With its palaces and historical monuments, forests and gardens, hills and beaches, Sintra is one of Portugal’s most scenic towns. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and a destination favored by the Moors over a thousand years ago, followed by Portugal’s kings and nobles. Today Sintra is a popular destination for day-trippers traveling from Lisbon.
Situated at the foothills of Serra de Sintra, about a 30-minute train ride from Lisbon, Sintra Portugal is studded with scores of places to see and things to do. We’ve narrowed it down to five here:
1. Explore the castle walls and ruins of Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle)
The Moorish Castle was a military fortification and the oldest construction in Sintra built around the 10th century by the Moors. This restored castle, perched at over 1,000 feet above sea level is surrounded by forest and provides panoramic views of Sintra. There are walkways for visitors to stroll along the stone walls and a few steps that have steep inclines that require more effort and stamina. Some of these steps are not ideal for those with limited mobility.
Parques de Sintra provides a map with recommended routes at the Moorish Castle. Among the highlights to visit are:
- Second ring of castle walls
- Archaeological site – homes of the Moors
- Stone cutting
- Arms Square
- Door of Betrayal
- Panoramic viewpoints of Sintra and the Atlantic Ocean (along the walkways and between the towers)
- Royal tower – for the best views including Pena Palace
Guided tours to the Moorish Castle are available from Lisbon and downtown Sintra. The most affordable ways to get there is by taking the bus number 434 from the railway station or Sintra Tourism Office.
2. Visit the palaces
Among the many palaces in Sintra, we recommend visiting National Palace of Sintra and Pena Palace. The National Palace of Sintra has a over 1,000-year-old history and is easily recognizable by its iconic twin conical chimneys. This palace at the historic town center still has almost all its original features of the mid-16th century. It is one of the most well-preserved medieval palaces in Portugal. The National Palace of Sintra served as a summer home for Portuguese kings until 1910.
The colorful Pena National Palace is at the top of Monte da Pena, the second highest point in Sintra. Built on the site of a former Hieronymite monastery in 1836, Pena Palace is an excellent example of Manueline and Moorish architecture. Besides visiting Pena Palace, take time to stroll through the park and visit the Chalet of the Countess of Edla, a two-story home of the king’s second wife.
If you have time to visit more palaces, go to Quinta da Regaleira and Monserrate Palace.
3. Stop by for coffee and pastries at Piriquita
Lisbon has its pastel de nata pastry and in Sintra, there is queijada and travesseiro. Queijadas de Sintra are pastries made of cheese, flour, sugar, eggs, and cinnamon. Travesseiros de Sintra are puff pastries stuffed with almond cream and eggs. To get both of these pastries go to Piriquita, a confectionary shop in the heart of Sintra, about a five-minute walk from the National Palace.
4. Wander the cobblestone streets and have lunch
Wander the winding cobblestone streets and alleyways of the old town center and check out the artisan shops and cafes. We recommend lunch at San Pedro 26 for Sintra’s roasted lamb and seafood.
5. Take Sintra tram to the beach
Take the 100-year-old tram from Sintra to Praia das Macas, about a 45-minute ride from Sintra. Buy your tickets at Vila Alda – Casa do Electrico de Sintra on R. Gen. Alves Rocadas 2. It runs on a limited schedule and is only available from Friday to Sunday.
The return tickets are available through the tram driver. Sintra’s tram is by no means luxurious. Sudden stops and bumpy rides are part of the excitement of riding this tram. The good news is you can expect beautiful scenery along the way. And the fare is extremely affordable.
Have you been to Sintra Portugal?