Ready to explore the beautiful Sintra castles and palaces? You will not regret it. This town is a true gem of Portugal and it will leave you wanting for more, no matter how long you stay.
Sintra is simply a Portuguese gem. While many tourists visit this charming town as a day trip destination from Lisbon, it’s slowly gaining the attention of many as a destination that is worth exploring some more.
This town in the middle of the majestic Sierra de Sintra is characterized by its rippling mountains and dewy forests. Exploring its grounds feels like you are taking off a page from a fairy tale book and getting inside that magical scene.
This isn’t romanticizing the town at all – it’s dotted with luxurious mansions and opulent palaces, along with ruins of ancient castles and pastel manors. If you are not enchanted with the idea of having a taste of Sintra yet, then wait until you get to see these attractions for yourself. It definitely should be on your Portugal itinerary!
While Sintra is home to a number of attractions, there is no doubt that the castles and palaces are on the top of the list of delighted visitors. Treat your eyes to the wondrous view of these majestic castles and palaces that will leave you breathless and in awe.
How to get to Sintra from Lisbon
A visit to Sintra is a highlight for those who go to Portugal. I 100% recommend that you take a day trip from Lisbon to Sintra, or even better, you spend some days in Sintra, maybe as part of a longer road trip in Portugal.
The best way to do this route is by taking the train since it’d make no sense to drive to Sintra because finding a parking spot in the town can be hard. Taking trains, you can easily get from Lisbon to Sintra or vice versa with ease.
▶ You can catch the train at Lisbon’s Rossio train station. Trains leave 6 times per hour during the peak season but you should check the train departure schedule here. You can get the Lisbon transport card to save on the cost of the train ride. The cost per ticket is around €2.50 for a 40-minute journey (via the Urbano train). You can get off at the Sintra station and easily access the top tourist attractions in the town.
▶ Otherwise, you can visit with a tour. Most Sintra tours from Lisbon will pick you up at your hotel and bring you to some of the most famous palaces in Sintra including Pena Palace, plus will bring your to Cabo da Roca and the coastal town of Cascais.
How to Save Money with the Sintra Pass
But before we move on to explore Sintra’s palaces and castles, may I recommend something? Chances are you’re going to go to Sintra as part of your visit to Lisbon. Moreover, I bet you’ll stay in Lisbon for a few days.
If that’s the case, and you would like to save some money, I HIGHLY recommend you get the Sintra Pass. Why? Let’s see what’s included, shall we?
This is an all-in-one pass valid for 48 hours. It includes:
- Entrance to Pena Palace (including the park) and the Castle of the Moors, arguably the two best castles in Sintra;
- The Lisbon Card (the Lisbon Card!!!), which gives you unlimited free use of public transportation (including the famous tram 28), free train travel to Sintra, free entry to 26 museums and monuments (including the Belem Tower and Jeronimos Monastery), and many other discounts;
- 2 audio guides, one of Lisbon and one of Sintra;
- 10% discount on other Sintra attractions.
I rest my case. I really believe this is a sweet deal, but do the math and see for yourself! ➥ BUY IT HERE
5 Castles in Sintra You Don’t Want To Miss
The palaces and castles of Sintra, Portugal’s little gem of a town, are among the coveted sights for tourists who visit it, so here are the 5 castles that definitely should be on your list of places to see.
Palacio da Pena | Pena Palace
Sintra’s most colorful castle is actually a palace. The Pena Palace in Sintra is one of the finest tourist attractions in town.
This palace is the best example of the 19th-century Romantic architecture style in Portugal. It’s a visual extravaganza with its vibrantly painted terraces, mythological statues, and decorative battlements.
The elaborate architectural details stand out against the location of this palace, which is filled with lush green amidst the Parque de Pena forest.
When you step inside the palace, you’ll be completely in awe at the 1910s-inspired décor which is consistent with the ideals of Romanticism and the use of mystical ornaments and hidden pathways. To say that this is one of the most magnificent castles in the world is an understatement. It’s so unique and splendid that millions of tourists flock to Sintra with the sole purpose of visiting this palace.
