Sintra, royal retreat

Sintra Pena
Center map

Sintra is the Portuguese royal summer retreat, located 25km north from Lisbon, and just a few kilometers away from the sea.

Its hills are covered with forests, and the town offers several incredible palaces and mansions to visit.

Must do

– Pena National Palace

The colorful palace built on the highest hill of town is a treasure of kitsch!
From the colors of the outside walls to the furniture, you will spend a nice time wandering through the different rooms to discover the royal dishes with porcelain poultry, wood carved paintings and furniture, naked ladies statues or the king’s “modern” bath/shower.

The gardens were quite a deception, with not much interesting to see.


– Quinta da Regaleira

Labyrinthic gardens with underground paths, a beautiful chapel linked to the main house, and two impressive initiation wells.

The main house visit in itself is not very interesting, but you will have a good explanation of the building of the house and the meaning of the wells.


Nice to do

– Moorish castle

Partly restored medieval castle, built between the 8th & 9th centuries.

It is located right across from the Pena National Palace, so you can do one after the other.

There is a small walk up to the castle from the bus stop, but the views are well worth it, and it’s an ideal spot for pictures on the Pena.

You can also walk up from/down back to the city, in a couple hours.


– Walk around the small city center

Very small pedestrian area, near the National Palace.

Don’t eat on the main square, but they are two nice restaurants right next to each other in the small street going down from the tourist bus stop, Rua Gil Vicente. They are called Tulhas and Romaria de Baco, Tulhas being a bit more posh than Romaria de Baco, a traditional Portuguese restaurant.


Could  have done without

– Pena Gardens

Was advised to do but didn’t have time to

– Monserrate

Was advised not to do

– National palace

My Advice

If you have a car and plan to spend the night in Sintra, book a parking space.

The historic town is small, and has literaly no parking spaces.
The Pena and the Moorish castle are right next to each other, and offer some parking lots, but I wouldn’t count on it unless going early in the morning of a not too busy day. Otherwise, take the shuttle, that comes by quite often and cost around 5€. Your ticket is valid for both ways.

The day trip by train from Lisbon is also a very good option, with a quick ride and buses coming up the historic town very often. But you probably won’t have time to do everything.

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