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20 Fun Things to do in Sintra, Portugal

Palacio Pena in Sintra

Majestic palaces embedded in a dreamy landscape turned Sintra into a true tourist magnet in Portugal. I've been to Sintra more than 10 times myself. Here I'll introduce you to the most important tips and things to do in Sintra.

Sintra is located just a 30 minute drive from the capital of Portugal. In my post about the best things to do in Lisbon I mentioned the option of visiting Sintra on a day trip. But, truth to be told, this city deserves more time. I recommend spending about 2 to 3 days in order to explore Sintra and its surroundings.

1. Sights

The cultural landscape of Sintra is a combination of picturesque parks and historic buildings. There is a reason it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995. In this section, I list my personal favorites. Most of them are just a short shuttle ride away (bus or UBER/Bolt) from each other. If you like, you can even explore the following Sintra Tips by walking, with the exception of Palacio Monserrate.

I strongly advice against traveling with your car to Sintra. The old town is a true maze of one way streets, parking spaces are very rare and expensive. If you decide to come for the day from Lisbon I recommend in doing so by booking one of the tours I mentioned in “Tours”.

Furthermore I recommend buying tickets for the individual attractions in advance. The lines at the ticket counters can get extremely long. This is particularly recommendable for the most famous sights such as the Pena Palace. The local park administration now sells admission tickets directly through GetYourGuide, which I have linked to accordingly.

a) Old Town

The historic center should be the starting point to explore all the things to do in Sintra. The old town is also home to most of the accommodations, restaurants, and cafes which makes it a great place to base yourself.

Depending on which part of town you find yourself, you should take a walk that stretches from the train station to Quinta da Regaleira. Take your time and make sure to explore the winding alleys around the Palacio Nacional.

The old town of Sintra is its very own sight.

b) Pena Palace

One of the city's most famous buildings, the architecturally unique and extremely colorful Palacio da Pena, towers high above Sintra. The palace is without a doubt the top tourist attraction and can be found on numerous covers of popular Portugal travel guide books.

It is definitely worth a visit, I particularly like the surrounding park with its various small gardens and plants from all over the world. In fact, the construction of the pena palace is credited to a German. Ferdinand II built it on the ruins of a monastery destroyed by the 1755 earthquake. His main focus though was designing the park. It's hard to believe that this hill was previously completely treeless and more reminiscent of a moonscape.

Although the pena palace is architecturally interesting I'd avoid visiting the inside of the palace due to the massive crowds and waiting times during high season. Instead, I recommend taking a stroll through the park and a small hike to the “Cruz Alta.” When you reach the top, you can enjoy a unique panorama from Lisbon to the postcard motif of the Pena Palace (from the summit cross).

You can purchase tickets for the Pena Palace in advance and thus avoid standing in line on-site:

Palacio da Pena
The Pena Palace (port. “Palacio da Pena”) is undoubtedly one of the attractions in Sintra that has made the place famous worldwide.

Cruz Alta, Palacio da Pena
For the famous postcard motif of the Pena Palace, you need to take a short walk to the Cruz Alta.

c) Moorish Castle

When it comes to a combination of historical buildings and breathtaking views, the Moorish Castle is my clear favorite among this list of Sintra Tips. Located below the Pena Palace, a visit to the “Castelo dos Mouros” can easily be combined as both sights are just a short walk away from each other.

Take a stroll along the impressive castle walls. From the highest point you will find numerous niches and towers that offer great views of Sintra, its palaces, and the surrounding landscape.

You can buy entrance tickets to the moorish castle in advance and thus avoid waiting time on-site:

Moorish Castle
You also have a great view of the Pena Palace and Sintra from the Moorish Castle. The castle sits high above the old town of Sintra.

d) Quinta da Regaleira

If you like parks, you will love the Quinta da Regaleira. The winding gardens are like a big maze and combine water features with small towers, a system of caves, and a miniature palace. There's even a garden café here!

During the summer months it can get pretty busy so I recommend coming right after opening to beat the day-trippers from Lisbon. After the Pena Palace the Quinta da Regaleira is the second most visited attraction in Sintra. If it gets to busy you should consider a visit to the Monserrate Palace with its beautiful gardens instead.

Also for this park you can buy your admission tickets in advance to avoid waiting time on-site:

For me, Quinta da Regaleira is one of the most beautiful things to do in Sintra. With its numerous small gardens and a beautiful little palace it is a famous sight for people on a day trip from Lisbon.
This winding staircase made the park famous. This motif is often used to advertise day tours from Lisbon to Sintra.

e) Monserrate Palace

One of the things to do in Sintra that can still be considered an insider tip is the Monserrate Palace. I myself only discovered it on my 5th visit to Sintra (!) and was completely amazed. With the Pena Palace getting all of the attention, most visitor run out of time to also pay a visit to this place on their day trip from Lisbon.

The Monserrate Palace is located slightly outside town and hardly visited by tourists. This results in a relaxed atmosphere where you can enjoy the themed gardens and picturesque palace almost alone. The gardens are divided into country themes with typical plants and trees from the respective regions. If you are in need of a quiet getaway you should consider spending some time here!

