer senior discounts which are offered on the direct websites. The over 65 crowd should use the Parques de Sintra and Quinta da Regaleira sites for their tickets.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  3. Avatar for Deci

    Hi Julie & Tim! Thank you so much for all that you do for us, travel addicts. We used extensively your itineraries in our travels to Europe. I’m so happy that you posted your Portugal itinerary right before we came here. We used Bolt on a lot of our transportation within Lisbon, going to Sintra and to Cascais and back to Lisbon. Lisbon to Sintra with 2 adults was about $20 for both of us.I think it is so worth it because we were picked up from our hotel to the entrance of Pena Palace. From Moorish Castle to Monserrat is about €8. And Monserrate to Cascais was €15 for both of us. It is worth it rather than having to figure out and waiting time for public transport. And way cheaper than hiring a private transport. We were quoted €249/ person for Sintra, Cascais and Cabo da Roca. We ate at Las Dos Manos aswell and it was sublime. We even thought they’re Michellen starred. Once again, thank you.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Deci. Thank you so much for writing in with all of this…it is helpful for us and all of our readers. It sounds like Bolt is affordable and convenient. We used Uber occasionally in the cities and that worked well too, maybe a little more expensive. But that’s a great way to plan a day trip to Sintra and Cascais and the coast without having to rent a car or work out the bus schedules. Thank you again for writing in and happy travels to wherever you will be going next! Cheers, Julie

  4. Avatar for Melissa Cowan
    Melissa Cowan

    We used Bolt to get around Sintra (and Lisbon). It is slightly less expensive than Uber, and there are more drivers. We found it to be quite inexpensive.

    We have used your wonderful website for many travels. I was disappointed that we visited Portugal around the same time you did so that I was not able to make use of your advice.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Melissa. Thanks so much for writing in with the information about Bolt…that’s a great tip! I’m glad you like our site and thanks for the advice! Cheers, Julie

  5. Avatar for joanne
    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      That’s a great question. You will need a Pena Palace ticket in order to walk on the terraces of the palace and out to the High Cross. So yes, to see Pena Palace up close, you will need a ticket. The time slot is to enter the interior of the palace. Even if you don’t plan to enter the interior, you will still purchase the entrance ticket. There is only one ticket type for Pena Palace (and this ticket gets you into both the Park and Palace) and then you can add on supplements for shuttle transfers and an audioguide. Cheers, Julie

  6. Avatar for Nithish Jayaraj
    Nithish Jayaraj

    I was wondering if you had a list of things to do in Lisbon. I also wanted to know if you had a list of hotels for Lisbon as I am unable to find any hotels near the city center and I am a bit wary of independently owned hotels in general. Could you provide a list of hotels as I always trust Earthtrekkers and anytime I stay a hotel suggested on the website it’s a great experience.

    Thank you for all your work and the info you provide!

    – Nithish

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Nithish. I haven’t yet started compiling our list of things to do in Lisbon, but here is quick list of our favorite things/must-have experiences in Lisbon: Praça do Comércio, climb Arco da Rua Augusta for the view, see/ride Tram 28 (one of Lisbon’s most famous trams but it can be packed with people), Lisbon Cathedral, Miradouro de Santa Luzia, Mosteiro de São Vicente de Fora, take in the view from the roof of the National Pantheon (Panteão Nacional), Castelo de S. Jorge (Castelo de Sao Jorge), enjoy the view from the bell tower of Church of Our Lady of Grace (Igreja Paroquial da Graça), Pink Street, Time Out Market Lisboa, Elevador da Bica (Ascensor da Bica), Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, Jerónimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jeronimos), Belém Tower (Torre de Belém), National Tile Museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo), LX Factory, and have a pastry at Pastéis de Belém. Unfortunately, I don’t have a list of hotels yet. We stayed at the Four Seasons (we throw in a splurge hotel occasionally when we travel and it was very nice). We have had good results finding hotels on Booking.com and comparing the reviews with those on TripAdvisor. On Booking.com, we prefer hotels with a 9.0 rating higher that have lots of reviews (at least several hundred). I hope this helps and dependin on when you will be in Lisbon, hopefully we will have something published by then. And please let me know if you have any other questions. Cheers, Julie

  7. Avatar for Michele McGovern Gilbert
    Michele McGovern Gilbert

    What an amazing write-up of Sintra and its surrounding areas.

    When we visited, we walked from our hotel to Pena Palace. Yes, it was uphill, but it was not that difficult. We left our hotel about 3pm and it took us about an hour through Villa Sassetti. It was mostly in the shade. We also walked from Pena back to the Moorish Castle – super easy.

    We absolutely loved Sintra Marmoris Palace – our room was incredible and the staff could not have been nicer. The breakfast and nightly happy hours were incredibly generous. We loved this hotel. A highlight of our entire Portugal trip in September 2023.

    We drove from Sintra to Monseratte. Apple Maps kept bringing us to the service entrance of the palace. And, then, it sent us up a one-way road. The manager of our hotel told us this happens because a portion of the main road is closed and the mapping programs are totally confused. So, ask at your hotel for directions if you are driving yourself.

    We ate two dinners in Sintra. A Raposa was incredible. Tulhas was delicious and we had the funniest water named Nelson.

    Thank you, Tim and Julie for all you do! Your information is so helpful!


    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Michele. Thank you so much for writing in with these awesome tips! Marmoris Palace looks amazing and I wish we had stayed there for a night or two. Thanks again! Cheers, Julie

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