The Cultural Landscape of Sintra encompasses a mountainous strip with an ensemble of gardens, parks, and monuments built in the style of European Romantic architecture.
The Royal Court established itself here because of its cool temperatures. Villas and gardens were designed, reaching their height in the 19th century. Its most notable monument is the Pena Palace, the prototype of European Romanticism which was a blend of European and exotic styles.
Community Perspective: The Pena Palace is said to have inspired both Gaudi and Disney, and is considered to be one of the best sights in Portugal. Try to stay overnight in Sintra in order to avoid the tour buses from Lisbon that crowd the site between 11h and 16h.
Map of SintraLoad map
We visited Sintra as the last of 10 WHS in Portugal, on our varied trip between Porto and Lisbon this July.
What can I say about Sintra that hasn't already been mentioned in the 14 reviews below?
Should I mention that it has way too many people especially in the summer high season? Yes, it's like that, at times in the Pena Palace you feel like you're standing in an endless queue at Disneyland.
Should I mention that it's still incredibly beautiful? Yes, it is, especially the combination of gardens and palaces really excited us.
But I can at least mention one new thing: You now have to book a time slot for the Pena Palace. You can do this on the website parquesdesintra.pt (in portuguese and english). Attention: The transfer that can be booked there as well is not a transfer from the village of Sintra, but only from the main entrance of the garden of the Pena Palace to the palace itself.
October 2020 - on a Monday morning we took the local train from Lisbon to Sintra and were astonished that despite COVID, there were a few more tourists than we anticipated. However, compared to normal years it must be extremely few. The trainride Leads through Lisbon’s suburbs, which are pretty ugly so nothing to see on the way, only a short glimpse at castle of Queluz.
Arriving in Sintra you can choose from many offered tours to one or many castles by buses or tuktuks. Stubborn as I am, we rejected and took a walk to the town center. It has an extreme rich vegetation and humid climate, so the Location was choosen wisely. The Castelo dos Mouros towers above the town and the red tower of the Palacio de Pena sticks above the mountain, reminiscing a lot Sarumans home from Lord of the rings. But also the town itself is like in a fairytale. After walking by the palacio de Sintra with the iconic chimneys, looks like a Whiskey malt kiln, we decided to visit Quinta da Regaleira. It is huge garden with a subtropical vegetation. Palmtrees, ferns, rhododendrons, just beautiful. But the many dwells, caves and fountains which we all wanted to see, make it a half day visit. The architects of this garden created a real masterpiece, but even more astonishing that most plants are only 30 years old, when the garden experienced massive restoration.
At the end of the visit, we did not have power to hike and not even take a bus to the Palacio de Peña, which I now somehow regret. But all in all, it was wonderful day in Sintra and a highlight of our Portugal trip.
Sintra is one of the most impressive and attractive places to visit in all of Portugal. It is also one of the most maddeningly overcrowded. We were there in late April; boarding the local bus to drive up to the higher-situated sights, navigating the sole road that leads to those sights, or touring Pena Palace have all become rather challenging by early afternoon. I can only imagine how insane it may get in the summer.
That aside, Sintra is an exceptional mixture of nature and architecture. The inscription lists a large number of sights that comprise the overall cultural landscape. With one full day dedicated to it, most of the people would go for a few of the most famous components, which is what we did. Our first stop was the National Palace, which dates from 15th century. Inside, there is a number of attractive indoor and outdoor spaces, with some incredible azulejo tile work and elements of Mudéjar and Manueline styles. Decorated wood-panel ceilings are among the most remarkable features of the palace. One of the last rooms on the tour is the dazzling 16th-century Sala dos Brasões; the azulejos in this room are about 150 years younger and are simply phenomenal.