Use the chance and buy your tickets for the Monserrate Palace in advance:

Besides the chic, small palace, it's mainly the surrounding gardens that make a visit worthwhile.

Each garden of the Monserrate Palace represents a different country with typical plants from the respective region. Definitely worth a visit!

f) National Palace of Sintra

Another signature landmark of the city is at the same time one of the things to do in Sintra when it rains. The former royal palace is particularly known for its 2 pointy towers, which are actually the chimney stacks of the palace kitchen.

The National Palace is also a witness to the different eras that Sintra experienced throughout its history. From the Moorish palace to the royal summer palace with thematically designed rooms, a visit to the premises is definitely worth it.

Here you can buy tickets fro the National Palace in advance and skip the line on site:

National Palace
The National Palace is characterized by its two striking towers…which are actually the chimney stacks of the palace kitchen 🙂

2. Hikes & Tours

Apart from the cultural sights there are also numerous scenic things to do in Sintra and its surroundings. The combination of hills, forests, cliffs and natural beaches make Sintra a very diverse destination for nature lovers and outdoor fans alike.

a) Jeep tours

A fun option to explore the things to do in Sintra and the surrounding region is to book a jeep tour, which combines several highlights in just one day. Especially if you are traveling without a rental car, this is a good choice to explore the spots at the coast and make the best of your time.

The following day tour packages combine several attractions and offer different routes. The value for the money you pay is great, only entrance fees for the palaces are usually not included:

Explore Sintra by jeep – a good option to visit several Sintra sights in a short amount of time!

b) Praia da Ursa & Cabo da Roca

Whether you have your own rental car, the bus (there is a good hop-on hop-off bus network here) or you use UBER/Bolt. The westernmost point of mainland Portugal and thus also of continental Europe and the Eurasian landmass is located only a short drive from Sintra.

I highlight both, the viewpoint “Cabo da Roca” and the beautiful beach “Praia da Ursa” in my detailed Cascais travel guide.

From Cabo da Roca you can enjoy a unique coastal panorama.
A short but challenging hike from Cabo da Roca is the one taking you to the beautiful beach of Praia da Ursa.

c) Pedra Amarela

The mountains surrounding Sintra are also ideal for a hiking tour. One of my favorite spots to watch the sunset from is the Pedra Amarela viewpoint. This unique lookout is located right next to a local ranger observation tower.

It is only a short walk from the small car park (located just off the road) to get to the viewpoint.

There is a whole network of hiking trails around the viewpoint. Here are a few tour suggestions that you can follow via the AllTrails app:

d) Praia Grande

Do you fancy a day at the beach between all the sightseeing, hiking and all the food? On the coastline of the region surrounding Sintra you will find some of Portugals best beaches for swimming and surfing.

The largest and most easily accessible beach in the area is Praia Grande (hence the name). You will find numerous parking spots directly on the beach, as well as some good options for snacks and drinks. A day at the beach here can be easily combined with a trip to Cabo da Roca and Praia da Ursa!

Praia Pequena, Sintra
The two beaches Praia Grande (background) and Praia Pequena (foreground) are also ideal for surfing in a unique setting! Both beaches are located just a short walk apart from each other.

e) E-Bike Tours

You can also hop on an e-bike to explore the area in a more active way. The advantage of this: thanks to the electrical support you can tackle steep climbs without getting completely out of breath (nevertheless: even with an e-bike you have to make a physical effort).

There are a handful of agencies in Sintra that offer a variety of e-bike tours. Though most of the tours are offered with a pick-up in Lisbon you can ask for a pick-up directly in Sintra, since this is the starting point for all of them:

A fun way to explore the things to do in Sintra

f) Unique Experiences

If you are looking for something truly unique you can also find some Sintra tours and experiences out of the ordinary:

  • Countryside Gastronomic Tour in a Vintage Car (from Sintra)
  • Paragliding Tandem Flight (from Lisbon)
  • Would you dare to go for a Paragliding Flight across the Sintra mountains?

    3. Cafés & Restaurants

    When writing a travel guide about Sintra the culinary highlights are just as important as the places to visit. Because of my multiple visits I'm able to recommend quite a few places in the center of Sintra. Most of the following recomendations are either directly in the old town or require only a short walk to get there.

    a) Incomun (Restaurant)

    Anyone looking for a culinary highlight in Sintra should consider a visit to Incomun. Here you get a fine dining experience at a fair price, the kitchen uses traditional Portuguese dishes and gives them a modern twist. I highly recommend to reserve a table in advance. Great spot!

    R. Dr. Alfredo da Costa 22, 2710-523 Sintra, Portugal

    Opening Hours
    Thursday – Tuesday 12:00 – 24:00h,
    Wednesday closed

    b) Metamorphosis (Restaurant)

    At Metamorphosis you can get solid Portuguese cuisine for a small budget in a cozy setting. The restaurant is located in the vicinity of the train station.