Some of the highlights that you need to check out in Palacio da Pena include the queen’s terrace, the decorative gateway, and the sumptuous staterooms. You also have the chance of hiking up to the Cruz Alta viewpoint if you want to enjoy a magnificent view of the palace from a different perspective.
➤ The tickets to the palace and the park are separate, so you could just get into the park (and not the palace) if you wanted to. Buying in advance is a good idea since it can get very very crowded. This ticket includes access to both the palace and the park, and has a free cancellation option. ➥ BUY IT HERE
➤ If you have limited time and want to see the best of Sintra in one day, I recommend this Pena Palace, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, & Cascais Daytrip. It has all the musts in the area, including a guided visit with priority access to the Pena Palace. Each stop is a destination in itself. Prepare to walk and come back with your heart full! ➥ BOOK IT NOW
Opening hours: the Palace is open from 9:30 AM until 6:30 PM (last admission at 6 pm), and the Park is open from
9 AM until 7 PM (last admission at 6 pm).
Castelo dos Mouros | Castle of the Moors also called Moorish Castle
There is a difference between castles and palaces. The formers are built not only for residential but also for defense purposes, so they act as fortresses too, while palaces are sumptuous residences for the noble and the rich, not for defense.
With this distinction in mind, the Moorish Castle in Sintra is the only true castle in town, that’s why it has fortified walls and turrets.
Built in the 8th and 9th centuries, the Moorish Castle is one of Portugal’s oldest preserved fortresses, and one of the oldest buildings in Sintra. You’ll see that’s on a hill that offers amazing views.
This ruinous castle was built to guard the town of Sintra and was constructed by the North African Moors but it sadly fell into decay once the Christians conquered Portugal.
In the 19th century, King Ferdinand II restored it, transforming it into a romantic castle with gardens. To this day, the ancient charm of the castle remains here to be enjoyed, especially as the dense forest around is starting to enclose into the castle.
While there are many castles and palaces in Sintra, there is nothing quite like this one.
➤ Here you can get tickets in advance to skip the lines and gain some precious time in your visit! This ticket has a free cancellation option, in case your plans change. ➥ BUY IT HERE
Opening hours: open seven days a week from 9:30 AM to 6:30 PM (last admission at 6 PM).
Palacio Nacional de Sintra | Sintra National Palace
The Palacio Nacional de Sintra is one of the best-preserved royal palaces in Sintra. In comparison to other palaces and castles in Sintra, this one features a minimalist exterior but don’t let that fool you because the interior is as elaborate and stately as it can get.
A favorite among the Portuguese nobility, this palace has close ties with the history of the Portuguese nobles. It served as a residence for noble families from the 15th century until the 19th century.
Right at the heart of Sintra, the Sintra National Palace palace is easy to get to which also explains its popularity. In fact, it has earned the nickname as the Town Palace for its proximity and for how the two massive chimneys that protrude above the palace are two of the most distinctive features of Sintra.
When you visit the interior and grounds of the Palacio Nacional de Sintra, some of the notable attractions that are really worth seeing include the Coat of Arms Room, The Magpie Room, The Palatine Chapel, and the Swan Room.
➤ The National Palace is a good first stop on your Sintra trip, since it’s right in the center of town! Here you can get skip-the-line tickets for quicker access. ➥ BUY IT HERE
Opening hours: both the palace and the gardens are open from 9:00 AM to 6:30 PM (last admission at 6 PM).
Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira, one of the palaces that are part of Sintra’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, is recognized for its cultural value. As such, it gives you one more reason to include this gorgeous estate in your list of places to see in Sintra.
It’s a 20th-century residence made up of five floors along with an ornate gothic façade. So, tourists will feel a gloomy yet romantic atmosphere the moment they walk into the castle. As you explore the façade and interiors of the castle, you’ll notice several references to the Masons, Knights Templar, and dark alchemy.
