MAGIC! This is the word that best defines the town of Sintra! Located by the ocean, Sintra is such a special place that it became a world heritage site (UNESCO). Palaces, castles, woods, manor houses, historical monuments and a unique charm. A place not to be missed!
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A magical, small place that can be visited in just one day. It belongs to the district of Lisbon and has 380,000 inhabitants. It is the second most densely populated municipality in Portugal.
HOW TO GET TO SINTRA?
BY CAR – Only 32 minutes and 28 kilometers separate Lisbon from the town of Sintra by car (on days with little traffic). BY TRAIN – The trip takes 40-50 minutes. There are two train connections between Lisbon and the town of Sintra.
The first option is to take the train at Rossio. This is clearly the most used solution and also the fastest (40 minutes). Rossio station is right in the center of Lisbon, allowing you to visit other very central and touristy places in Lisbon (Chiado, Restauradores, Praça do Comércio).
The second option is to depart from Oriente station (via Areeiro, Entrecampos and Sete Rios). This solution is more convenient for those who arrive in the capital by plane. This is because Oriente station is very close to the airport’s metro station. The trip lasts 47 minutes.
After arriving at the town’s train station, you will have to walk about 15 minutes until you reach the center of Sintra. A very beautiful journey without any great inclines.
WHAT TO VISIT IN SINTRA?
There are many tourist attractions in Sintra! To make this article easier to read, we have divided the attractions into 5 blocks: 1. attractions in the center of Sintra, 2. other attractions, 3. beaches around Sintra, 4. gastronomy, 5. places near Sintra.
ATTRACTIONS IN THE CENTER OF SINTRA
The historical center of the town of Sintra also deserves your attention and we suggest that you set aside a morning (or an afternoon) to visit it. Our first recommendation is common to all historical centers everywhere: wander (on foot) without haste and without a defined destination. Look carefully and feel the atmosphere of the place. After the random walk, visit the clock tower, the church of São Martinho, the Pelourinho (square in front of the national palace) and Liberty Park from where you can enjoy a magnificent view of the historic center.
Below is a map with the location of the attractions that are located in the center of the village.
SAINT MARTINHO CHURCH
In 1306, the building became a church.It was heavily damaged by the great earthquake of 1755 and rebuilt in the late 18th century. Of the primitive church only the Gothic style chancel and 3 planks of 16th century Portuguese painting remained.
in the 18th century, attached to the church, a chapel was built in honor of Our Lady of the Helpless. It was built in the early months of 1755 and destroyed by the great earthquake of November of that same year. It was recovered and the restoration was completed in 1773.
Next to the churchyard there is a fabulous viewpoint. The state of conservation is good and deserves a close visit.
CLOCK TOWER, SINTRA
To this day no one has been able to pinpoint the exact date of the clock tower in the town of Sintra. But it is likely that it was built in the 15th or 16th century during the reign of Dom Manuel I or Dom João III. The interior of the tower has a medieval style and would have been located between the prison and the Town Hall. The structure we can see today is the result of an intervention carried out at the end of the 18th century (probably in 1773) by indication of the Marques of Pombal. The great earthquake of 1755 damaged the original medieval tower.
PALACE OF THE SETEAIS
Today it is a super elegant and super sophisticated 5 star hotel! It was built in the last 25 years of the 18th century by the Dutch consul in Portugal, Daniel Gildemeester. Later, in the early 19th century, the palace was renovated and enlarged by order of Dom Diogo Coutinho. To him we owe the magnificent Triumphal Arch of the palace. The Palace of Seteais was bought by the Portuguese State in 1946 by indication of Salazar. In 1954 it was transformed into a sumptuous hotel maintaining its main characteristics.
It was in 1936 that the old Valenças Park was bought by the tourism commission of Sintra. A much missed acquisition by the residents of the time who found here the perfect place to stroll or relax a little. The park’s inauguration was attended by General Carmona in a great ceremony open to the public. Three years later (in 1939), the park was renovated and improved with the creation of a tennis court and a skating rink that caused great euphoria among the locals. Liberty Park has a vast variety of plants and can be visited every day from 9am to 5pm.
SINTRA TOWN HALL BUILDING
the arrival of the railroad in Sintra changed the town’s urban network. With this innovation, a new population cluster was born (called Estefânia) a little further away from the center of the town. This change caused the displacement of some economic organizations and administrative entities, including the Town Hall. The new Paços do Concelho (Town Hall) building was built on the site of the old São Sebastião chapel in 1906. This location was halfway between the “old town” and the new Estefânia district. The construction took 3 years and the result was a very beautiful building with austere facades and ornamental windows.
OTHER ATTRACTIONS IN SINTRA
Below is a map with the location of the following attractions (Pena National Palace, Moorish Castle, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra National Palace, Monserrate Palace and Gardens, Capuchins Convent, Sintra Mountains, Blue Lagoon, Peninha Sanctuary, Chalet and Condessa D’edla Garden).
