Sintra Old Town is a place steeped in history and mystery, where the past meets the present.
Sintra Old Town has been a popular destination for centuries, being the former summer residence of the royal family of Portugal. This meant that not only did the court occupy it during their stay, but also constructed and maintained several homes, mansions and palaces in this area.
These palaces, mansions and lush gardens are truly unique, making it easy to see why people come from far and wide to experience the beauty of Sintra Old Town.
You can choose how you want to explore this magical destination: either by going on a guided tour through the streets and attractions to learn about its royal past or by exploring at your own pace without any guidance.
Both options have their advantages depending on budget and time constraints – but no matter which route you take, we guarantee an unforgettable adventure! In this guide we’ll show you all the best things to do in Sintra’s Old Town – so let’s get started!
✅ Don’t want to take the train? Take a small group tour from Lisbon to Sintra here.
Table of Contents
Sintra Old Town: Things To Do
There is so much to look at and experience in this gem of a town, you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice! You may decide to stay a night or two so you can see it all. Here are some of the best things to do while you’re in Sintra Old Town.
1. Marvel at the beautiful town hall in the main square
Dating back to the early 1900s, the town hall is a picturesque building that stands out in the center of Sintra Old Town.
It’s an impressive sight, with its Neo-Gothic design and impressive clock tower. It, unfortunately, can’t be visited since it is a working building and not open to the public
2. Explore the town center
The heart of Sintra Old Town is the town center, where you can find an abundance of small alleyways, quaint shops and inviting restaurants.
With cobblestone streets, old-world buildings and a vibrant atmosphere, it’s no wonder this area is so popular!
3. Stop for a coffee and a local sweet:
Make a pitstop at the iconic Piriquita cafe in the Largo Rainha Dona Amelia town square and try a Queijada da Sapa, or a Travesseiro, both local specialties that love a cup of coffee!
Open 08h30 – 20h00, Closed Wednesdays
Towering over the main square of Sintra Old Town, the National Palace is a stunning sight, with its distinctive chimneys and Moorish-style architecture.
It’s an absolute must-see, as the palace’s origins stem from 1147 when Sintra was reclaimed following the Christian conquest. During the 20th century, it was used as a summer residence for the royal family and provides a fascinating look at the everyday functioning of such a large building.
The kitchens are particularly interesting. A visit to this historical monument will take around 90 minutes and is discounted with the Lisbon card.
Open from 9:30 am to 18:30 pm. Last entry at 18:00.
✅ Skip the line and get your Sintra National Palace tickets here.
5. Take a walk up the Volta do Duche road
As one of the oldest roads in Sintra Old Town, Volta Ducha takes you on a winding path up the hillside where it once had the public baths. It’s perfect for a leisurely stroll and offers stunning views out over the town and surrounding countryside.
You’ll also come across numerous pieces of artwork by local artists as well as artisans selling their wares along the path.
6. Take a picture at the Fonte Mourisca
This beautiful fountain is a remnant of times gone by and it’s an iconic symbol of the Old Town. It’s surrounded by a stone portico and is definitely worth stopping for a photograph!
7. Stop awhile in the Parque da Liberdade
This park is located just off the Volta do Duche road and is a great place to relax and enjoy some time away from the hustle and bustle.
It features lush gardens, leafy trees, plenty of benches for resting in the shade and even a playground for children.
Sintra Castles & Palaces
Don’t miss the most iconic sights of Sintra! Here are some of the most impressive castles, palaces and gardens in town.
Pena Palace is one of the most iconic sights in Sintra, and a must-see for anyone visiting the town.
Located atop a hilltop with stunning views of the surrounding countryside, this majestic palace was built in the 19th century and is an excellent example of Romanticism architecture.
Its vibrant colors, ornate towers and exotic gardens make it a truly unique experience.
Although the palace is not furnished, its interiors are full of intricately carved details, and a visit to the palace can include an audio guide for 1 € extra.
The Pena Palace is THE attraction in Sintra, so expect crowds. However, tickets are now bought with a specific time for entry which controls the number of visitors coming through the place.
The best times are early at 9 am, or late after 4 pm. This is one of the attractions which is greatly benefited by a local guide since the history is so interesting.
Open every day from 9:30-18:00, with last entry at 17:30.
✅ Skip the line and book the Pena Palace tickets here.
Pena Palace Park
The Pena Palace Park is right next to the castle and is a wonderful respite to a busy day of touring.
Spread across 200 hectares, it offers stunning views and has several gardens featuring small decorative buildings, waterfalls, ponds, fountains and lakes filled with ducks and fishes.