After the palace, we proceeded about a kilometer away from the village center to Quinta da Regaleira, which ended up as our favorite sight in Sintra. The gardens of this 17th-century villa are simply enchanting, with a number of attractive features. The palace itself is fairly compact, with only half a dozen rooms, each decorated in a distinct style. Regaleira is managed by a different company than the one managing the other major sights; its absence on the combined ticket for those sights means that some visitors skip it altogether - it does not get as crowded even closer to peak times.
Pena Palace is the most visited of all of Sintra sights, occupying top spot of one of the Sintra mountains. There was a medieval monastery at this site, partially destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. In the 19th century, king Ferdinand II built a pleasure palace here that is most distinctively colorful and combines a lot of outstanding architectural features in a very eye-catching, if somewhat contrived, way. The interior of the palace has a number of interesting rooms, among them the dining hall, the Belle Epoque Grand Hall, the Arabic Room with three-dimensional wall and ceiling paintings, and the kitchen. Unfortunately, this is one place where interior photography is not allowed. There was a half-an-hour-long line to enter the palace – entry tickets are rechecked there, for whatever reason – and we almost skipped going in, but decided to persevere for once, and that turned out to be a rewarding choice.
The Moorish Castle dates from at least the 9th century - it is one of the oldest monuments in the Sintra landscape and obviously a sight not at all like the palaces. An old church on the grounds hosts a fairly interesting interpretative center on the history of the Sintra region. There is a path running from the castle to the village center below, providing an alternative to the buses for connecting the upper and lower sights; I suspect only the most athletic visitors will enjoy using it on the way up, but if you plan to finish with Pena and the castle here, you certainly save yourself the aforementioned aggravation with buses by walking down the path (buy one-way ticket on your ride up).
We also spent some time in the heart of the village, which is quite commercialized yet full of agreeable visual details.
As our experience shows, you can see key points of interest and get a good overall impression of Sintra in a single day, while travelling from/to Lisbon on the local train (which runs roughly every half hour from whichever terminal in Lisbon you choose – most people will go through Rossio). And we also fit in a pretty good hour-long sit-down lunch, as well as lost over 40 minutes in midday while waiting on the bus for the driver shift change to take place. However, the number of attractions in Sintra can easily support a two-day stay. In that case, you would still start with the National Palace on the first morning and then proceed to Regaleira; afterwards, you could include additional sights, such as Monserrate Palace, which is located a bit further afield. Then, start the second day at Pena, which will have smaller crowds in the morning; and spend some time in the Pena Park, reputedly also quite delightful, which we had to cut from our itinerary. Afterwards, see the castle and you may even have time remaining for one or two lesser sights.
Read more from Ilya Burlak here.
My trip to Sinta was blessed with triumphs and (unavoidable?) pitfalls. I planned early based on reviews in our community that a day trip was not enough. Moreover, staying one night and using a rental car allowed me to see a pleasant mix of what Sintra offers. Granted, there was plenty I did not see.
Weather was not great, overcast, and spotty showers were always a threat. Tourism numbers at some key sites were reminiscent of China. Considering, I arrived early on Thursday and left late morning on Friday, I was not quite prepared for this. In fact, I would describe my driving as absolutely courageous and I will always be proud that my rental did not suffer a scratch.
Pena Palace was over-the-top, a bit over-rated and yet still charming. I certainly enjoyed exploring this tapestry of color, but was left wondering how this assemblage of vanity and endearing madness became a world heritage site? If Hearst Castle ever wishes international recognition from UNESCO, they surely have a precedent! The romantic in me was smitten, the Historian was dumbfounded in the resources expended in such a endeavor that served only the wild dreams of royalty. Admittedly, this can be said of royalty throughout the world, from China to Portugal and beyond.
Castle of the Moors was a pleasant hike, which provided great views of Sintra and the National Palace. There is not so much on display here, but the fortress does feel part of the landscape. In fact, the "castle" reminded me of mountain fortresses that can be found throughout Korea.
