Sintra is an enchanting Portuguese city, just an hour away from Lisbon. It has been one of the most visited cities in Portugal for the last couple of years due to its interesting tourist attractions. From ancient castles to extravagant palaces, Sintra has it all.
The city is known for its unique Romanticism architectural style, which can be seen everywhere in the city. Except for its fascinating palaces, Sintra is known for its beautiful nature and mountainous terrain, which attracts many. Nevertheless, Sintra’s palaces are its main attraction and are for sure not to be missed…
5 Must-See Palaces and Castles in Sintra
The Moorish castle was built in the 9th century by the Moorish people that were ruling the lands back at the time. Its location was a strategic one and of utmost importance for defending the region from any attacks.
However, during the 12th century, the Christian Crusaders attacked the castle and took the rule over from the Moors. Eventually, the castle was left to decay and was quite destroyed after the Great Lisbon Earthquake in 1755.
However, in the 19th century King Ferdinand the Second supported the restoration of the castle. The main idea was to show it to the guests of Pena Palace.
Nowadays, the Moorish castle is one of the main landmarks in Sintra that are worth the visit. Inside of it one would find ancient battlements, be able to climb the defensive walls and towers and explore the region from above. The vista from above is truly one to see, as it is truly breathtaking.
The Pena Palace is built on the top of the highest hill in Sintra and overlooks the whole region. Back in the days, there was a monastery on the place where Pena Palace has been built. However, this monastery has been severely destroyed by the Great Lisbon Earthquake, which happened in 1755.
In the middle of the 18th century, Pena Palace was built by King Ferdinand the Second, who was a great art, literature and music lover. The main idea of the outlook of the palace was to mirror a scene from an opera, thus this led to its extravagant architecture.
The palace was built in the distinctive Romanticism style of architecture and painted in vividly bright colours. Along with this, there are lots of terraces, decorative battlements, statues of mythical creatures and lots of small courtyards.
The interior of the palace is as extravagant as its exterior and shows a very well-preserved décor from the beginning of the 19th century. Inside of the Pena Palace, one can enjoy an interesting tour of the rooms of the palace, which are full of artefacts from that Romanticism period.
Back in the days, Pena Palace was the favourite residence of the Portuguese royal family. However, during the revolution in Portugal, the noble family left the palace and fled to Brazil. Afterwards, the palace came under the governance of the country of Portugal and is no longer a royal residence.
Tip: Lines are huge to buy your tickets, it is highly recommended that you buy a skip the line ticket in advance.
The National Palace in Sintra is situated in the very heart of this magical city. It was built in the 15th century and since then was inhabited by the royal family of Portugal until the revolution in 1910.
Sintra’s National Palace is easily recognized by its minimalistic Gothic architecture style and its huge white chimneys. Its interior is as fascinating as its exterior and is richly decorated and painted, depicting the rich history of the royal families.
One of the most stunning rooms in the palace is the Magpie room, showing painting depicting the Queen’s ladies gossiping and scheming. Other rooms worth a visit are the Swam room with its exception ceiling full of hand-painted swans and the Palatine Chapel where the royals prayed.
Nowadays, the National Palace of Sintra is one of the most well-preserved palaces in Portugal. Thus, it is one of the most visited attractions on a trip to the enchanting city of Sintra.
Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira is probably the most extravagant and mystical palace of all of the palaces in Sintra. This 19th-century villa is one of the most intriguing places one will have the chance to visit.
It is built in the typical Romanticism architectural style accompanied by many carved arches and statues. It was owned by a Brazilian merchant who was inspired by the secret ceremonies of the Knights Templar and the Freemasons. That is why the palace and its gardens are full of many symbolic and mythical carvings.
The palace is quite small compared to the rest of the palaces in Sintra but is quite fascinating. Inside, there are a couple of rooms, which are full of the owner’s belongings including paintings.
However, the true masterpiece is the gardens of the palace, which are the main reason why there are so many tourists every year in Sintra. The Quinta da Regaleira’s gardens are like a magnet for tourists for their hidden caves and passageways, waterfalls and spiral stairways leading to unknown underground tunnels.
The most famous sight in the palace’s gardens is the Initiation Well famous for its spiral stairway leading to an underground tunnel. The building of this tunnel has been inspired by the cultish religious ceremonies and is believed that such were hosted there…
Probably one of the most strikingly beautiful and finest palaces in Sintra, built in an inspiring Islamic architecture. The Monserrate Palace has been founded in the 19th century like most of the palaces in Sintra, but it is located a bit further from the city.
Thus, it is not so well-known as the rest of the palaces in Sintra. However, this does not make it less interesting and not as beautiful as them. On the contrary, the Monserrate palace is in fact considered to be the most unique building in Sintra.
The architecture of the palace was inspired mainly by the Arabic world and its culture. Thus, it is full of lattice carvings, many geometric patterns and lots of bright colours. The gardens of the palace are even more strikingly magnetic with sparklingly green grass and beautiful rose gardens surrounding the palace. Additionally, there are other gardens housing more than a thousand different types of flowers and trees.
In the past, the Monserrate Palace was owned by the wealthy Englishman Sir Francis Cook, who was highly inspired by the Islamic culture. He was responsible for the design of the palace but requested to have an English garden in front of the palace to remind him of home.
The Monserrate Palace is an amazingly beautiful and interesting palace to visit. In addition to that, it is not as crowded as the rest of the palaces, which makes it a very peaceful and serene place to be.
Sintra Practical Guide
How to get from Lisbon to Sintra
It is easy to get to Sintra by train from the Rossio station in central Lisbon. The trains run every 30 minutes and the return ticket costs €4.30. The railway station is in the centre of Sintra and is the place to catch the two local buses – 434 and 435.
Alternatively, the easiest way to explore Sintra is by a guided tour from Lisbon.
How to get around Sintra
There are two bus routes in Sintra. The first is the 434 which takes a circular route from the railway station and historic centre to the Moorish Castle, Pena Palace, back to the historic centre and then the railway station.
Bus 435 is a hop-on, hop-off service that goes from the railway station to the historic centre. From there, the bus visits Regaleira Estate, Seteais Palace and Monserrat Palace, before retracing its route to Seteais Palace, Regaleira Estate, the historic centre and railway station.
How many days in Sintra
Sintra is very popular as a day trip from Lisbon, but if you do have time on your side, spending one or two nights in Sintra is really recommended because there is just so much to see and explore and it can all be enjoyed at a more leisurely pace.
Where to stay in Sintra
Sintra Boutique Hotel: Located in the heart of the UNESCO town with lovely views, this hotel is close to the railway station. The guest rooms are spacious and the upmarket restaurant serves contemporary Portuguese cuisine made with locally sourced ingredients.
Villas de Cintra: These villas are within walking distance of several attractions with beautiful views of the sea. The accommodation has a well-equipped kitchenette.
Quinta das Murtas: Surrounded by beautiful gardens, this 19th-century manor house has comfortable and authentically decorated guest rooms and an outdoor pool and hot tub for leisurely moments.
Bio: Alex is a blogger at EarthOSea who has extensively travelled around Europe for the past 3 years. She has lived in Portugal in 2019 where she got more familiar with the Portuguese culture, traditions and language. Alex’s speciality is mainly in travelling in a sustainable and less harmful to the environment way. She is focusing more on ways to travel on a budget or money-for-value. Along with that, she loves hiking and discovering uncharted islands, but she also loves staying at the beach with a book in her hand.