PENA NATIONAL PALACE
It is one of the seven wonders of Portugal since 2007. It is the most visited palace in the country, which in 2013 had more han 800,000 visitors. It is located on top of an escarpment that is one of the highest points in the Sintra Mountains.
The Palace is within the Pena Park. The Palace has two wings. One wing is formed by the old Manueline convent and the second wing was built in the 19th century by King Fernando II. These two structures (wings) are surrounded by a third structure where we find a fantasy castle, a drawbridge, watchtowers and several tunnels. In the National Palace of Pena you must visit: 1) the royal family’s main entrance 2) Queen Amélia’s rooms 3) the noble salon 4) the queen’s terrace 5) the chapel.
These fortifications dating from the 10th century were built by the Moorsafter the conquest of the peninsula. Known as the Moorish Castle and also as Sintra Castle, they were enlarged by the Christians after the reconquest. Those who visit the castle will also have the opportunity to enjoy a magnificent view of the Atlantic Ocean.
QUINTA DA REGALEIRA
Quinta da Regaleira is located in the historic center of the town of Sintra. It was built in the first decade of the 20th century, a period that coincided with the end of the Portuguese monarchy period. The building is surrounded by gardens, caves, and lakes. The entire site is surrounded by an enigmatic atmosphere. The architecture of the building has influences from the Renaissance and Gothic styles. The farm was bought in 1997 by the Sintra Chamber. Today it is the headquarters of the Cultursintra foundation, an organization whose purpose is the conservation and recovery of the region’s heritage.
When you visit this site be sure to see: 1- the Initiation Well, 2- the landing of the gods, 3- the chapel of the holy trinity, 4- the tower, 5-the woods. For more detailed information visit the site: www.regaleira.pt
SINTRA NATIONAL PALACE
This is a very old palace originally built during the Moorish occupation of the peninsula probably in the 11th century (the Muslim ccupation began in 711 AD). In 1281, by order of Dom Dinis it was ordered to be restored. Later, in the 15th and 16th century, the palace
underwent other important renovations that transformed it into the magnificent palace we can admire today (the silhouette of the palace has not been modified in the last 4 centuries).
Its huge white chimneys stand out from the rest of the building. The chimneys had an eminently practical function, in that they are an integral part of a huge kitchen that once served the Portuguese royal family. When visiting this palace don’t forget to see: 1- the Swan room, 2- Manueline decorative elements (doors and windows), 3- tiles, 4- interior patios
CHALET AND GARDEN OF THE COUNTESS D’EDLA
The chalet and garden of the Countess D’Edla was built between 1864 and 1869 and born out of the love between King Fernando II and Elise Hensler, a Swiss opera singer with whom the king fell in love. United by their passion for each other and their love of the arts, the couple withstood the many criticisms that their union engendered. It was in the Park and Palace of Pena that the couple found the tranquility they craved. Elise became the Countess, and it was she who designed the chalet and garden, a space full of beauty and romance. It is located west of the Pena Palace and its style is clearly Alpine, an architecture very much in fashion in the 19th century.
The facade and the interior of the Chalet are very peculiar and reflect the special personality of the couple. Embracing the chalet is the garden with many exotic species with special emphasis on the Countess’ Fern, the Bower, the Stone Maze, and Joina’s Garden. The ing died in 1885 and left all his possessions in his will to the Countess of Edla. This decision enerated a legal conflict that led the countess to sell the Park, the Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle to the Portuguese crown. She nevertheless kept her Chalet and its garden until 1904.
MONSERRATE PALACE AND GARDENS
A beautiful park built in 1858! The work of a man who fell in love with the Sintra mountains and who lived there, William Beckford. The Palace of Monserrate was an old orchard farm. Here you will find enigmatic paths running along lakes, waterfalls and ruins that combine in an organized disorder. In the gardens of Monserrate you will find Portuguese species such as strawberry trees or cork oaks. And also more than 2500 species from all the continents of the planet. Inside the palace, don’t forget to visit the music room, the reception rooms, the dining room, the Indian lounge and the library.
CONVENT OF CAPUCHOS
The Capuchos Convent, built in 1560, is a humble convent without any ornamentation, in absolute contrast to the usual tourist destinations in Sintra. Legend has it that D. João de Castro, after getting lost in a hunt and having spent the night in a stone shelter, dreamed of building a convent there.
He died before he could build the temple but passed his dream on to his son who had it built. The convent perfectly fulfills the ideals of poverty and suffering life that the community of monks (who lived in the Conventinho da Arrábida) set themselves. The Convent of the Capuchins is located in the Monserrate Park. If you want to visit it, go by car through road N247-3.