Make sure to see the Chalet da Condessa d’Edla as well as some of the exotic plants found in the many greenhouses in the park.
✅ Skip the lineup and book both Pena Palace and Park tickets here.
Quinta da Regaleira is truly one of Sintra’s most spectacular sights. Located just a few minutes away from the historic centre, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which features incredible architecture and stunning gardens.
The palace and its grounds boast grand Neogothic towers, grottos, and other mysterious structures – all of which are fun to explore.
Make sure to walk down the Initiation Well, a 27-metre deep spiral staircase leading underground and said to hold many secrets!
Open every day from 10:00-18:00 with last entry at 17:30.
✅ Skip the line and get a discount on both Pena Castle and Quinta da Relgaleira tickets here.
This is the newest addition to the Sintra collection of palaces and truly is one of the most worthwhile. Especially since it still hasn’t been discovered by the masses! It opened in April of 2022 and was fully restored to its original splendor.
Since the palace is fully furnished it is the monument that creates the most awe and wonder about what life would have been like for the family that lived here for so long.
The impressive monument has two floors, with incredibly intricate details which talk of late-century modernity and opulent decorations.
Don’t miss the wooden elevator and the beautiful gardens with views of the Moorish castle, and even the sea! The frescos, stuccoes, and painting, as well as the exquisite chapel add an element of mysticism and art meets religion in the most interesting manner.
Make sure to visit this monument- it’s one of my favorites!
Open every day from 10:00-18:30 during winter months, and 20:00 during summer months. The last entry is always an hour before closing.
✅ Skip the line and get your Biester Palace tickets here.
Sintra Old Town Map
Sintra Old Town: Best Restaurants
Sintra has incredibly good options for lunch or dinner! Here are the best places in town based on local advice.
✅ A Praça
We love the atmosphere in this small restaurant – it feels like you’re eating in someone’s kitchen! The kitchen is the focus of the whole restaurant, and the food prepared is fresh, tasty and gorgeous!
One of the best vegetarian joints in the Lisbon area! Prices vary from 10-15€, and the menu changes daily. Definitely worth checking out! Find it on the map here.
✅ A Raposa
This charming spot looks like a British tea house! Slightly more upscale than most places in Sintra, the food here is Portuguese, but modernized and well-presented on the plate.
Very good food and excellent service! Try the bacalhau or the octopus for a delicious meal. Prices vary from 30-40€. Find it on the map here.
✅ Nau Palatina
Slightly off the beaten track, this delectable bistro is definitely worth the detour. The owner is in the dining room and makes sure patrons have a great experience, while his wife cooks up fabulous dishes.
Try the octopus or the shrimp for a show-stopping meal. Prices vary from 20-25 €. Find it on the map here.
Getting Around Sintra
Since Sintra is very hilly, and the palaces and monuments are spread out, the best way to get around is by bus, taxi, e-car rental or tuk-tuk.
The municipal buses run regularly and stop at all the main attractions, while e-cars and tuk-tuks are a fun and practical alternative to explore the area.
✅ An e-car for 2 is a very cool and different way to get around Sintra! Check availability here.
Parking In Sintra
For tourists traveling to Sintra by car, there are two convenient parking zones located near the historic center:
- The parking lot at the end of Rua Guilherme Gomes Fernandes
- The train station parking lot
Both car parks are large enough to have plenty of available spots, so visitors can be sure they won’t have trouble finding a place to park. Please note that the parking is not free, and the fee is 0.80€/hour.
Only cash is accepted for payment, but you can also pay using the Ipark Mobile app, which allows you to pay by credit card. In recent years there have been a few cars broken into, so just watch not to leave any valuables in your car during your visit.
Public Transportation in Sintra and other options
You can easily take public transport to get to and around Sintra. The best way is to take the train from Lisbon’s Rossio station and get off at the Sintra Station, which is located in the center of town. From there you can walk, catch a bus or a tuk-tuk to your destination.
There is very convenient a hop-on/hop-off bus service called Circuito da Pena, which is an affordable and flexible way to explore the area. The ticket costs 6.90€ for the entire day and 3.90€ for a one-way trip on any route.
Tickets can be bought from the driver on board the bus. The bus makes a loop starting at the train station and makes stops at the Sintra Old Town center, the Moorish Castle, and the Pena Palace and back again.
You can also choose to take a tuk-tuk to your destination or rent an e-car, which is a great option since you can park it at each palace without much fuss.