    R. João de Deus 43, 2710-580 Sintra, Portugal

    Opening Hours
    every day 12:00 – 22:30h

    Portuguese cuisine for a smaller budget – Metarmorphosis is worth a visit!

    c) Piriquita (Café/Bakery)

    Piriquita is in fact also one of the things to do in Sintra. The reason for this is the long tradition in making the delicious, Sintra-typical pastries “Traviseiro” and “Queijada” for which Piriquita is known in the region. Apart from that this typical Portuguese Café is an ideal choice for breakfast or a snack in between. Good pastries and even better prices!

    R. Padarias 1, 2710-603 Sintra, Portugal

    Opening Hours
    Monday – Friday 09:00 – 19:00h,
    Saturday & Sunday 09:00 – 19:30h

    If you stop by, I recommend ordering the travisseiro with chocolate filling. Make sure to walk of the calories after by paying a visit to the extensive gardens of the Pena Palace.

    d) Fabrica da Nata (Café/Bakery)

    If you missed the opportunity to try the tempting pastel de Nata's in Lisbon here's another chance. If you are already addicted to the tarts a brief visit to the Fabrica de Nata is a must. The pasteis are always freshly prepared here and usually come warm straight out of the oven. Hmmmmmm!

    Praça da República Nº 6, 2710-616 Sintra, Portugal

    Opening Hours
    every day 09:00 – 20:00h

    Also in Sintra you can enjoy vanilla tarts fresh from the oven!

    e) O Melhor Croissant (Café/Bakery)

    Another good option for a sweet breakfast is this bakery close to the train station. As the name suggests everything here revolves around freshly made croissants. I can highly recommend the chocolate croissants!

    Largo Afonso de Albuquerque n15c, 2710-568 Sintra, Portugal

    Opening Hours
    every day 08:30 – 19:00h

    f) 3 Gomes (Restaurant, Cabo da Roca)

    When visiting Cabo da Roca and/or hiking to Praia da Ursa I recommend a stop at 3 Gomes. Here you can get first-class Portuguese cuisine at a good price in a great atmosphere. I have been here for dinner numerous times and always combine a trip to the westernmost point of Europe with a visit here. Worth it!

    Estrada do Cabo da Roca 23, 2705-001 Azóia, Portugal

    Opening Hours
    every day 12:30 – 22:30h

    g) Aldeia da Praia (Food Market, Praia Grande)

    This small food market is located close to Praia Grande and a great option for lunch or an afternoon snack. I can particularly recommend the stand with the homemade pizzas – the dough is amazing!

    Avenida do Atlântico S/N Antiga Colonia de Ferias da CP, 2705-288 Colares, Portugal

    Azenhas do Mar is one of my Sintra Tips located at the coast of the region. A great destination for a road trip along the coast.

    4. Hotels

    As usual in addition to all the sights and tips in Sintra I also want to share my personal recommendations for accommodation. As mentioned earlier I highly recommend staying in Sintra instead of doing a day trip from Lisbon.

    I have several hotel recommendations in different categories on offer. This way you can choose depending on your budget and preferences.

    Wine Inn (Apartment) – my choice

    During my last stay in Sintra my parents were visiting so we decided to book a small holiday apartment. The Wine Inn Villa is located right in the old town and is ideal for couples and small families. The owner has also other apartments in Sintra on offer.

    Use the following table to choose the right option for you:

    BudgetRatingReasons to stay

    The Five House (Hostel)
    9.3Great location in the old town, breakfast included, budget friendly, good atmosphere
    Casa da Pendoa€€8.3central location in the old town, modern & comfortable, good value for money, incl. kitchenette
    Wine Inn Villa (Apartment, my choice)€€€7.7great location, spacious apartment with kitchen, ideal for couples
    Quinta Verde Sintra€€€9.1Great facilities with a pool in the countryside, just outside of Sintra (5km), nicely furnished rooms, ideal for switching off
    Sintra Boutique Hotel€€€€9.1Design hotel with chic rooms and upscale ambience, great location in the old town, great breakfast

    The Wine Inn Villa is cozy and well located just a short walk from the National Palace.

    This apartment offers space for more than 2 with the pull-out sofa in the living/dining room.

    Any Things to do in Sintra, Portugal you'd like to add?

    I wrote this Sintra travel guide based on my own experience. If you have been to Sintra as well and you have something to add to this list of things to do in Sintra please feel free to reach out via Instagram. In case you liked my Sintra Tips and found them helpful, I would appreciate if you could share it with your friends or link to it from your homepage!

    The Pena Palace could easily be part of a Disney movie, don't you think? The Pena Palace is the most famous sight of Sintra. Hundrets of tourists are visiting the palace every day as part of a day trip from Lisbon.

    Disclosure: This Sintra Guide is not only full of personal Sintra Tips and things to do in Sintra, it also contains Affiliate Links for services and products I’m using on my travels. Therefore I can highly recommend them. By using these links you won’t pay any additional fees. All recommendations, tips, opinions, and ironic remarks are, as always, my own.

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