VISIT THE SERRA DE SINTRA
Also known as Monte da Lua, the Sintra mountain range belongs not only to the municipality of Sintra, but also to the municipality of Cascais. It is approximately 10 kilometers long (from east to west) and 5 kilometers wide. Its highest point is at 528 meters (Cruz Alta). The fauna of the mountain is of rare beauty and includes foxes, moles, salamanders, hawks, snakes, and various reptiles. The richness of its flora and fauna is due to the oceanic influences, the temperate climate, and the abundant rain that far exceeds the rainfall of the great city of Lisbon. A fantastic solution place for climbing and mountaineering lovers.
Also known as the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Penha. It was built in thelate 17th century and is located on a hill in the Sintra Mountains. Its architecture is marked by the Baroque style with 18th century tiles depicting the life of the Virgin Mary.
The sanctuary offers an absolutely magnificent and breathtaking view. From this elevation we can see from Berlengas to Cape Espichel. The way to get there is also of great beauty.
BLUE LAKE (LAGOA AZUL)
It is at the foot of the Sintra mountains that we find this pearl(almost) unknown to the Portuguese and foreigners. It was in this mountain range that in 1986 a fatal accident happened in the rally of Portugal. One might think that the ignorance of Lagoa is related to the difficulty of access. Nothing could be more incorrect. It is very easy to get there by car or on foot. Near the lagoon you will find a large parking lot that allows you to park your car without difficulty.
It is a perfect place to take a leisurely walk and enjoy the beauty of the landscape. In the Blue Lagoon we can see carp, terrapins, freshwater mussels, wild ducks, turtle doves and some other curious animals. Although the water looks inviting, it is not suitable for swimming. There are many trails that you can walk, run or bike. Alone, with company, with the family or with your four-legged friend, all options are good!
VIRTUAL TOUR TO SINTRA
BEACHES AROUND SINTRA
The town of Sintra is very close to countless beautiful beaches. Here are some suggestions and a map to guide you.
PRAIA DAS MAÇÃS BEACH
The Colares stream flows into this beach and, as the story goes, it was at this beach that the apples that were later sold to the locals used to arrive. This explains the peculiar name of this place. Very popular in the summer with Portuguese and foreigners. Its beach is quite large and the sea is almost always strong and cold. Perfect for the more experienced surfers. From Praia das maçãs beach to the town of Sintra it is only 11 kilometers away, a 17 minute drive (no traffic).
Near Colares and Almoçageme, Adraga beach is part of the Sintra-Cascais natural park. To access the beach you have to do it in Almoçageme through a road full of curves that goes down to show you the sea. The beach has a parking lot that is usually full (especially during the summer months), a restaurant and a public bathhouse. Adraga beach was considered by a famous English newspaper (in 2003), as one of the best beaches in Europe.
Magoito Beach is the most beautiful beach in this coastal region. Like Adraga beach, it also belongs to the Sintra-Cascais natural park. It is considered a dangerous beach because it has a very rough sea and a strong current. The beach is flanked by huge cliffs of great beauty. To get there by car, you should use the Santa Marta road where you can also park your car. The access to the beach is made by a staircase or a walkway that allows access to people with reduced mobility. If you are a beach lover, be sure to read our article about Costa da Caparica.
It was considered by the Michelin guide one of the most beautiful beaches in the world! It is 17 kilometers from Sintra, a distance that can be covered in 27 minutes. The curious name of the beach is due to one of the (several) rock formations that we can find there and that resembles a bear. It is an unsupervised beach, wild, inhospitable and practically deserted. It is quite close to Cabo da Roca. To get there you have to overcome the access that is made by a dirt road followed by a steep path with many obstacles. Not advisable for people with any kind of mobility limitation, but those who go are rewarded by a landscape of great beauty. The sand, the rocks and the ocean form a very beautiful trilogy.
WHEN TO VISIT SINTRA?
Now that you know what to visit in Sintra, you should also know that the magical town has a high number of tourists throughout (almost) the whole year. This tourist flow intensifies between the months of April and October. July and August are obviously the months with the highest number of tourists. Avoid this period so that your visit to Sintra is memorable and not an interminable sequence of queues and waits. A weekend in Sintra is a magnificent plan that you can make in any of the other 48 weeks of the year. Given the temperate climate of the region but also the high cloudiness there frequently, it is very difficult to choose a date that guarantees you sunshine and dry weather. Despite the risk of unstable weather, a weekend in Sintra is guaranteed to be a pleasure! If you have the chance to visit Sintra during the week, then don’t hesitate. The number of tourists (Portuguese and foreign) decreases a lot during the weekdays.
WHAT TO VISIT NEAR SINTRA?
