Things to do with a few days in Sintra

Things to do with a few days in Sintra

Sintra, a picturesque town in Portugal, is a treasure trove of historical landmarks, stunning palaces, and breathtaking natural beauty.

Whether you have one day or several, there's no shortage of things to do and see.

From exploring ancient castles to relaxing on beautiful beaches, Sintra offers a diverse range of activities that cater to all interests.

This guide outlines the must-visit spots and experiences to make the most of your time in Sintra.

Looking to stay productive in Sintra? Check out our list of the top coworking spaces in the area.

Key Takeaways

  • Pena Palace and its gardens are a must-see for their historical significance and stunning beauty.
  • Quinta da Regaleira is famous for its enigmatic Initiation Well and architectural marvels.
  • The Moorish Castle offers breathtaking viewpoints and a rich historical background.
  • The National Palace of Sintra is a great place to learn about royal history and view art collections.
  • Cabo da Roca is the westernmost point of mainland Europe and offers fantastic photography opportunities.

Exploring Pena Palace and Its Gardens

Pena Palace, with its vibrant yellow, red, and blue exterior, is a must-visit in Sintra. This whimsical palace, often described as something out of a fairy tale, offers a unique blend of architectural styles and breathtaking views. The palace itself is a marvel, but the surrounding gardens are equally enchanting.

History of Pena Palace

Originally a monastery, Pena Palace was transformed in the 19th century by King Ferdinand II into the romantic masterpiece we see today. The king, often referred to as the "King-Artist," infused the palace with a mix of Gothic, Manueline, and Moorish architectural elements, making it a true architectural gem.

Highlights of the Gardens

The gardens of Pena Palace are vast and diverse, featuring exotic plants from around the world. A notable spot is the High Cross, the highest point in the park, offering stunning views of the palace and the surrounding landscape. The well-marked trails make it easy to explore the lush forests and rocky mountains that dot the area.

Tips for Visiting

  • Timed tickets: Be sure to get timed tickets in advance to avoid long queues.
  • Best time to visit: Early morning or late afternoon to avoid the midday crowds.
  • Walking shoes: Wear comfortable walking shoes as the terrain can be uneven, especially if you plan to explore the gardens extensively.
Even if you don't have much time, a short walk through the gardens is highly recommended. The experience is truly magical and offers a peaceful retreat from the bustling palace interiors.

Discovering Quinta da Regaleira

Quinta da Regaleira is a captivating estate located just a 15-minute walk from the town of Sintra. This romantic-style residence, built in the early 20th century by Carvalho Monteiro, is renowned for its enchanting gardens and mysterious structures. Visitors often find themselves mesmerized by the estate's unique charm.

Visiting the Moorish Castle

The Moorish Castle, perched atop the Sintra hilltops, offers a glimpse into the region's rich past. Built during the 8th and 9th centuries, this fortress served as a strategic point for the Moors. Its historical significance is evident in the ancient walls and towers that have withstood the test of time.

One of the main attractions of the Moorish Castle is the breathtaking views it offers. From various points along the castle walls, visitors can enjoy panoramic vistas of Sintra, the Atlantic Ocean, and even the distant Pena Palace. These viewpoints are perfect for capturing stunning photographs and soaking in the natural beauty of the area.

Exploring the castle walls is a must-do activity when visiting the Moorish Castle. The walls, reminiscent of a mini Great Wall, snake over the hilltops, providing a unique walking experience. As you stroll along, you'll encounter several towers and crenellations, each offering a different perspective of the surrounding landscape.

Plan to spend about an hour or two exploring the castle walls and taking in the views. This is also a great spot for a picnic, with several benches and a café available on-site.

A Day at the National Palace of Sintra

The National Palace of Sintra, located in the heart of the town, is a must-visit for anyone exploring Sintra. This palace, the oldest in Portugal, dates back to the 10th and 11th centuries when the area was under Moorish rule. It served as a summer retreat for Portuguese rulers from the Middle Ages until the 19th century and became a national monument in 1910. A visit to this palace offers a glimpse into the rich history and architectural splendor of Portugal.