The real attraction of this gorgeous estate is in the enchanting gardens, though. These gardens were designed in such a way that they would mimic the vibe of the ancient secret orders.
The famous Well of Initiation is one of the must-see attractions at the site and within this well are tunnels that are connected to various parts of the castle, along with more hidden passages that go as deep as 27 meters down!
This house was started in 1904 by a wealthy Portuguese businessman, and it was finished after 6 years. The family lived in this estate until 1987 when it was purchased by a Japanese business until 1997 when the house was reclaimed by the Sintra government and was opened to the public in 1998.
➤ This Sintra, Regaleira, Cape Roca, and Cascais Tour is a fantastic option to explore Sintra, with a tour of Quinta da Regaleira, where the guide will tell you all about its mystical secrets. See the Pena Palace and then head to nature in beautiful Cascais and Cabo da Roca. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
Opening hours: from 10 AM to 6:30 PM (last admission at 5:30 PM).
Located 3.5 km from the historic center of Sintra, the Monserrate Palace is one of the most visually striking mansions in the Portuguese town. This magnificent villa is also surrounded by a gorgeous estate and a park.
While not as famous as the other castles and palaces I mentioned above, it’s a favorite among those who have toured it. It’s so great that tourist guides in Sintra would recommend spending at least 2 hours here to see most of what the palace has to offer, especially the amazing park.
The architectural style of Monserrate Palace is unique as it combines elements of the Gothic, Arabic, and Indian styles. All of these details combine to create a stunning summer house with an exquisite garden that is as beautiful as the palace itself!
This palace was built for Englishman Sir Francis Cook who wanted to build a summer residence in Portugal. He transformed the ruins of a neo-gothic palace from the mid-1800s to what this palace is today.
Wandering around the grounds and interiors of the palace will make you feel like you have traveled the world. If you have the chance of visiting Monserrate Palace, don’t miss the ruined chapel, the Mexican garden, and the amazing waterfall here.
➤ If you want to get tickets in advance and have everything sorted for your visit, you can get skip-the-line tickets here for both the palace and the park. ➥ BUY IT HERE
➤ If you want to visit the very best of Sintra, including the Monserrate Palace, take a look at this Sintra Highlights Full-Day Tour, where you will also get to visit Quinta da Regaleira and Pena Palace, two other musts in Sintra. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
Opening hours: the Palace is open from 9:30 AM to 6:30 PM (last admission at 6 PM); the Park is open from 9 AM to 7 PM (last admission at 6 PM).
Other Places To Visit Near Sintra
Aside from the castles and palaces I already included above, there are a few other attractions worth checking out in Sintra. These are some other places you should add to your itinerary.
Convent of the Capuchos
If you want to explore more of the incredible sights in town, make sure to drop by Convent of the Capuchos, Sintra’s very own Franciscan monastery in the middle of a dense forest and surrounded by the Serra de Sintra National Park.
The construction of this monastery was designed in such a way that it causes minimal impact on the natural surroundings. So, it’s simplistic in its design concept and is distinctively different from the elaborate architectural styles of the castles and palaces in Sintra.
The Convent of the Capuchos served as a quiet residence and place of reflection for the Franciscan monks and while this convent is a bit far away from the conventional tourist routes in Sintra, it’s well worth the effort to go. It’s considered one of the top historical monuments in the area.
Within the monastery grounds are small chapels, kitchens, quarters, and retreats; all of which are linked by narrow cave-like passages. There are also plenty of giant boulders in the surrounding atmosphere.
➤ For a peaceful visit to this unique monastery, you can book the tickets here and go straight in. ➥ BUY IT HERE
Opening hours: from 9 AM to 6 PM (last admission at 5 PM).
National Palace of Queluz
The National Palace of Queluz is an extravagantly designed palace that served as a royal residence in the 18th century. It’s at the midway point between Lisbon and Sintra, which makes it accessible from either part of Portugal.
Although it’s often overlooked by tourists, those who dare to visit it are rewarded with a spectacular view of a Baroque palace with plenty of history!
