Exploring the palaces of Sintra
The town of Sintra is located upon the hills in the magnificent natural park Serra de Sintra, about 30 km from Lisbon. The whole town is UNESCO heritage, and you can easily see why. There are many palaces, each very different from the others. Back in the days, Sintra was a popular holiday destination for the wealthy because of its mild climate. As a result, Sintra is full of palaces, castles, and mansions. This region is very popular with tourists, so it can get crowded, but it is still worth the visit.
While many people take just one day to visit Sintra, seeing all of Sintra takes at least a few days. There are a lot of hotels here so it is easy to stay longer than a day. The people who take one day to visit Sintra, generally visit two or three palaces. But which palace should you see? I listed the four palaces that I wanted to see below, but I only did two of them since I only went one day.
Table of Contents
Palaces / Castles
This is one of the two palaces that I’ve been to, as it is the one that you can not miss when going to Sintra. We arrived around 9h30 and it was already very busy. The roads in Sintra are very curvy and narrow, and there are a lot of cars from tourists, including us. There was a long queue of cars and I think that we spent about 30 minutes in this slowly moving queue. Luckily, there are some car parks close by and we were with the last three cars that were allowed to park there, after that they were fully occupied. There are other car parks but you will have to walk a little longer to Pena Palace. I also do not recommend visiting Sintra on foot because of the many cars that drive on these narrow streets. It seemed pretty dangerous.
When we arrived at the entrance, showing your ticket to get in went fast, there wasn’t a queue yet. I think that later on the day, there would have been a queue here as it is the most visited palace in Sintra. When you get in, you first stand in the gardens of the palace. You can buy a ticket to visit only the park, it costs around €7 per adult, or you can buy a ticket to visit the park and the palace, these cost around €13 per adult. The prices are cheaper for children and seniors. To go to the palace, you need to walk all the way up through the gardens, which is a 10-minute walk.
Once in the palace, you can first enter a room where you will find information about the history of Pena Palace. Next, to go through the palace, there is a fixed route to follow. The route goes through the different rooms in the castle, like the dining room, kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.. The rooms are alternated with balconies and terraces with beautiful views of the natural park and the sea. There is a lot of wind on these terraces because of the sea. At the end of the route through the palace, there is a cafe where you can have a drink on the terrace, and a restaurant right below that serves simple dishes.
Quinta da Regaleira
The other castle that we visited, is Quinta da Regaleira. To get there, you really need to pay attention to your GPS. We took the wrong street 3 times. There is no parking specifically dedicated to this castle, and a lot of people park their cars on the side of the street. This castle is a lot quieter than Pena Palace. A big part of exploring this castle consists of exploring the gardens. That’s what makes this castle special. Nevertheless, the inside of the castle was also surprisingly beautiful.
The gardens contain a lot of secret stairs and tunnels. The most famous one is definitely the initiation well. Besides that, there are numerous other beautiful and mysterious places on the domain. The entrance costs €6 per adult and it is €18 for a family of four.
Castelo dos Mouros
This castle is built on two hilltops. It dates back to the moorish era, around the 8th century. It was restored in the 19th century and transformed into romantic ruins. It has spectacular views over Sintra Natural park.
The castle lies 3,5 km from the center of Sintra, but the path leading to the castle involves a steep climb. The recommended way to get there is by car, or to catch the 434 Sintra tourist bus. It is ideal to combine with Pena Palace since the entrance of Castelo dos Mouros and the entrance of Pena Palace are 200 meters apart and you can easily walk from one to another.
The national palace of Sintra is characterized by two big chimneys that are located above the kitchen. The architecture has a lot of Moorish influences. The castle was built together with Castelo dos Mouros, as a palace for the people to live in, but was damaged severely during the Reconquista. In the 15the century, a new palace was built on this place and expanded a few times. This residence was inhabited by several reigns of Portugal.
Palacio Nacional is situated right in the center of Sintra so it is easily accessible on foot if you come from the train station. The entrance costs €10 per adult and €33 for a family of four.
Where to eat in Sintra
The slogan of this restaurant is “Wine and Tapas”, and it tells you exactly what you can get. This is the ideal place if you want to rest on a quiet terrace in between your visits. The tapas are small dishes of €5-7, and the wine is very good.
This restaurant is located in a 4-star hotel. The food is good, and the prices are also not too expensive.
Back in the days, this was the place where they made cheesecake for the king. It’s no surprise that their cakes are delicious. Ideal for lunch or a quick stop to enjoy one of their cakes.
With very good dishes at very affordable prices, this is a restaurant that may surprise you. The fixed menu is very great value for money and the service is outstanding as well.