Sintra National Palace was indeed quite spectacular in several of its interior chambers. The tourist numbers in the National Palace compared to Pena Palace are nothing short of astonishing. The later, was all but empty as my wife and I had large expansive rooms all to ourselves. Pena Palace on the other hand, required long queues to just enter any room of moderate interest.
I was able to visit the exterior of Quinta da Regaleira and that alone is stunning and strange enough. Though, I do regret I did not have the time to visit this fascinating site properly. The Cultural Landscape of Sintra is often viewed as the most outstanding world heritage site in Portugal. I cannot disagree, but while I enjoyed my visit, it was not my favorite.
Read more from Kyle Magnuson here.
Sintra was the first WHS on my trip to Portugal in May 2018. Actually, palaces and gardens are not my favourite kind of WHS, but due to the positive reviews and the high rating on this website I expected an enjoyable visit. Thus, I scheduled two days for Sintra to visit all the major sites. And I was not disappointed.
I arrived at Sintra at noon and went first to the Palacio nacional de Sintra in the town centre, its history dates back to the Middle Ages. The first what I saw were the iconic conical chimneys of the palace kitchen, a nice prelude. And also the interior was a pleasant surprise. I liked best the wooden ceilings painted with magpies and swans, and the Room of Coats-and-Arms with its blue and white azulejos. Well, these tiles are ubiquitous in Portugal, magnificent, but after a while you get used to them and the wow-effect is weakening.
Next I headed to Quinta da Regaleira, just a few minute walk from the centre. The Manuelistic palace was interesting to visit, but the highlight was the wonderful magical garden. It was great fun to explore all these grottoes and lakes and fountains - most spectacular were the initiation wells, a kind of 'underground towers' lined with spiral staircases. Quinta da Regaleira is one of the most popular sites in Sintra and thus quite crowded. But in summer, it is open until 8 pm and in the late afternoon after the daytours have left, you can really enjoy the garden.
The program for the next day was Pena Palace and Park and the Moorish Castle. The Palacio Nacional da Pena opens at 9.30, so I had plenty of time to walk from my hotel to the park entrance. I had already bought a combined ticket the day before, so I was the first in the queue (but be aware that there is a second queue at the entrance of the palace). A short walk up to the palace and for a few minutes I had the scenery for myself. The Pena Palace is an exuberant and quirky mix of styles, an explosion of colours and shapes. Modesty and reserve look different. The royal family used the palace as a summer residence until 1910, after the proclamation of the republic it was opened to the public. The entire interior has been preserved as if the family was still living there. That's what makes the visit so interesting.
The Parque de Pena is huge, not as magical as at Regalaira, but still worth exploring: fountains, bridges, small temples and a rich vegetation with endemic and exotic plants. Hard to believe that there was only barren rock before it was built. In the park is also the highest point of the Sintra Mountains, Cruz Alta, popular because of the fantastic view of the palace (photo with the summit cross). You have also a nice view from the St Catherine's height, a few steps below. In the west of the park is the pretty Chalet da Condessa d'Edla, built in the style of an Alpine chalet, the interior design is different in each room, an eclectic mix of different colors, shapes, patterns, materials. At the outside, cork is the main element of decoration: window and door frames, the balustrades and railings are decorated with cork.
Opposite to the Pena Palace is the Castelo dos Mouros or rather its ruins. As the name suggests, the castle was built by the Moors, and later reconquered by the Portuguese. Today, the huge walls meander around two mountain peaks of the Sintra Mountains and offer great views of Sintra and the surrounding countryside. For the way back to Sintra I took the hiking trail around the Castelo and via the Villa Sassetti. The villa is currently under renovation and is due to be opened to the public soon. You can take a hop-on-hop-off bus between these sites, but I chose the sportive way and walked all the distances. So I spent a whole day in the Sintra mountains.