Exploring the Park and Palace of Monserrate

The Park and Palace of Monserrate is one of the most beautiful architectural and landscape creations in Portugal, located not very far from the historic centre of Sintra. This site is often considered the most underrated attraction in Sintra, offering a serene and breathtaking experience for visitors.

Hiking to Santuario da Peninha

Trail Information

The Santuario da Peninha is relatively easy to access, but it's advisable to ask a local for directions. While Google Maps can guide you, it might lead you to the coastal entrance, which involves a bumpy road and a 15-minute walk. The interior access road offers a shorter walk. Consider packing a picnic as the sanctuary grounds are free to visit, though the sanctuary itself is closed to the public.

Scenic Views

The views from the Santuario da Peninha are nothing short of breathtaking. You can enjoy panoramic vistas of the Atlantic coast and the surrounding hills. It's a perfect spot to take in the natural beauty of the area. Just be cautious of the highway crossing on the way down, as there's no lay-by.

Historical Background

The Santuario da Peninha holds historical significance, though it is not open to the public. The site offers a glimpse into the past and provides a serene environment for reflection. The sanctuary is located about 20 minutes outside of Sintra, making it a convenient stop during your visit.

Relaxing at Praia da Adraga

Beach Activities

Praia da Adraga is a beautiful beach known for its golden sands and stunning views. Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities such as sunbathing, swimming, and exploring the nearby cliffs. The beach is also a great spot for a picnic, offering a serene environment to relax and unwind.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Praia da Adraga is during the warmer months, from late spring to early autumn. During this period, the weather is ideal for beach activities, and the water is warm enough for swimming. It's advisable to visit during weekdays to avoid the weekend crowds and have a more peaceful experience.

Nearby Attractions

While at Praia da Adraga, you can also explore other nearby attractions. Azenhas do Mar and Praia da Aguda are other beautiful beaches worth visiting. Additionally, a trip to Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point on the European mainland, is highly recommended for its breathtaking views. If you have more time, consider visiting the charming town of Sintra, which offers a variety of historical and cultural sites to explore.

Exploring Cabo da Roca

Cabo da Roca is the westernmost point of continental Europe and a must-visit when in Sintra. This iconic location is marked by a large stone column and cross, symbolizing its geographical significance. From here, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the rugged coastal cliffs and the lighthouse. It's a popular spot, so expect to see many tourists and tour buses, especially during peak times. Parking can be challenging, often spilling over into nearby streets.

Geographical Significance

Cabo da Roca holds the title of the westernmost point of continental Europe. This unique distinction makes it a popular destination for those wanting to say, "we were at the most western part of continental Europe." The cliffs and rocks here create a dramatic landscape that is both awe-inspiring and humbling.

Lighthouse Visit

The lighthouse at Cabo da Roca is a prominent feature and offers a great photo opportunity. While the lighthouse itself is not open to the public, its presence adds to the charm of the location. The surrounding area includes a restaurant and gift shop, making it a convenient stop for visitors.

Photography Tips

For the best photos, visit Cabo da Roca during the golden hours of sunrise or sunset. The light during these times enhances the natural beauty of the cliffs and the ocean. Don't forget to capture the stone column and cross, as well as the panoramic views of the coastline.

A Visit to Convento dos Capuchos

Nestled in the heart of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, the Convento dos Capuchos offers a serene escape from the more opulent attractions in Sintra. This modest Franciscan monastery, dating back to the 16th century, provides a stark contrast to the grandeur of places like Pena Palace and Monserrate Palace. Visiting Convento dos Capuchos invites visitors to venture into the heart of Sintra's natural beauty and take a quiet moment for themselves, far from the bustling tourist routes.

Strolling Through Vila Sassetti

Architectural Beauty

Vila Sassetti is a hidden gem in Sintra, offering a gorgeous, manicured garden full of hidden paths and intricacies. The villa itself is a stunning example of architectural beauty, blending seamlessly with its natural surroundings. The cobblestone walking path winds through beautiful gardens, making it a perfect spot for a leisurely stroll.

