Are you planning a travel itinerary through Portugal? Consider factoring in time to visit Sintra, one of Portugal’s most beautiful destinations. There is so much to see, and although it’s considered a popular day trip from Lisbon, you could spend a full weekend dedicated to this one region and still miss half of the attractions. To help you figure out which landmarks you shouldn’t miss, here is our list of must-see attractions in Sintra.
The National Palace of Pena, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is among the most remarkable and distinct buildings in Sintra. The striking facade showcases decorative features and details inspired by Portugal’s Manueline architecture, as well as Romanticism and Moorish influences. From its hilltop perch, the palace is an excellent spot to take amazing photographs of the Sintra Mountains.
The Castelo dos Mouros, or “The Castle of the Moors”, is a 10th-century stone fortress that also sits on top of one of the Sintra Mountains’ hilltops. As its name suggests, it was built by the Moors, but the Portuguese forces took the castle after the Conquest of Lisbon in the 12th century. The landmark’s popularity is in part due to its historic significance but also the medieval and ruin-like quality, as well as the excellent panoramic views to be enjoyed from the castle walls.
If you can, rent a car and cruise through the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, one of Portugal’s 13 natural parks which hugs Sintra and other nearby towns and villages. Explore parts of this wooded area on foot if you like hiking or stick to cruising down the many winding roads, stopping at many man-made attractions as you pass them.
The highest point in the Sintra Mountains is marked by the Cruz Alta, or High Cross. Not only does this monument mark an excellent location to take amazing panoramic photos, but it is an example of Portuguese Manueline style, an architectural expression that came about in the 16th century.
One of Portugal’s distinguishing features is the 1,115-mile (1,794 kilometer) coastline and many superb beaches can be found within easy reach of Lisbon. The Praia das Maçãs is one popular spot for catching sea and sun, and those intimidated by the Atlantic’s waves have man-made saltwater pools on site too (which are perfect for kids). In addition to the outdoor pools are tennis courts and a nearby indoor pool. Praia das Maçãs is easy to reach and the tram from Sintra makes visiting even easier during the summer weekends when it is in operation.
Just outside of Sintra’s town center is Azenhas do Mar, an idyllic village cradled against the seaside and known in particular for its namesake beachside venue that offers diners breathtaking views. Romantic and secret, this is an excellent spot for couples, but it is just as wonderful for anyone who is in the mood for fresh and delicious seafood. Visit to capture amazing photos that will make your Instagram pop, stay for dinner, and plan to catch a beautiful sunset after.
In Sintra, set aside 1-2 hours to visit the National Palace of Sintra, recognized as the best example of preserved medieval palaces in the country. Built in the 15th century, it was the royal residence of Portugal’s nobility for four centuries. Tour this unique museum to see the beautifully preserved furniture and ancient decorative styles. Regular entrance tickets cost €9.00 ($11.13) per person.
Try not to leave Sintra without tasting a few sweets at the Casa Piriquita, a historic 155-year-old café and pastry shop in the town center. Usually busy, a good time to go is after breakfast and before lunch (between 11 and noon). You can always take your pastries to go but there is nothing quite like sitting to enjoy a few Portuguese pastries with a coffee. Do you want a local recommendation? Try the almond-flavored (and topped) travesseiro or the cheese-flavored queijadas.
If you have a car and want to visit a historic landmark that’s usually missed, map out the Convento dos Capuchos, a Franciscan monastery that was built in the middle of the Sintra forest. Dating back to the 16th century, this nature-centric monastery showcases shadows of a simpler life lead by the monks who once lived there.
The Monserrate Palace is a 19th-century estate that’s a romantic smorgasbord of influences inspired by Eclectic architecture. While walking through, notice hints of Romanticism, Arab, and Neo-Gothic styles. Like many other buildings in Sintra, the Monserrate Palace was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don’t just walk through the building’s interior, which is certainly a feast for the eyes on its own, but also take time to see the surrounding botanical garden too.
The Quinta da Regaleira is a stunningly mysterious building that was built in the 20th century as a residence but was eventually converted into a museum. Filled with caves, underground wells, towers, and gardens filled with sculptures, it is a popular landmark near Sintra’s downtown that visitors usually visit first.
Do you have a special spot for art museums? This quaint and charming museum in Sintra is based on the artwork of a well-known father-son duo in Portugal. Visitors will see the works of both Artur Anjos Teixeira and his son Pedro Anjos Teixeira while walking through the museum that was once Pedro Anjos Teixeira’s home.
Ever imagine walking through the secret garden from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s famous novel? Now you can (imagine it, that is) while visiting Sintra’s stunning Chalet Garden that once belonged to the Countess d’Edla, the second wife of Portugal’s King Ferdinand II. Completely made of wood, the alpine-inspired chalet is surrounded by a romantic garden and walking paths. Pair this visit with one to the Pena Palace since the chalet is located on the palace’s grounds.
Most visitors never know to visit the Santuário da Peninha, a church and palace near the coast of the Sintra Natural Park. From its perch on a rocky hilltop, the stairs and grounds around the sanctuary offer amazing views of the coast, reaching miles on clear days. The palace, built by the architect of the Quinta da Regaleira, and the church are closed to the public but locals swear that the seaside views make visiting worthwhile.