The palace was constructed in 1747 and was the home of Queen D. Maria I and her husband. But tragic events transpired within the family’s home as the Queen was tormented by the death of her son until she turned insane.
Despite the sad and intriguing history of the palace, you’ll be impressed by the sheer beauty of the stately rooms inside. You’ll see the interior rooms with a blend of French and Neo-Classical architectural styles.
Some of the most interesting rooms worth seeing are the Throne Room, Chapel, Music Hall, and the Princess’ Apartments.
➤ If you want to stand out from the crowds and visit this incredible palace, with this ticket you’ll get skip-the-line entry to both the palace and the gardens. ➥ BUY IT HERE
➤ This Half-Day Sintra Tour from Lisbon will take you not only to Queluz Palace with a guide, but also to Pena Palace and Cascais on a half-day full of exploration. Don’t forget your walking shoes! ➥ BOOK IT NOW
Opening hours: the Palace is open from 9 AM to 6 PM, while the gardens are open from 9 AM to 6:30 PM (last admission for both is at 5.30 PM).
Cabo da Roca
Cabo da Roca is the westernmost point of Portugal. It’s an awe-inspiring place with a 150-m cliff, a lighthouse, a monument, and a gift shop.
Even though you won’t find too many activities to do here, your eyes will be in for a treat as you get to enjoy one of the most spectacular views in Portugal. The stunning and dramatic coastline is the main attraction for tourists who come here.
Cabo da Roca is easy to get to because it’s on the route of main the bus from Sintra to Cascais (bus route 403). If you’re traveling from Sintra, it takes about 40 minutes to get here.
How To Get Around Sintra
Getting around Sintra is easy with a number of public transportation options. One of the best ways to get around is via bus.
▶ The hop-on, hop-off bus 435 is recommended for tourists that go from the train station to Sintra-Vila and onwards to other destinations in town such as Quinta da Regaleira and Parque de Monserrate.
▶ Another bus for you to take is the 434 bus, which runs frequently and takes you all the way from the Sintra train station to Pena Palace and Castelo dos Mouros.
If you want to save on the cost of the bus ticket, you can purchase the one-day €15.10 ticket for the Scotturb bus. This will give you access to all routes serviced by the bus until midnight. The only downside is that getting on the bus may require you to wait on lines as it can get very busy.
▶ If you want to skip the long lines, you can use Uber to get around Sintra. This is a practical choice if you are traveling as a group with 2 or more people. It can also save you time when going from one attraction to another so you can take more advantage of the day.
How Long Should you Stay in Sintra?
If you have limited time, you can visit Sintra as part of a day trip from Lisbon or elsewhere, either independently or as part of a Lisbon to Sintra tour. You should be able to see some of the highlights of Sintra in a day.
To maximize your day trip, make sure you arrive early (before 9 AM) since most of the top attractions in Sintra can get easily crowded and you will have the chance to visit them before the bulk of the crowd arrives.
On the other hand, if you have a few days to spare, it’s worth spending some more time in this town. The town offers plenty of things to see and do, plus you’ll have enough time to truly enjoy each destination rather than trying to fit them all in one day.m
Sintra Castles & Palaces FAQ
Due to its beauty and cooler climate, Sintra became a favorite of the Royalty and the nobility, who started to build their palaces and summer residences here. The Moors, who invaded the peninsula in the 700’s AD also built several fortifications here, including the only castle in town: Castelo dos Mouros.
The Pena Palace is Disneyland-level gorgeous from the outside and very interesting on the inside. However, many people seem to be a bit disappointed about the interior, especially because of the crowds and limited space to walk around. It’s always a good idea to visit if you’re really into its history and don’t mind the crowds. Otherwise, stroll around the gardens and enjoy the view from the entrance, which is breathtaking!
A resounding YES. Many people visit only on a day trip to Lisbon, but Sintra is a real gem and it’s worth exploring for a few days if you can. I mean, it has it all: the charm, the intriguing history, the nature (both mountains and ocean), the architecture, the food… very much worth it!