Sintra is a Portuguese gem that you really can’t miss; especially if you’re already in Lisbon. Honestly, there are so many incredible and best things to do in Sintra, even if you visit on a day trip. This is exactly why I wanted to share some easy tips and the best things to do in Sintra when exploring the region.
It’s easily one of the most beautiful places in Portugal and certainly packs some punch when it comes to amazing sights to see.
Truth be told, a mere glance at photos of Sintra will leave you convinced to visit, I’m sure. This is exactly what got us to visit that very first time. After being told how easy it was to visit (in Lisbon), we knew we had to make the trip over.
We’d rented a car, and this made it really easy but there’s also private transfers, tours and buses that also leave from the centre of Lisbon, too.
With that in mind, take a little gander at some of the best things to do in Sintra when you visit. Have the best trip!
1.) Getting To Sintra
Now, first up, before you start enjoying all the best things to do in Sintra, you’ll need to get yourself over here!
As I said, it’s relatively close to Lisbon (and almost feels like it’s on the outskirts of the city).
We travelled to Sintra by car and it was really simple. Plus, you can easily tag Sintra on to a trip to Cascais (further west) that’s a little like the Monte Carlo of Portugal.
After arriving, it can be a bit cumbersome to park as it’s very limited but it is possible. Now, there are a few spots to park, with one in the town area (see this point on Google Maps)
After parking up, you can then hire yourself a taxi, hop on the bus or bolt to the different palaces and areas of Sintra. It’s probably the easiest way if you’re travelling by car.
Alternatively, hop on the 40-minute train from Lisbon’s Rossio station. Trains usually depart two times an hour. Though, it’s always worth checking once you arrive in the city to be totally sure.
Also, the 434 Tourist Bus connects all the main sights to see once in Sintra so it’s easy once you’re there.
2.) Parque de Pena
Sintra is chock-filled with a heap of natural and cultural sites that have been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.
In fact, Sintra as a whole is a UNESCO World Heritage site that’s been recognised for its incredible history and cultural importance. Obviously, you’ve got some of the incredible palaces that stand out as the best things to do in Sintra; but that’s not just it.
Remember, the whole region is a protected site (not just the buildings). This all means there are ample spots to explore and see that is nestled within the natural landscape, too.
For instance, a particular site is Parque de Pena which was built way back in the 19th Century.
Constructed by Ferdinand II, it was filled full of tree and plant species from all over the world. Nowadays, most have matured to make an incredible landscape to enjoy. It’s totally stunning and one of the best things to do in Sintra on a nice sunny day.
3.) Monserrate Palace
Created for Sir Francis Cook, visiting Monserrate Palace is one of the best things to do in Sintra.
Now, I know that Pena Palace is the one that draws most people here; but Monserrate Palace is a total gem that you really can’t miss.
It’s a total mix of architectures and was rebuilt on the ruins of the previous palace complex that was destroyed heavily by an earthquake way back when.
Nowadays, you can take a wander through the palace (and its grounds) to see neo-gothic and Indian influences, too.
Honestly, it’s stunning inside and out.
Plus, the microclimate of this area of Portugal means that the gardens are in pristine conditions with species growing that you’d probably not normally expect here.
4.) Pena Palace
Perched upon the tip of Serra, Pena Palace is easily the most famous palaces and up there with the best things to do in Sintra for sure.
After all, it’s so eye-catching and vibrant. It really stands out.
Now, obviously, with popularity, comes the crowds. It can get very busy here so plan your trip at off-peak times or first thing in the morning or before closing. This way, you’ll miss the big bus groups that can cause queues in getting around the inside of Pena Palace itself.
Originally designed by Possidónio da Silva, it’s stunning and you certainly can’t miss it whilst in Sintra.
5.) Initiation Well
Perched on the property of Quinta da Regaleira, the Initiation Well is so much like buried towers that are hidden underground. They feel so special to see, even if it is for a little stroll after exploring Quinta da Regaleira.
Apparently, there’s lots of folklore about how these tunnels were used, especially by Freemasonry and Knights Templar, too.
Oh, and don’t forget to visit the Terrace of the Celestial Worlds, too. From here, you’ll get to see the Waterfall Lake that’s perched on the grounds.
6.) Moorish castle
Perched not too far from Pena Palace, exploring the Moorish castle is easily one of the best things to do in Sintra if you want to see the ruins of what once stood here.
Now, as I said, it is relatively in ruins but you can still head out to walk the walls, see the keep and explore the barbican, too. It’s well worth visiting.
Plus, one of the best views in Sintra is from Moorish Castle. Pena Palace is actually higher but the castle walls offer more uninterrupted views of the town, Pena Palace and the other palaces, too.
7.) Quinta da Regaleira
Consisting of a gorgeous estate and chapel (along with the gardens), exploring Quinta da Regaleira is easily one of the best things to do in Sintra and easily paired with the Initiation Well.
Only for the last few decades has Quinta da Regaleira been open to the public. You see, back in the late 20th Century, a Japanese company owned it and closed it for private use. Nowadays, Sintra now owns the palace and is open for us all to see. It’s a really special place
Once here, keep your eyes peeled for the Manueline symbols that line the turrets of the main house itself.
8.) Sintra National Palace
Once home to the Portuguese Royal Family, Sintra National Palace is pretty easy to visit once you’re already in the area.
Perched next door to the Natural History Museum of Sintra, within the town itself, it has the most ornate rooms to explore.
Inside, you can’t miss spots like the; Magpies’ Room, Swan Room, the Arab Room and the Palace Chapel. They’re all so beautiful.
Oh, and for a tasty treat, pop over the road to the little family-owned, Casa Piriquita that serves up the best sweet treats. It’s totally unpretentious, relaxed and so scrumptious.
9.) Chalet of the Countess of Edla
If you’ve got time, or you’re staying in Sintra for a few days, make sure to check out the Chalet of the Countess of Edla, too. This 19th Century Apline house is quite different from all the other sites but still one of the best things to do in Sintra if you’ve got time.
That being said, if you are short on time (like we always are), then you’ll probably give this one a miss.
10.) Vale dos Lagos e Pateira
wandering the Valley of the Lakes is easily one of the best things to do in Sintra if you want to explore the region’s countryside.
Perched below Pena Palace, it’s relatively easy to visit if you’ve got time and well worth a little stroll to explore the grounds.
If you feel like, there’s also a heap of hiking trails to explore, too. Though, be sure to take some comfy gripped shoes for this part. It can get a little wet on the ground if you go deeper into the trails.