The next morning I visited two sites on the western part of the inscribed area: Palacio de Monserrate and Convento dos Capuchos, both less frequently visited than the palaces in Sintra. Both are easily accessible by bus, but I went there by car because I wanted to continue my trip in the afternoon to my next destination, to Mafra. There were only a few other visitors in Monserrate early in the morning. The palace in its present appearance dates from the mid-19th century. The building basically consists of a long gallery that connects the three towers. The eclectic style is similar to other buildings at Sintra, but the Moorish influence is clearly visible: the arches and pillars of the gallery and the decoration of the domes. The palace is surrounded by a large landscaped garden but I took only a short walk around the palace and through the Mexican garden.
And finally, the Convento dos Capuchos, a former Friars convent, in the middle of a forest. After passing the hidden entrance, you go up through narrow corridors and plain rooms, all lined with cork to insulate from cold and humidity. You end up at a small central place with a fountain and a chapel, surrounded by high trees, a lovely and enchanting place.
I spent one full and two half days in Sintra, and that was a good decision. Of course, there are similarities between the palaces and gardens, but each site has its own characteristics and its own specific charm. But if you have less time I would suggest to visit Pena Palace, Quinta da Regaleira and Sintra Palace.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I am actually not very keen on visiting palaces and gardens, but there are an increasing number of exceptions: Potsdam, Wartburg, Fontainebleau, Versailles (the gardens), Alhambra - and now Sintra. Seems that I have to reconsider my assessment, obviously I like to visit palaces, at least the best among them.
I decided to do a one day trip to Sintra from Lisbon. I think this is the minimum amount of time you should spend there. In retrospect, I wish I had done two days there - either staying overnight in Sintra town or catching the train back again from Lisbon.
It's a beautiful landscape with so much to see. I found it fascinating to see the evolution of the site from the period of the Moors, through the Medieval years, up to the Romantic 19th century and even into the way Sintra is used today.
There is no doubt in my mind that this is one of (if not the number one) best WHS in Portugal. So it's no surprise that it is incredibly busy. The other advantage of going for a second day is that you can visit some of the areas that are less crowded because the day-trippers focus on the highlights.
Having said that, if you want to see the highlights, I would suggest seeing the National Palace, then Quinta da Regaleira, then the Moorish Castle and then Pena Palace. That gives you a real variety of what's on offer and shows the different historical periods.
Read more from Michael Turtle here.
I absolutely loved my visit to the town of Sintra in the mountains outside Lisbon, Portugal. Sure, the weather was grey and brisk, and my warm layers were packed away in my lost luggage, but the day I spent there in the fall of 2012 was so memorable I would gladly return even under the same circumstances. Sintra's brightly colored town center is surrounded by castles -- the Royal Palace downtown, the Castle of the Moors on a nearby mountaintop, and the magnificent Pena National Palace, on another peak. Of those castles, I only had time to visit the Arabesque-Manueline hybrid that is Pena Palace; it was an amazing tour, with incredible views of the town, gardens, and surrounding cultural landscape from atop the towers and walls. The only other site I visited, was the unforgettable estate Quinta de Regaleira, designed by Carvalho Monteiro, a 19th century Portuguese millionaire. Monteiro was very interested in Freemasonry and the Knights Templar, and he incorporated their symbology throughout the house and gardens. As fascinating as the house was, I was thrilled to explore the gardens, which were replete with secret tunnels, grottoes, fountains, and spiraling wells. Sintra was marvelous, and reason enough for me to return to Portugal some day.
Logistics: Sintra is an easy train ride from central Lisbon, and there are several buses that operate on circuits connecting the train station to the castles and the town center. Buses are also available from Sintra to Cabo de Roca, the westernmost point of continental Europe.
