Sintra, Portugal is a place where awe and joy collide, where every corner reveals a new magical landscape, and where history whispers through the air. This enchanting region will capture your heart and spark your imagination. In this post, I'll share a weekend itinerary that combines the best of both worlds: breathtaking hikes and unforgettable adventure by electric mini-car:
Marvel at the Grandeur of Sintra Palace: A Medieval Royal Residence
Unearth the Mysteries of the Moorish Castle: An 9th Century UNESCO World Heritage Site
Embrace the Romanticism of Pena Palace and Gardens: A 19th Century Architectural Masterpiece
Stroll Through the Charming Sintra Town: A Quaint and Picturesque Retreat
Unveil the Beauty of Monserrate Palace: A Fusion of Islamic and Romanticism Architecture
Explore the Enigmatic Quinta da Regaleira: A World of Secret Tunnels and Symbolism
Admire the Opulence of Seteais Palace: A Neoclassical Gem
Breathe in the Ocean Breeze: Coastal Serenity Just a Stone's Throw from Sintra
Sintra is a easily visited as day trip from Lisbon, and is the perfect destination for an adventurous and romantic getaway. Read on, our two-day journey through Sintra will take you on an unforgettable adventure, exploring its rich history, captivating beauty, and hidden gems!
Day 1: Sintra on Foot – Immerse Yourself in History and Nature
Nestled in the foothills of the Sintra Mountains, is filled with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, fairytale-like palaces, lush gardens, and breathtaking views. My sister, Magnolia, and I arrived as the morning dew was gently burning off, breathless with anticipation. We had spent an hour on the train, our camera batteries were charges, and we were bursting to get discover the secrets of this enchanted wonderland.
1. Marvel at the Grandeur of Sintra Palace: A Medieval Royal Residence
(Palácio da Vila)
Your exploration of Sintra will begin only a few steps away from the train station with a visit to the iconic Sintra Palace, a medieval royal residence adorned with beautiful arches and stunning views of the surrounding hills.
Inside, the rooms are filled with stories of monarchs who once called this palace home. On both of my visits, I opted not to enter the palace museum (14€). You can comfortably skip it and still enjoy the beauty of the surrounding area.
2. Unearth the Mysteries of the Moorish Castle: An 9th Century UNESCO World Heritage Site
(Castelo dos Mouros)
Our journey continued as we embarked on a challenging hike towards the 9th-century Moorish Castle, a National Monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site nestled high in the Serra de Sintra.
As we ascended the 1630-feet (500-meter) elevation, we navigated thousands of steps along a semi-paved path, which was often damp or muddy due to the region's moisture. The lush surroundings added to the enchanting atmosphere, but also made the journey more challenging as we carefully made our way up the steep incline.
Soon into the climb, my sister and I realized the importance of comfortable footwear for this adventure. We devised a system of swapping my heeled boots and her flat sandals, evenly distributing the discomfort of sore feet as we traversed the verdant landscape.
Upon reaching the ancient fortress, we were rewarded with magnificent panoramas and a rich tapestry of Sintra's past. As we explored the castle and its grounds, we uncovered layers of history spanning centuries, from ancient Muslim and Christian burial sites to the castle museum (8€). These fascinating glimpses into the lives and beliefs of those who once called this enchanting place home allowed us to feel a deep connection to the generations that had come before.
The Moorish Castle stands as one of Sintra's oldest monuments, offering a captivating window into the region's past and an unforgettable journey through its breathtaking landscapes.
Views along the hike: Magnolia poses in a secret grove. The town of Sintra peers out among the trees.
3. Embrace the Romanticism of Pena Palace and Gardens: A 19th Century Architectural Masterpiece
(Palácio Nacional da Pena)
As we made our way to the whimsical Pena Palace, the most iconic landmark in Sintra, we were immediately struck by the vivid colors: red, yellow, and colorful azulejo tile art. This fairy tale-like palace, perched on a hilltop, is fusion of Gothic, Moorish, and Renaissance styles creating a truly unique and eclectic architectural experience, perfect for a photoshoot.
Take note, and save this blog post because I am about to tell you how to find the single best viewpoint in all of Sintra! To discover this hidden gem, make your way along the balcony terrace, and pass through the elaborately carved Triton Gateway. As you step through the arch, prepare to be captivated by a jaw-dropping view that will leave you spellbound.
In this magical spot, vibrant yellow arches perfectly frame the lush green fields that roll all the way to the blue horizon. This mesmerizing vista is a must-see for anyone visiting Sintra, and I cannot recommend it enough. Be sure to take your time here, soaking in the breathtaking scenery and capturing this unforgettable moment with a photograph that will serve as a treasured keepsake of your journey.
The stunning grounds that surround the stone estate are worth time of their own to appreciate, including the Chalet and Garden of the Countess Edla, the Valley of Lakes, and the Queen's Fern Valley.
