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Sintra, Portugal, what to do?

Sintra, Portugal

 
In and around Sintra there is so much to do and see. It’s well known for the 19th-century Romanticist architecture, beautiful nature, forest, gardens, villas, several palaces and one castle. The whole of Sintra belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Most people are here only for one day. Well if you ask me it’s way too short, I lived here for three months. Okay, I have to say I worked here as well but I went for a hike often and visited new areas regularly. I think it deserves at least two or three days.

 
What to do in Sintra?
A bit of everything

 

  • Hiking; Perfect place to hike, up and down. Along several famous palaces and a castle, through nature and along the coastline.
  • Viewpoints; Sintra is built on several mountains and hills.
  • The three best viewpoints are;

    1. Penedo da Amizade; where you are sitting on a rock in a forest and look over Sintra all the way to the coast.
    1. Santa Eufémia; where you can look all the way to Lisbon and see for example the Ponte 25 de Abril and the Cristo Rei statue.
    1. Cruz Alta; this one is in the gardens of Pena National Palace. It’s the highest point of Sintra and you have a 360 degrees view. It’s great but also more tourists.
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  • Treats; Sintra has a few famous treats.
    1. Queijadas (de Sintra); Made with soft cheese and cinnamon. Best place to get is Sapa (near the train station), the oldest bakery in Sintra and they invented them.
    1. Travesseiros; Long shaped treat with a kind of almond filling. Best place to get is Piriquita a famous bakery in the historic centre.
    1. Pastel de Sintra; Round, crunchy and soft almond filling inside. Best place to get is Piriquita.
    1. Pastel de Nata; Creamy round pastry. Not especially famous for Sintra but for the whole of Portugal. The best place is in Belem (Pastel de Belem), the second best place is where they are freshly made.
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  • Historic centre; The Palace of Sintra stands in the middle of the historic centre. Surrounded by beautiful old buildings.
  • The Palace of Sintra; (Adult €10.00 / 9.30-19.00*) Well known for its two white towers, in the middle of the historic centre.
  • Moorish Castle; (Adult €8.00 / 9.30-20.00*) Built around the 8th century by the Moorish people. You can walk over the long wall.
  • Pena National Palace; (Adult €14.00 or €7.50 for only the park / 9.30-19.00*) The colourful palace on the mountain with a big garden around. Cruz Alta is in these gardens. Don’t forget to visit the Chalet of the Countess of Edla, which is also in the garden.
  • Palace Monseratte; (Adult €8.00 / 9.30-19.00*) Beautiful palace with eastern influences and an amazing garden!
  • Vila Sassetti; (Free / 10.00-18.00*) Beautiful gardens where you can hike through up the hill. The villa itself is not open for public.
  • Quinta da Regaleira; (Adult €8.00 / 9.30-20.00*) Amazing garden with the famous initiation well and a palace with a lot of decorations!
  • Convento dos Capuchos; (Adult €7.00 / 9.30-20.00*) An old convent taken over by nature in the middle of the forest. Really nice to see.
  • Peninha Sanctuary and Palace; (Adult €7.00 / 9.30-20.00*) The view here is amazing. Peninha is one of the few places where you still can see all the old rocks. Read the story about Monte da Lua completely below in this story.
  • Palácio de Seteais; Neoclassic palace with a beautiful view. It’s now used as a hotel.
  • The Sintra Tram; Old school tram, open from the sides which gives you a true holiday feeling.
  • Cabo da Roca; The most western point of Europe. A good place to see the sunset.
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  • Beach;
    1. Praia Grande; A long beach with some cafes with a view of the ocean. Great for sunset.
    1. Praia da Ursa; A beach down at the cliffs. You have to hike down. If you are standing on top of the cliff and see the beach take the path to the left (the other path is actually no path, read my story about that path here). Small beach, surrounded by cliffs, big rocks, really nice! In my opinion the most beautiful beach in Sintra.
    1. Praia da Adraga Beach; Nice beach, a little bit similar as Praia da Ursa only this one you can reach by car, so no long hike.
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  • Transport;
    1. Hop-on-hop-off bus; (€15.50 / different lines*) If you want to go to several places by bus this is a good option for you. Goes to all the famous places.
    1. Tuk-tuk; Want to go somewhere with a local who can tell you a lot about the area? Take a tuk-tuk!
    1. Uber; Uber works good around here and is more reliable and cheaper than the normal taxis.
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    My top 5

