The lively capital of Portugal is bursting with life. The city is filled with sounds, colors, people, and wonders. And not everyone knows that within just a forty-minute trip from vibrant Lisbon, you can find a Portuguese hidden gem, the beautiful city of Sintra, a remarkable contrast to the country's always-busy capital. Spending one day in Sintra, exploring its numerous fairy tale castles, picturesque parks, and incredible landscapes, is a fantastic way to see a different side of Portugal. It's a chance to have a short break from overwhelming Lisbon and recharge before heading back where the action is. So, let's have a closer look at what Sintra has to offer.
Top Sintra Attractions
The Pena Castle
Of course, impossible to start our Sintra tour with anything but the one-of-a-kind Pena Castle. Soaring over the town thanks to a fantastic location in the Sintra Mountains, this incredible complex is a calling card of Sintra and one of the most recognizable places in Portugal.
This wonderful place literally has it all: the absolutely unique architecture, fascinating history featuring royalty, power at stake, inspiring legends, and even Vasco da Gama, beautiful interiors, and the universal recognition as one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. Impressive, right? Yes, when the weather favors, it's possiblу to see the majestic palace without leaving Lisbon, dutifully cross it out from your list of must-see's, and move on. But it's nowhere near close enough to a real experience. Nothing can match a Pena Castle tour with a professional guide who can share the secrets of the magnificent complex as well as advise on the best locations to get a memorable photo.
The flip side of worldwide recognition is that the Pena Castle is extremely popular among tourists, so if you want to enjoy your excursion to the fullest, it's better to plan your visit either for the morning or evening when there are fewer people around.
The Quinta da Regaleira
The place of mysteries and well-hidden secrets, the Quinta da Regaleira, is surely one of the most remarkable Sintra attractions. The palace looks like something straight from a fantasy novel, inspiring and intriguing at the same time.
There is something distinctly magical about the Quinta da Regaleira. The gothic architecture definitely adds to the mythical atmosphere of the place where the sculptures of the Greek gods and goddesses of the past exist side by side with Christian decorations. But it's not just about the unusual facade and peculiar ornaments, the atmosphere of the Quinta da Regaleira is very special, like it's located on the edge between reality and fantasy, and nothing is off-limits there.
The estate was originally owned by Carvalho Monteiro, a Free Mason with a great love for everything spiritual, many different interests, and a great fortune. Together with a brilliant Italian architect, Luigi Manini, he created not just a striking palace, but also one of the most famous places in Sintra, the esoteric Initiation Well, located nearby the Quinta da Regaleira.
The construction itself is just as intriguing as its name and represents an underground tower, most likely serving for ceremonial purposes, such as Tarot initiation rites (hence the name). What is more, the otherwordly well was designed as a symbol of Dante's Inferno, the nine circles of hell, which definitely helps to set the atmosphere of this mystical place. As you can see, going down the stairs of this inspiring tower that witnessed so much can easily be a highlight of your Sintra sightseeing.
The Moorish Castle
Another great place to add to your Sintra itinerary is the majestic Moorish Castle. Although it can't boast the mystical charm of the Quinta da Regaleira or the striking beauty of the Pena Castle, this fortified complex has a lot to offer, especially if you are a history enthusiast.
The construction of the fortress started in the 8th century, and the Moorish Castle has lived through a lot over the centuries. It witnessed the taking of Lisbon and Santarem in 1147, the reign of Fernando I and its order to utilize the fortification, the terrible earthquake in 1775 and the following restoration works at the beginning of the 19th century, and many more incredible events that played a vital part in the history of Portugal.
Visualists also shouldn't exclude the impressive place from their Sintra travel bucket list as the fortress' sentry walkways provide incredible views over the city and the picturesque hills, surrounding fantastic Sintra.
The Palacio de Monserrate
No, we haven't suddenly transported to Spain, Sintra is surely a magical place but not to this extent. Portugal boasts its own Monserrate Palace, and it's just as worth a visit as its brother near Barcelona.
Actually, the palace got its name from the famous Spanish sight. In the 16th century, Friar Gaspar Preto visited the sanctuary of Monserrate and was so impressed with this remarkable place that he built a small chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Monserrate upon arrival back home. And this charming chapel passed the name to this beautiful Monserrate Palace of Sintra.
Although the name of the famous sight bears a strong connection to Spain, the architecture of the palace will make you think of the hot countries of the east. The exterior combines Gothic, Indian, and traditional Arabic features, making the palace a perfect setting for The Thousand and One Nights stories.
The amazing gardens surrounding the property are also worth putting on your travel agenda. They are home to over 3000 species of plants from all over the world and are perfect for a slow afternoon walk.
Farewell Advice About Sintra Getaway
Hopefully, Sintra is now well established in your Portugal travel plans, so we would like you to offer a piece of advice on how to bring this trip to life.
As mentioned above, the city is located only 27 km (about 17 mi) away from Lisbon, so the best way to explore the city is a memorable day trip from the capital of the country. One day is enough to cover all the must-see's of Sintra, and there is no need to stay overnight unless you plan to extend the list of the sights you want to see during the getaway. If you would prefer to get to know the charming town a bit better, it's a great idea to check out this guide of Sintra, where you can find several more ideas on what else you can do and see during your stay.
Taking an urban train is the best way to travel from Lisbon to Sintra. Offering much more comfort than a regular bus, a modern train can take you between the city centers in a matter of just 40 minutes and offers hourly departures, so it's very easy to plan your trip. You can check out the ticket prices on Rail Ninja, a great platform where you can book tickets for any train in Portugal fast and easy.
As you can see, the city of Sintra is a fantastic destination and a great choice for a day trip from Lisbon. It's a beautiful and magical place that has something for everyone who is willing to look. And the best way to explore its marvels is a guided tour with a knowledgablу guide who will take you around the most interesting sights and make sure that you fall in love with this medieval town once and for all.