Pro tip: It's not well advertised, but the cheaper Park ticket includes the castle terraces and everything you need to experience the stunning views I've mentioned here. You can skip the Palace ticket (14€) without regret.
Magnolia leads the way to the viewpoint through an intricately tiled arch. Lili appreciates the beauty around every corner in the Pena Palace.
Day 2: Discovering Sintra with an Electric Tour Vehicle – A Different Perspective
After your first day on foot, you will know for yourself that Sintra stretches across a vast expanse that beckons for a change of pace to uncover its many hidden treasures. For the second part of your journey, my boyfriend Waseem and I invite you to trade in your hiking boots (heels, in my case) for wheels. You will embark on an adventure covering greater distances aboard a charming mini electric tour vehicle. With the ability to explore from the captivating palaces nestled in the hills to the mesmerizing ocean, you'll find yourself discovering an array of awe-inspiring monuments, even those that lay beyond the reach of footpaths. So buckle up and prepare for a delightful day of exploration that will take you to every corner of this magical realm.
Waseem was glad that we had the e-motor pods, they were so fun to drive and took all the walking out!
4. Unveil the Beauty of Monserrate Palace: A Fusion of Islamic and Romanticism Architecture
(Palácio de Monserrate)
Our motorcar adventure began with a visit to the enchanting Monserrate Palace, an exquisite blend of Gothic, Moorish, and Indian architectural styles. The palace's intricate details and beautifully-landscaped gardens set the stage for a romantic day.
I recommend getting your ticket to this monument (8€) as early as possible (9am). The stunning architecture is a romantic photoshoot destination and best experienced before the crowds descend. I found myself taking photos of everything. The intricate patterns and craftsmanship were truly breathtaking, making for a memorable and highly photogenic experience. Our visit to Monserrate Palace was a delightful blend of historical exploration, architectural admiration, and enchanting scenery.
Once you've explored the Palace head to the gardens because more magic awaits for you that will rival the beauty inside. Nestled in a root canopy is the extremely photogenic chapel ruins, and my first runner up viewpoint in all of Sintra. PS: while the ruins appear ancient, note that they are more recent than they seem. Although there used to be an ancient chapel on the site, the current ruins date back to a later period. Nonetheless, the captivating beauty of the ruins adds to the enchanting atmosphere of the palace grounds.
Lili poses in archways of superb craftsmanship, one made by human hand and the other by nature
5. Explore the Enigmatic Quinta da Regaleira: A World of Secret Tunnels and Symbolism
Next, navigate to the captivating Quinta da Regaleira (6€), a mystical estate boasting lush gardens, hidden tunnels, and enchanting grottoes. The Tarot Initiation Wells or Inverted Towers are one of the principal tourist attractions in Sintra. We felt like characters in a storybook as we explored the mysterious wells, secret passages, and ornate Gothic architecture that make this place so alluring.
6. Admire the Opulence of Seteais Palace: A Neoclassical Gem
(Palácio de Seteais)
Continuing your romantic adventure with the elegant Seteais Palace , a neoclassical gem with breathtaking views of the Sintra Mountains. We strolled through its magnificent manicured gardens, admiring the palace's grand architecture and timeless charm.
7. Breathe in the Ocean Breeze: Coastal Serenity Just a Stone's Throw from Sintra
Our final destination took us all the way to the mesmerizing ocean, where we discovered the charming village of Colares. With the salty breeze in our hair, Waseem indulged in fresh seafood (vegetarian options for me) at quaint local eateries and strolled along the serene beaches. The azure waters and golden sand provided the perfect ending to our unforgettable Sintra adventure.
Make the Most of Your Sintra Adventure: Expert Tips and Insights
How To Get Here
The most convenient way to reach the enchanting town of Sintra is by train from downtown Lisbon. Board the train for a scenic one-hour journey that will whisk you away from the bustling city to the serene beauty of Sintra.
When To Go
For a more relaxed and enjoyable experience, plan your visit between Tuesday and Thursday to avoid the crowds. Aim to arrive as early as possible to make the most of your day. Mondays may be busier as many attractions in Lisbon are closed, prompting tourists to venture out of the city. Keep in mind that on Sundays, numerous local shops outside the city may be closed.
What To Eat
While you'll find an array of shops and restaurants in Sintra, many cater to tourists. To truly savor the local charm and indulge in a memorable dining experience, consider packing a picnic filled with your favorite treats. This way, you'll have the freedom to enjoy a delightful meal while soaking in the picturesque surroundings of this magical land.
Thank you for coming on this journey with me. I hope this guide helps you embrace the call of adventure as we hike new trails and travel to captivating destinations. I can't wait for you to uncover the secrets of this mesmerizing destination, and when you do, I'd love to hear about your experiences. I invite you to join the conversation and share your own experiences, tips, and memorable moments from this enchanting destination.
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In love and lunges,