Best Things to Do in Sintra

Colourful, whimsical Sintra must be one of Portugal's most unusual destinations. While just a short distance from Lisbon and Cascais, it has an atmosphere all of its own. This is largely a result of the city's extraordinary assortment of castles, palaces and green spaces. So special are they, that much of Sintra has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The one that is sure to bring a smile to your face is the Romanticist design of Pena National Palace, which stands proud on a hill overlooking the town. In form it lies somewhere between a child's fantasy and Disney fairy-tale castle. Visible from Lisbon on clear days, it also acts as a perfect introduction to the natural beauty of the 145 square kilometre Sintra-Cascais Nature Park, which includes some simply exquisite beaches whether you're looking for family-friendly sands or tiny hidden coves and the rocks.

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  • Pena Palace Sintra
    Pena Palace
    IPPA/António Sacchetti

    Fairytale castle meets Disney palace set on top of the hill high above Sintra. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the finest examples of 19th century Romanticism anywhere in the world

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  • Moors Castle - Sintra

    Situated on a high hilltop above the town of Sintra the site does indeed date back to the Moorish occupation of Portugal. The walls and towers that you see now though are the Romantic/decorative work of the 19th century King Ferdinand II

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  • Quinta da Regaleira - Sintra
    Quinta da Regaleira
    bgnauka

    Stunning romantic style palace and chapel set in parkland featuring lakes, grottoes, wells and fountains. Built by Carvalho Monteiro at the turn of the century as a private residence the estate was in private hands until it was purchased by the local council in 1997

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  • National Palace - Sintra
    National Palace - Sintra
    IPPA/Jose Manuel

    The National Palace mainly dates back to 15th and 16th century. Set in the heart of Sintra's old town, the twin conical chimneys still dominates the skyline. Built in a mixture of Gothic, Manueline and Moorish styles, the palace is not out of place in Sintra

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  • Sintra Tram Eletricos
    Sintra - Praia das Macas Tram
    Alain GAVILLET | BY-SA

    This vintage narrow-gauge tramway connects Sintra with the lively coastal resort of Praia das Macas, 14 kilometres to the west.  The line dates back to 1904 and the open red, wooden carriages are a favourite with younger visitors. 

    Don't expect modern comforts or an efficient journey. In the height of the summer season there can be a long wait to board the tram and queue jumpers can be an annoyance.  The journey itself can be quite hair-raising, with plenty of sudden jolts and stops accompanied by the screech of noisy...

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    Sintra
    Railways
  • Sintra Town Hall
    Sintra Town Hall

    Visitors flock to the UNESCO-protected World Heritage Site town of Sintra to admire the stunning collection of palaces and villas built as country retreats for the wealthy, amongst the wooded hills and beautiful vistas of the Serra de Sintra. Just below the Palacio Nacional de Sintra stands a lavish Neo-Gothic building with elaborately decorated spires.  Is this yet another castle, or maybe a church?  No, it’s simply the Câmara Municipal de Sintra - the local town hall.

    Looking more like a...

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  • Monserrate Palace - Sintra
    Monserrate Palace
    felipeyerabarchi

    This exotic palace was Built in 1858 for English nobleman, Sir Francis Cook. The Moghul-inspired features are not out of place alongside other examples Romanticism in Sintra

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  • Palacio de Seteais - Sintra
    Palacio de Seteais - Sintra
    Can Stock Photo Inc

    This 18th century neoclassical palace was built for the then Dutch Consul. It later came into the hands of the 5th Marquis of Marialva who extended it significantly, adding the arch in 1802.

    The Seteais Palace occupies a prime position on the edge of the Serra de Sintra overlooking the countryside and town. It is surounded by extensive gardens with many fruit trees and features inspired by the then popular Romantic movement.

    In 1946 the Palacio de Seteais was acquired by the Portuguese government becoming a hotel in 1954. It is now the five star Tivoli-Palacio de Seteais...

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  • Convento dos Capuchos
    Convento dos Capuchos
    User:W.Rebel | BY-SA

    If you’re looking to escape from Sintra's well-trodden tourist hotspots, and find a quiet, contemplative spot, this former monastery is just the spot. Almost hidden in a shroud of greenery, it gives a glimpse of the simple lifestyle of 16th century Franciscan monks and an opportunity to get away from it all. 

    The Convento dos Capuchos in the Serra de Sintra National Park was founded in 1560 and provided a place of retreat and penance.  In the 1830's, anti-clerical reforms led to the banning of many Portuguese religious orders and their assets were...

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  • Cabo da Roca
    Cabo da Roca
    pcdazero

    The rocky headland of Cabo da Roca , 40 kilometres southwest of Lisbon, has the distinction of being the most westerly point of mainland Europe and the Eurasian landmass and there is a monument here to tell you just that. To make sure you are still in no doubt, certificates to prove you have been here can be bought from the souvenir shop.

    The stunning view from the 144 metre-high (500ft) granite cliffs takes in the Serra de Sintra, the big open sky and the crashing waves of the seemingly endless Atlantic Ocean.  No wonder it was once thought that this place...

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  • Casino Estoril
    Casino do Estoril
    kenward | BY-SA

    Whilst maybe not quite as glitzy as Las Vegas the Casino in Estoril is reputed to be the largest in Europe. Whether or not this is still case the casino is definitely big, offering over 1,000 slot machines. Game tables include roulette, blackjack, banca francesa, punto banco, baccarat and poker.

    In addition to the gambling on offer the casino is also an entertainment venue with events held in the 1,000 seat Salão Preto e Prata There is also an auditorium where concerts are held and an art gallery with permanent painting and sculpture exhibitions.

    Estoril Casino is also home...

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  • Mafra National Palace
    Mafra National Palace

    Built in the Baroque and neoclassical style the enormous palace / monastery dwarfs the town of Mafra. At the time of its construction in the 18th century this was one of the largest buildings in Europe

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  • Queluz National Palace
    Queluz National Palace

    One of the last great Rococo buildings to be built in Europe. The sumptuous 18th century palace was built as a summer retreat for Dom Pedro of Braganza but later became the official royal residence

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  • Museu do Mar, Cascais
    Museu do Mar

    The Museu do Mar, Rei D. Carlos, to give it its full name; or the King Carlos Museum of the Sea is set near the centre of Cascais. It is a modern museum (opened in 1992) that embraces both traditional and modern multimedia style exhibitions.

    Much of the museum's content relates to Cascais' relationship with the sea, although a good deal of this applies to the sea in general.

    The museum is split into several themed rooms set over a couple of floors. Amongst the more local themes is the Cascais shipwrecks theme with exhibits recovered from some of the numerous wrecks along this...

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  • Cidadela de Cascais
    Cidadela de Cascais

    This 15th century citadel, overlooking Cascais marina at the mouth of the Tejo Estuary, has played a crucial role in the history of Portugal, having witnessed fights against pirates as well as battles against Spanish and French forces.

    The original fort and tower, Torre de Santo Antonio de Cascais was built on the orders of King John II of Portugal and completed in 1490, as part of a series of defensive positions to protect the city of Lisbon from invasion by sea. But in 1580 the defences proved inadequate to resist invasion by the Duke of Alba, who...

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Sintra

Sintra travel guide »

Considered not only one of the wonders of Portugal but indeed of Europe, Sintra is truly a gem. Once the royal town of the country, it now deservedly holds UNESCO world heritage status and attracts hordes of visitors throughout the...