To get to know Sintra calmly, we suggest that you book a full weekend. In case you have some time left, know that relatively close to Sintra there are other charming places. Here are 4 suggestions: Azenhas do Mar, Queluz National Palace, Cabo da Roca, and Mafra Convent.
22 kilometers and 23 minutes separate Sintra from the Convent of Mafra. A must-see monument and a place where architecture and art meet perfectly. It was initially built as a small convent but ended up in a gigantic Palace that integrates a convent, a Royal Palace and a Basilica. Absolutely unmissable!
17 kilometers and 22 minutes lie between Sintra and Cabo da Roca. A rock wall that advances over the sea at an altitude of 140 meters! The place where “the land ends and the sea”, this is how Camões wrote about Cabo da Roca. Be sure to visit the westernmost point of Portugal and Europe. A breathtaking view awaits you!
From Sintra to Azenhas do Mar is a 13-minute drive and a distance of 9.8 kilometers. It is one of the jewels of the Portuguese coast! There we find a terriola embedded in rock formations and a natural pool of great beauty. If you like seafood and fresh fish you will love Azenhas do Mar. Its gastronomy, combined with its natural beauty, make it special and a
The National Palace of Queluz is only 16.7 kilometers from Sintra, a 15-minute drive. It was built in the 17th century in rococo style and is often dubbed the “Portuguese Versailles”. After the fire at Ajuda Royal Palace, the Queluz Palace housed the royal family until their flight to Brazil (following the French invasions). But the Queluz National Palace also suffered a major fire (1934). Knowing monuments enriches our knowledge of the history of Portugal.
GASTRONOMY IN SINTRA
In Sintra, as in Lisbon, it is possible to eat good meat and fish. Although there is a great variety of good and gastronomic food, the following possibilities stand out:
Meat: Veal à Sintrense and Suckling pig from Negrais
Fish: Migas à pescador and Açorda de Bacalhau
Sweets: Travesseiros and queijadas de Sintra.
CAFES AND PASTRY SHOPS IN SINTRA
A PERIQUITA PASTRY SHOP
Located in the heart of the town of Sintra, this is surely one of the most famous pastry shops in Portugal and the ideal place to eat queijadas and travesseiros! It opened its doors in 1862 on the initiative of baker Amaro dos Santos. The curious name “Periquita” was given by King Dom Carlos who frequented the pastry shop. The king used to call (affectionately) the owner of the pastry shop Dona Constância Gomes) Periquita (because she was very small). It was the king who encouraged Constância to produce the famous queijadas de Sintra (Sintra cheesecakes). It was, and still is, a success!
The pastry shop is now a pleasant space and its walls display its history and evolution. The “travesseiros de Sintra” appeared well after the “queijadas”, during the 1940’s and today are, along with the “queijadas”, a symbol of the town. It is an example of a very successful family business that has passed from generation to generation. Today the Periquita pastry shop is already in its 5th generation!
It is much more than a simple coffee shop! It is also a cultural space that was built next to the train station in the ruins of an old cheese factory. Café Saudade is a tea room, a cafe, and also a place where culture finds its space. Live music, exhibitions, traditional portuguese arts, and a place to sell handicrafts. A place where nostalgia and the memory of Portugal merge on the walls and in the atmosphere of the various rooms of the café. A place to visit calmly, with time, and with an appetite! Besides the culture, there we find homemade cakes, queijadas, scones, pillows and much more! Not to be missed!
HOTELS IN SINTRA
PENHA LONGA RESORT
5 star hotel. More than 2700 (!) comments on Google and an overall rating of 4.7 out of 5. Many positive comments highlighting the beauty of the place, the quality of the rooms, the friendliness of the staff, the quality of the breakfast and the cuisine.
2-star hotel. Over 140 reviews and an overall rating of 4.4 (out of 5). Comments mention friendly service, a quiet hotel, a clean space and a good breakfast. However, the distance of the hotel to the city center is mentioned as a negative factor. Good relationship between price and quality.
HISTORY OF SINTRA
Due to its geographical and natural characteristics, the Sintra area was and is unanimously recognized as a natural heritage of great value. Traces of human occupation in this region date back to the Neolithic (10th century B.C. to the 3rd century B.C.). The fertility of the soils and the richness of the region’s fauna and flora have attracted man to this part of the peninsula since almost immemorial times. Also the more than 900 years of Portugal’s history have left abundant archeological remains in the region. The proximity to the old city of Olisipo (now Lisbon) was another factor that boosted its development. Sintra was initially called “Suntria” (during the medieval age – from the 5th to the 15th century). “Suntra” would have meant “bright star”.
EVENTS IN SINTRA
The town of Sintra is rich in cultural events, including concerts, exhibitions,dance, theater, cinema, holistic therapies, walks, painting workshops, pottery workshops and many more artistic and cultural activities. If you want to keep track of upcoming events consult the Cultural Agenda of Sintra.