    1. Quinta da Regaleira
    2. Praia da Ursa
    3. Historic centre
    4. Pena National Palace
    5. Viewpoint Penedo da Amizade

     

    One day here? My recommendation:

    Do you like hiking?
    Start early in the morning. From the train station, you walk to the Historical Centre. from there you go to Quinta da Regaleira. Then back to the historic centre, look around, go to Piriquita and buy one of the famous treats, have a drink and enjoy. Buy some lunch for later on.
    Then you go to Vila Sassetti, through those gardens you walk up on the mountain. When you left Vila Sassetti you get to the viewpoint Penedo Da Amizade. There will be a sign for the rock climbers because that’s a perfect spot to climb the rocks. After the rocks, there is a small path through the forest up and you can climb to the viewpoint.

    Back to the track and walk to the Moorish Castle. You can walk all the way into the courtyard until you have to pay for a ticket. This trip I wouldn’t recommend paying for the entrance, we don’t have time for everything so I would suggest making this choice.

    Up to the Pena National Palace. If you are off the grounds from the castle and you have the ticket office at your left (castle behind you), on your left you have a walkway in the forest to the Pena National Palace, this is a much nicer way to walk than along the street.

    I recommend visiting Pena National Palace. You can choose between a ticket for only the Parque or for the Parque and the Palace. If you choose for only the park you are still allowed to walk close around the Palace, go into the chapel, go into the kitchen and visit the chalet. Depends on where you are interested in and how much time you have left which ticket you should buy. Visit Cruz Alta in the gardens!

    One last viewpoint, Santa Eufémia. If you stand in front of the main entrance of Pena National Palace there is a road that goes down in front of you. If you follow the road until it bends to the left, there you go up to the right and follow the track all the way up, around the building, a little bit more up, until a little chapel and there is the viewpoint. I thought the viewpoints are worth it even you have seen the 360 degrees view but it’s up to you if you want to do everything.

    There is hardly any light on the path down so it’s better to go down while it’s still light. This last viewpoint is also the wrong side for watching the sunset.
    From here we go back down the hill and back to the train station.

    Do you prefer to take the bus?
    You want to see more or you just prefer to take the bus here my recommendations.
    I would take the hop-on-hop-off bus it’s a 24 hours bus pass. In the building of the train station, you can buy the bus ticket.

    I would recommend starting early because one day in Sintra is simply quite short. If you don’t mind a little bit of walking: walk first to the historical centre, the walk is nice, quite flat and you see already some nice nature, it’s around 10 minutes walk.
    But there is also a bus going there and you can use your pas for it.

    In the historical centre, you can look at the Sintra Palace and go to Piriquita, buy one of these famous treats for now or on the way.

    Take bus 435 to Quinta da Regaleira.
    After the visit, take the bus to the historic centre and buy some lunch (for now or to take with you).
    Take bus 434 to the Moorish Castle and also visit Pena National Palace (Visit Cruz Alta in the gardens!).
    I think by this time it’s almost the end of the afternoon. If you went faster through the places then I did you can visit more of course.
    In the evening you can take bus 403 to Cabo da Roca and watch the sunset.

     
    Monte da Lua Sintra
    Sintra is called Monte da Lua, ‘Moon Hill’. The story goes that there was no forest and that Sintra was a holy place. The mountains and hill were made out of big rounded shaped rocks and the moonlight would shine on it and lit up the mountains.
    The nature and forest that’s here now are only around 200 years old. Since the castles and the palaces came here they planted the forest and made gardens.
    In old drawings from Sintra, you can see the ‘empty’ hills. In some places like Peninha, you can still see this phenomenon where the moonlight shines on the big rocks.

     

    *The prices and opening hours are from summer 2019, there is a change that this will change.
    For current prices and more information click here.

    Want to read more about Portugal? Click here!

    Monseratte
    Gardens of Monseratte
    Monseratte
    Street in Sintra
    Moorish castle
    Pena Palace
    Quinta da Regaleira - Initiation well

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