Lisbon to Sintra
Getting to Sintra is quite easy from Lisbon, as it’s only about 25 km away. The best way to go is by train, as the journey time can be as short as 35 minutes and trains leave every half an hour or so from Rossio Station in Lisbon.
You can buy tickets at the station before hopping on the train of your choice. There is a great Train & Bus Ticket combo which includes both the train and the Circuito da Pena hop on/hop off bus all day pass for 15.80 €.
If you’re traveling by bus from Cascais or Estoril consider buying an All Day Ticket valid on the Circuito de Pena bus as well for 15.00 €.
The best way to see Sintra is a private tour, especially if you’re short on time. Local guides are an excellent way to see the best of Sintra, as they can provide you with insights into the unique history and culture of this magical town all while eliminating lineups and getting you from place to place quickly.
Where to stay in Sintra
Check out the hotels available in the area!
Sintra Old Town FAQ
Is Sintra town worth visiting?
Yes, Sintra town is definitely worth visiting! It is a picturesque and historic mountain village in Portugal with stunning architecture, lush gardens, and many interesting sights to explore. Overall, it’s a wonderful place to visit for both its cultural attractions and natural beauty.
Why is Sintra so famous?
Sintra is famous for its stunning architecture, lush gardens and unique cultural attractions. It was once home to many of Portugal’s most influential families and is home to several UNESCO World Heritage sites. The beautiful landscape offers visitors gorgeous views, while the town has a rich history with plenty of monuments, castles, and other historical attractions that are worth exploring. Sintra’s natural beauty and cultural significance make it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Portugal.
Can you walk around Sintra?
Yes, you can walk around Sintra. The town is relatively small but it offers plenty of winding streets and pathways to explore on foot. There are also many scenic trails nearby that offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape. So if you’re looking for a relaxing stroll or a more challenging hike, Sintra has something to offer everyone!
What should I visit first in Sintra?
The best place to start your visit in Sintra is the Pena National Palace. This striking hilltop palace was built in the 19th century and is considered one of Portugal’s most important architectural landmarks. It features an eclectic mix of architectural styles, from Manueline to Gothic and Moorish, as well as lush gardens with exotic plants from around the world. Visiting this iconic attraction should be at the top of your list when visiting Sintra!
Is 1 day enough for Sintra?
No, one day is not enough for Sintra. There are so many cultural attractions and natural beauty to explore that you could easily spend a few days there. However, if your time is limited, then it’s possible to see the major sights in Sintra in one day if you plan your visit carefully and make the most of every hour.
What should I wear in Sintra?
For Sintra, it is best to wear something comfortable that is suitable for both walking and sightseeing. You should also consider the weather – during warmer days, light clothing such as shorts or a sundress would be ideal; in cooler temperatures, jeans and a light jacket would work better. Be sure to bring a hat or an umbrella and wear comfortable walking shoes so you can explore the sights safely and comfortably!
Do I need to book Sintra in advance?
Yes, it is recommended to book Sintra in advance. Many of the attractions are popular and can become crowded quickly, so booking tickets before you arrive will help you avoid waiting in long lines or missing out on an experience altogether. Additionally, many hotels and restaurants sell out fast during peak season, so having a reservation already in place can save you from disappointment.
What is the best day of the week to visit Sintra?
The best day of the week to visit Sintra is on a weekday, preferably Tuesday or Wednesday. During this time the city will be less crowded and you will have more breathing room to explore all of Sintra’s attractions.
What time do the castles open in Sintra?
The castles in Sintra generally open from 9:00am to 6:00pm, 7 days a week. Some of the smaller attractions may have restricted opening times and it is advisable to check beforehand for exact opening hours for each location.
Should I stay in Sintra or day trip?
Whether you should stay in Sintra or day trip really depends on your personal preferences. If you only have a limited amount of time, then a day trip may be the best option for you, as it will allow you to explore the town’s many attractions without needing to book accommodation. However, if you have more time to spend in Sintra and want to be able to explore it fully, then staying in Sintra is definitely the way to go. This would also give you access to nighttime activities such as dinner or live music, which can add an extra special touch during your visit!
The Wrap-Up: Sintra Old Town
Sintra is a beautiful and unique destination that has something for everyone. Whether you are looking to take in the stunning views, learn about Portuguese history or just explore nature, Sintra Old Town is an ideal place to visit.
With convenient public transportation options, plenty of parking and the Circuito da Pena hop-on/hop-off bus service, getting around Sintra is easy. Don’t forget to take your camera – you don’t want to miss out on capturing all the sights!