There are so many things to do in Sintra, Portugal. This picturesque city is located just 45 minutes north of Lisbon.
The history of the area dates back to the 1400’s when a single monastery was placed on a hilltop in Sintra during medieval times.
When the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 destroyed most of the city, the area sat untouched and empty for many years.
It wasn’t until the mid-1800s when one of the King's sons was so fascinated by the forested area, that his father decided to acquire all the surrounding land, and bring it back to life.
7 Things to Do in Sintra, Portugal
The king turned it into a summer retreat for all the Kings and Queens in the 19th century, and now many of the grounds are open to tourists from around the world.
You will find castles, forested gardens, breathtaking views, beaches and even cliffs that touch the westernmost point of Europe.
HOw to Get to Sintra
- If you arrive to Sintra by train be sure to buy your ticket the night before at your local train station to avoid long lines.
- If you drive to Sintra parking can be challenging, see Idea #1 below on how to get around this.
Sintra was by far our favorite part of our Portugal trip.
We took the train from Lisbon and spent the entire day there, and these are 7 fun things to do to make the most of your adventure!
1. Rent a Small Vehicle or Bike
Sintra offers a public bus that you can take to reach each of the sites. However, there can be long lines at the bus station waiting to be picked up and dropped off.
We found it is best to rent an electric car or bike to get around. The vehicles are smaller than a regular car so parking is very easy within the city limits.
You will see companies located outside of the train station that will rent different modes of transportation. They are very helpful and knowledgeable about the area and make it super simple for you.
2. Visit a Castle Fit For a Princess
The Pena Palace is a colorful castle located at the top of one of the hills in Sintra, and on a sunny day, you can even see the castle from Lisbon.
You can pay €7.50 to walk the grounds and see the exterior of the castle only OR you can pay €14 for both the grounds and take a self-guided tour of the interior of the castle.
Sintra offers a bus to take you from the entrance through the gardens and will drop you off in front of the Pena Palace.
Or you can choose to do what we did, which was walk through the gardens (uphill) to get to the castle. If you choose to walk, be sure to wear comfortable shoes and give yourself an hour to reach the top.
3. Taste Test Sardines
The Portuguese love their sardines. You can find them in most stores, and even at the bike and car rental shops in Sintra. In Lisbon, it feels like they are on every corner!
They may not be for everyone, but it’s a good salty snack to take with you as you traverse the grounds and travel to each attraction.
There are sometimes a lot of flavor options so take your time reading each label.
4. Get Lost in a Garden
By far the most picturesque spot in Sintra is Quinta da Regaleira. It is the perfect spot to put down the map and see where the winding paths take you.
Within the grounds, you will find mazes of greenery that will lead you through caves, forests and to hidden wells.
If you drive, there is parking down the street from the main entrance and the fee to enter the park is €6 per person and they offer family and child discounts.
5. Try to Not Fall Down a Well
Also located within the grounds of Quinta da Regaleira, you will find two wells that you can tour. You have the option of starting from the top and winding your way down the staircase to the bottom of the well.
Or start from the bottom and climb to the top. At the bottom of both, there are caves to wander through also.
6. Put Your Toes in The Sand
There are a few places to see the ocean along the coastline of Sintra. It would take days to see all the amazing beaches but the ones we loved the most were the ones easily accessible to park a car and take a dip in the water.
Best Place for Photos in Sintra – Praia das Azenhas do Ma
The best place we found to take pictures is Praia das Azenhas do Mar.
With its homes overlooking the coastline and a cascading waterfall, you can’t beat the view.
Or you can bring a blanket and lay in the sand with the locals at Praia das Macas. Both beach options have restaurants and parking if needed.
7. Live On The Edge
The westernmost point of Europe can be found at Cabo da Roca.
You will encounter a lot of tourists here, but there are multiple places for photo opportunities.
Take a Photo in Front of the Westernmost spot in Europe
You may need to wait in line to take a picture in front of the plaque, but it will be worth it to show people you made it!