Sintra is the classic destination for a daytrip from Lisbon, and I did spend a full day there, but it would be quite easy and tempting to take it slowly and dedicate 2 or more days to the area. There is definitely plenty to see to keep you occupied for quite some time. The site is a cultural landscape consisting of the centre of the town of Sintra plus several palaces in the surrounding mountains that were the favourite retreat for Portuguese royalty and nobility for many centuries. There are various types of buses available, and I chose a hop-on hop-off day pass for just 5 EUR that makes the rounds to all major sights (they arrive reasonably on time, but are often stuck in the massive traffic jams). The first stop after the station is the town centre where the National Palace is located. This medieval royal residence is quite an interesting building famous for its conic chimneys and wooden ceilings with beautiful decorations. After that, I took the bus up the winding mountain roads to Sintra's true highlight - the Pena Palace. This is really a fantastic sight, looking like a movie set or Disney attraction. As mentioned below, both Gaudi and Disney seem to have been inspired by its unique architecture and multi-coloured buildings. It is really a joy to walk around the site (still quite a long walk uphill from the bus stop) and enjoy the panoramic views over the mountains. Back in Sintra, I finished my day with a visit to the Quinta da Regaleira, a romantic palace with a large park full of features such as grottoes, lakes, and fountains that can take quite a long time to explore. Sintra is always full of tourists and, even though it is not very far from Lisbon, it is probably a better choice to stay there for a night or two to better experience a really unique site.
I visited this WHS in August 2014. Knowing that this WHS was actually made up of 4 palaces, a castle and an estate, I decided to dedicate 2 full days to Sintra and sleep over. It turned out to be a great decision. Sintra is choc-a-bloc with cars, coaches, vans and bus loads of tourists mainly from 11am till 4pm as most visit Sintra as a day trip from Lisbon. If it's the only way to see Sintra by all means go for it but still I'd suggest to stick to no more than 3 sites. Having more time to spare, I arrived by car from Lisbon around 9am and there were ample parking spaces to choose from. The parking meter lets you pay a maximum of 2 euros for 4 hours but by registering your number plate online (there are instructions on the parking meter) you can simply pay online or send an sms to extend your parking time. I bought the combined ticket to visit Pena Palace + Moorish Castle + Monserrate and then bought a separate ticket to visit Quinta in the evening. The Seteais Palace is a luxury hotel which I proudly called my home for a night. The Ramalhão Palace is decorated in the Louis XVI neoclassical style and I only saw it from outside. The Pena Palace is the star attraction of Sintra and hence is the palace that attracts most crowds. Visiting early in the morning meant that I managed to beat the crowds so by the time I finished viewing it's colourful exterior and visiting its interior, endless groups of people flooded the palace! Therefore I'd say that timing is of the essence here. The Castle of the Moors is close to the Pena Palace so naturally attracts a lot of people too. At least however it offers more open spaces than the Pena Palace so it doesn't feel so crowded. It's worthwhile climbing the stairs to enjoy the view over Sintra too. My favourite palace is actually situated 4km away from Sintra but I really loved its exterior and interior design with Moghul-inspired details and the lavish gardens. I was very lucky to be the very first visitor early in the morning which meant that for a while I had the palace to myself and I really enjoyed some peaceful and quiet moments. The highlight of my visit though was the mysterious and esoteric Quinta da Regaleira. The Manueline style is immediately visible once you approach the estate and also on the small but enchanting chapel. The gardens are a labyrinth of tunnels, grottoes, statues and fountains full of esoteric symbols. I've never seen anything like the Quinta and I must say it's truly unique. It opens until 8pm in the summer months and occasionally there are private night tours or theatrical events organised on the estate grounds which I wholeheartedly recommend. All in all I enjoyed my visit to Sintra but I'm sure my experience would not have been the same had I visited only as a day trip from Lisbon.
Reaching Sintra from Lisbon by train is easy, and reaching Penha Hill from Sintra Station by bus (#434) is just as simple. Then after paying the entrance fee, there is yet another conveyance that takes you to the palace at the very top. I think Walt Disney must have modelled his castle at Disneyland on this building, the difference being that this is made of real stone. But the pastel colours of the decorations rival those of Gaudi. Being at such an altitude the 360 degree views from the palace of the coast and surrounds are amazing.
