Majestic palaces embedded in a dreamy landscape turned Sintra into a true tourist magnet in Portugal. In this travel guide, I'll introduce you to the most important tips and things to do in Sintra, which is located just around the corner from the capital of Lisbon.
Sintra is surrounded by green nature and is contrary to the beaches of the Algarve or city trip destinations like Porto. My personal recommendations will help you make the most of your time. Use this navigation to navigate to my personal tips in Sintra you're most interested in:
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1. Sights & Things to do in Sintra
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, all of which 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.
In the summer, I recommend buying tickets for the individual attractions in advance, as the lines at the ticket counters can get extremely long. The local park administration now also sells admission tickets directly through GetYourGuide, which I have linked to accordingly.
a) The Old Town of Sintra
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, while also exploring the winding alleys around the Palacio Nacional.
b) Palacio da Pena & Cruz Alta
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 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 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 in advance here and thus avoid standing in line on-site:
c) Castelo dos Mouros – the 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 can easily be combined as both sights are just a few 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 in advance and thus avoid queuing on-site:
d) Quinta da Regaleira
If you like parks, you will love 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.
Also for this park you can buy your admission tickets in advance to avoid waiting in line on-site:
- Quinta da Regaleira Skip-the-Line Entry & Audio Tour
- Guided Tour and Entry Ticket to Quinta da Regaleira
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.
The palace is located slightly outside town and is hardly visited by tourists contrary to its popular neighbors. 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.
Use the chance and buy your tickets in advance:
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 in advance and skip the line on site:
2. Hikes & Tours in Sintra
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.
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. Especially if you are traveling without a rental car, this is a good choice to explore the spots at the coast mentioned below.
The following 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:
- Jeep Tour of Regaleira, Cabo da Roca, and Cascais
- Historical Jeep Tour
- Sintra Coast Jeep Adventure
- Jeep Safari, Sunset Hike, and Tapas at the Beach
b) Praia da Ursa & Cabo da Roca
Whether you have your own rental car, the bus (there is a good hop-on hop-off 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.
c) Hike to 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 access for free via the Komoot app:
- Pedras com vista – Pedra Amarela Loop from Ulgueira (large loop, intermediate)
- Santuario da Peninha – Anta de Adrenunes circuit from Atalaia de Cima (small loop, easy)
d) Day at the Beach at 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!
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:
- E-Bike-Tour from Sintra to Cascais (Palaces & Mountains)
- E-Bike-Trip from Cascais into the mountains of Sintras (Beaches & Mountains)
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)
3. Cafés & Restaurants in Sintra
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
4. Where to Stay in Sintra
As usual in addition to all the sights and tips in Sintra I also want to share my personal recommendations for accommodation. I have several 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:
|Budget||Rating||Reasons to stay|
The Five House (Hostel)
|€||9.3||Great location in the old town, breakfast included, budget friendly, good atmosphere|
|Casa da Pendoa||€€||8.3||central location in the old town, modern & comfortable, good value for money, incl. kitchenette|
|Wine Inn Villa (Apartment, my choice)||€€€||7.7||great location, spacious apartment with kitchen, ideal for couples|
|Quinta Verde Sintra||€€€||9.1||Great facilities with a pool in the countryside, just outside of Sintra (5km), nicely furnished rooms, ideal for switching off|
|Sintra Boutique Hotel||€€€€||9.1||Design hotel with chic rooms and upscale ambience, great location in the old town, great breakfast|
Any Sintra Tips or 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 Instragram. 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!
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.