If you’re feeling like seeing a different and exotic part of Portugal, then you should consider visiting Sintra. It’s a wonderful town with plenty of things to do including an abundance of beautiful castles and palaces. Here is our guide that will hopefully give you everything that you need.
We cover the best attractions, restaurants and hotels in Sintra, as well as some tips on how to get there and what to expect once you have arrived for your stay.
Things to do in Sintra
There are so many reasons to visit Sintra, including the highlights – Pena Palace, Castelo do Mouros and the National Palace.
Centro Historico de Sintra
The Centro Historico de Sintra was established in 1982 to protect the historic centre of Sintra. In 1985, it was joined to the program Património Mundial da Humanidade, which aims to preserve and increase cultural heritage around the world through identification, protection and conservation.
In 1988, the program was officially acknowledged as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The historic centre of Sintra is walkable (although parts are hilly!) and there are some beautiful palaces and Churches that you can explore on foot including St Martin’s Church and Sintra National Palace. Also be sure to stop for a Pasteis de Nata along the way!
Castelo do Mouros
If you’re looking for a magnificent example of Medieval architecture in Portugal, look no further than Castelo do Mouros. The castle, which is situated in the town of Sintra, was built in the 11th century and served as both a royal summer residence and a defensive outpost against the Moors.
The construction of Castelo do Mouros began between 1093 & 1094 under the orders of knight, Afonso Henriques. Medieval history tells us that the area was first settled by Celts in the 6th Century B.C. A century later, the Greeks built a small settlement there as well.
For 600 years, Sintra was under Islamic rule until 1147 when Christian forces under Sebastião I retook it from the Moors—still, a remnant of that past can be seen today with alterations to Castelo do Mouros which were made during this period, including a larger watchtower and an extended moat.
See the wonderful views as well as climb up the tower for even more 360 degree views.
Pena Park and Palace
Go for a walk through the Pena Park. Here you will find plenty of ornate gardens and buildings constructed in a mix of Romantic, Moorish and Manueline styles. It really is a beautiful place to visit. You’ll need at least 2-3hrs here just to see everything there is on offer here.
The Pena Palace (Pena Real or Royal Palace) was constructed during the second half of the 19th century. It is located in Sintra, Portugal, and has been classified as a World Heritage Site since June 8, 2007.
The construction of Pena Palace began in the middle of the 19th century under King Ferdinand II. It was built alongside the Royal Palace of Sintra, which is nowadays only used by Spanish and Portuguese royal family members during their vacations. The palace was used to house the royal family in summertime. Afonso II died before he could finish it, and so it remained with a part built and a part reconstructed to its current form. Queen Maria Pia continued to live in the palace until her death, after which it fell into disrepair. In 1903, it was purchased by its last private owner, banker José António Salema de Melo e Castro. It was he who adapted it to the Romanticist style in which it is now recognized.
The National Palace of Sintra
The National Palace of Sintra was built built during the reign of King John VI (1792-1826) and is a national monument. It served as the summer home for the Royal Family of Portugal. It was originally built in the Manueline-era style but underwent major alterations after fire destroyed it in 1825. The building is considered to be one of the most important examples of 19th-century Romanticism in Europe and has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995. The palace occupies a large area and has 112 rooms. The main façade faces the town of Sintra and was completed in 1878.
The principal façades are decorated in the neoclassical style, with columns, triangular pediments and sculptural reliefs. The interior is decorated in the Romantic style and contains furniture, chandeliers and paintings from the time of Ferdinand II, including a set of Japanese vases ordered specifically by him for his wife Maria Pia of Savoy.
Palácio de Monserrate
The Monserrate Palace (Palácio de Monserrate in Portuguese) is a palatial villa located near Sintra. Traditionally Monseratte palace was the the summer location of the Portuguese court in the foothills overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The design was influenced by Romanticism and Moorish architecture.
National Palace of Queluz – Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira is a palace and garden classified as World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Park is located in the municipality of Sintra, one hundred kilometres north from Lisbon on Portugal’s Atlantic coast. The Quinta has been classified as National Monument since 1934 and its gardens are open to visitors for an admission fee valid for two consecutive days. It is one of the most famous monuments related to Freemasonry in Europe due to its many symbols included in ironwork, architecture, inscriptions and statues.
There are plenty of great restaurants in Sintra that serve dishes from all around the world. It’s worth sampling some traditional Portuguese cuisine as well as trying out some dishes from other countries too, such as Spanish food and Italian dishes. One restaurant with an interesting history is the Restaurante O Carmo at Rua dos Cobreiros 3-5.
Tours of Wineries and Vinyards
The area surrounding Sintra is famous for its wine. You can take a tour of the vineyards here and learn more about the wines that are made in this region. The best to visit are Regional de Colares Winery and Casal Sta Maria.
Shopping in Sintra
If you like shopping then you are going to love this place. There is a shopping centre located near the train station which has lots of top brand stores as well as some local boutiques and quaint shops selling antiques, jewellery, pottery and crafts. It’s a great place to buy gifts and souvenirs. For the best authentic local produce head to Casal Sta Maria.
Where to Stay in Sintra
If you want to stay overnight then we suggest staying at Vista do Rei Hotel which is ideally situated right in the middle of everything that Sintra has to offer. It’s an excellent hotel with a friendly staff.
So, what are you waiting for? Get booking your Sintra holiday today! It’s a wonderful place to visit and there is plenty to see and do.
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