Descending towards the town it is easy to divert to the Moorish castle and admire the views from there too.
Having visited the Penha Palace first I found the Royal Palace in the town rather bland.
Sintra has many descriptions. Dora Wordsworth said, "Sintra is a place more to dream than to write about". Robert Southley wrote that Sintra, "that vast temple to Nature" is like a "glorious Éden" (Lord Byron). Wiliam Becford, who had a villa in Sintra, wrote that it was "the most blessed place in the whole globe". Gil Vicente, a famous portuguese playwright, wrote that "Sintra is a piece of heaven that king Solomon sent has a gift to a king of Portugal". Ptolemy refers to Sintra has "mons lunae" (Mount of the Moon). Sintra has been home for many artist over the centuries, like Luis de Camões, Garcia Resende, Damião de Góis, Almeida Garret, Hans Christian Andersen, Alexandre Herculano, Camilo Castelo Branco, Eça de Queirós, Ernesto Biester, Jan Van Eick, Carlos I of Bragança, Fernando II of Saxe-Coburgo Gotha and Bragança, Ludwig von Eschwege, Nicolau de Chanterenne, Wenceslau Cifka, Elisa Frederica Henler (countess of Edla), Alfredo Keil, Luisa Sigêa, Franz Lizt, Richard Strauss... From the mystical Pena Palace you can observe and apreciate the beuty and charm of this place. Down in the town be fascinated by the churches, the villas, the typical streets and cafe's, the museums and gardens, and, of course, the ancient Palácio da Vila, were you can remark,by looking up, the magical Castle of the Moors. If you want two examples of marvellous villas, Regaleira and Monserrate are certainty the best examples of it.
David J. Jordan Jr.
As a American of Portuguese and French descent, my mother came here from the Azores islands in 1964, at the age of 23, and dad is from French Canada, and has been in the U.S. for 75 years! My heart belongs to Portugal, a amazing country, with a long and beautiful history. It makes me so happy to read the reviews. I have visited many countries in Europe, all were beautiful, yet Portugal remains unique. I long to see Lisbon from the castelo de sao Jorge at sunset. Or the spectacular view of Sintra from the palacio de Pena. Mafra and it's incredible convent/palace, that dome! You can see it for miles, I can go on and on, trust me, you'll love it.
Anibal Schulz Henriques
Sintra is one of the most interesting places in the world, for it history, and archeologie.
It all begins same thousand years ago. You can have references about it, since the "Itenerários" from Plínio , Strabos, Pompónio Mela or iven from Strabão.
But in my opinion the best historical references about Sintra you can read them in the "Monarchia Lusitana" from Frei Bernardo de Brito. There is also a very interesting book from João de Barros called the "Crónica do Imperador Clarimundo" the subject is Sintra but told in a very different kind of literature,(a midle - age way).
Sintra during many centuries was known as "Monte da Lua", Moon Mount, where the most ancient culture manifestation take place.
A heritage imortalized by Knight´s and Poets, it is a wonder that everyone should at least ones in life came and visit it.
I just hope that in the future organizations as UNESCO can help to preserve this unique place in the world.
Sintra was perhaps the highlight of my time in Portugal and that is saying a lot as I loved it there, and I didn't even get to see the highlight of the Pena Palace as it was closed. Sintra is very easy to get to from the centre of Lisbon there is a direct train from Rossio station and it takes about 35 minutes on a brand spanking new train! The centre of the town is next to the station and is reasonably nice but most of the sights are up on the surrounding hills. The Pena Palace is a ridiculously over the top royal palace and I was sad I did not get the chance to see it. Instead I spent a lot o time just climbing the hills and running around the Castelo dos Mouros. The castle is in ruins but still the walls seem to just merge with the rocky hill. And once in one of the bastions you are afforded a magnificent view over the surrounding Sintra National Park all the way to the Atlantic or back into Lisbon in the other direction. Truly a magnificent place and I am hoping to go back just to see the Palace.
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