Gardens and Trails

The Vila Sassetti Trail is the main hiking trail connecting the Pena Palace and Moorish Castle to the Old Town of Sintra. This mostly shaded hike starts near the top of the old town and winds through the gardens on a cobblestone path. The trail offers several spots where it splits, but don't worry—they all loop back around to the same trail, so you can't get lost. It's a serene experience, especially when the gardens are in full bloom.

Visitor Information

Vila Sassetti is open during the same times as the Moorish Castle and Pena Palace, and the best part is, it's free! If you're traveling with kids, there's a small park located near the entrance of the Vila Sassetti Trail, making it a great place for kids to play before or after visiting the nearby attractions. The entire visit can take about 20-30 minutes, making it a perfect addition to your itinerary for the historic centre of Sintra.

Staying at Palacio de Seteais

Luxury Experience

Palacio de Seteais offers a luxurious stay that combines historical charm with modern amenities. The palace, now a five-star hotel, provides guests with an unforgettable experience, featuring elegantly decorated rooms and top-notch service. The outside garden is very nice, perfect for a leisurely stroll.

Historical Significance

Built in the late 18th century, Palacio de Seteais has a rich history that adds to its allure. The palace has been meticulously preserved, allowing visitors to step back in time while enjoying contemporary comforts. Its fantastic location walking distance from main attractions makes it an ideal base for exploring Sintra.

Booking Information

To ensure a seamless experience, it is recommended to book your stay in advance. The hotel offers various packages that cater to different preferences, from romantic getaways to family vacations. Great friendly staff are always on hand to assist with any needs, ensuring a pleasant stay for all guests.

Staying at Palacio de Seteais is not just about luxury; it's about immersing yourself in a piece of history while enjoying the best of modern hospitality.

Exploring Sintra's Old Town

Sintra's Old Town is a charming and compact area, perfect for a leisurely stroll. Nestled among several steep hills, the historic town centers around the National Palace of Sintra and the original village. The few streets are lined with shops, restaurants, and bakeries, making it an ideal spot to explore on foot. The view of Sintra town and the Moorish Castle on the hilltop from the National Palace is breathtaking.


Sintra is a destination that offers a rich tapestry of experiences, whether you have one, two, or three days to explore. From the majestic palaces and castles to the stunning coastal sites, there is something for everyone. A single day allows you to capture the essence of Sintra's historical and architectural marvels, while two days provide a more relaxed pace to delve deeper into its hidden gems. With three days, you can venture further afield to discover nearby attractions and the breathtaking coastline. No matter how much time you have, Sintra promises an unforgettable journey filled with beauty, history, and adventure.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many days should I spend in Sintra?

Ideally, you should spend at least two to three days in Sintra to fully explore its palaces, castles, and coastal sites.

Can I visit Sintra as a day trip from Lisbon?

Yes, Sintra is a popular day trip destination from Lisbon, and it is easily accessible by train, tuk-tuk, or taxi.

What are the must-see attractions in Sintra?

The must-see attractions include Pena Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, the Moorish Castle, the National Palace of Sintra, and the Park and Palace of Monserrate.

Is it possible to visit the beaches in Sintra in one day?

While it is possible to visit some coastal sites in one day, it is recommended to spend at least two days in Sintra to fully enjoy both the palaces and beaches.

Are guided tours available for Quinta da Regaleira?

Yes, guided tours are available for Quinta da Regaleira, and they offer detailed insights into its history and architecture.

What is the best time to visit Praia da Adraga?

The best time to visit Praia da Adraga is during the summer months when the weather is warm and ideal for beach activities.

Can I stay overnight in any of the palaces in Sintra?

Yes, you can stay overnight at Palacio de Seteais, which is a luxury hotel offering a unique historical experience.

Are there any hiking trails in Sintra?

Yes, there are several hiking trails in Sintra, including the trail to Santuario da Peninha, which offers scenic views and historical insights.

Curtis Duggan

Curtis Duggan

Curtis is a serial tech entrepreneur, content creator and the host of the Remotely Serious podcast on the future of remote work and digital nomadism.


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