Historical center of Sintra
Sintra is located in the mountains and is always a few degrees cooler than Lisbon. Portuguese monarchs and nobles preferred to spend the summer months here to escape the heat. The city has many estates, parks and palace complexes. The streets are paved with cobblestones, there are often drinking fountains lined with azulejo tiles and a lot of greenery. A great place for strolling, photo shoots, but not for dining and shopping. Prices in the historic part of the city are much higher, choose cafes and stores outside the center.
Interesting fact: in the central streets and neighborhoods of Sintra in 1999 the movie «The Ninth Gate» with Johnny Depp was filmed.
Palácio da Pena (Palace of Pena)
The highest point of the city. The most popular tourist attraction in Sintra, tourists come here for the beautiful photos, and for good reason. In 2015, the portal European Best Destination recognized Pena as the most beautiful European palace. Although in my opinion, the grounds and parks of the palace are much more interesting than the castle itself and the interiors.
The pros of Pena Castle are the opportunity to take panoramic pictures, beautiful views, a large park with alleys and rare plant species. For example, sequoias or relict varieties of ferns.
The park has a cascade of ponds with black and white swans. At the top of the park stands the Cruz Alta memorial cross. It is the highest point of Sintra — 528 meters. From here you can get gorgeous panoramic photos. You can see the whole city, the ocean and Lisbon’s surroundings.
There are two ticket options: Park or Palace+Park. I recommend buying the Park option. It is cheaper and will take less time to see. You will be able to see the palace itself from the outside, but to go inside you need to buy the «Palace» ticket. In my opinion, there is nothing interesting there. The interiors of the palace, the royal quarters and the kitchen equipment. If you are not a connoisseur of royal pots and connoisseur of palace interiors, safely skip this point of the route.
Prices: Palace+Park for adults (18—64 years old) — 14 €, 6—17 years old — 12,50 €, children under 6 years old free of charge.
Tickets to Pena Park: for visitors 18—64 years old — 7,5 €, 6—17 years old — 6,5 €, under 6 years old admission is free. For buying tickets online on the official website, a 5% discount.
Schedule: 09:30 to 20:00 in summer, 10:00 to 18:00 in winter. The ticket office closes one hour earlier.
Castle of the Moors (Castelo dos Mouros)
The main attraction of the Moors Castle is the panoramic view of the city and the ocean. You should only go here in good weather, when there is no fog or rain. It is always windy here, so dress warmly. In fact, it is the ruins of fortress walls, the remnants of former greatness. It is quite dangerous here with small children. Part of the wall has been destroyed by time, and there are no guardrails.
In the 9th century, the Moors had their own ideas about security. Watch your feet carefully, the wall is destroyed in some places. And under the fortress walls there is a whole «graveyard» of tourists' umbrellas and caps that have flown away.
Prices: adults 8 €, children under 6 years old free, from 6—17 years old and pensioners 6,5 €.
The schedule is 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the spring and summer, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the winter and fall.
Quinta da Regaleira (Quinta da Regaleira)
The #1 entertainment in Sintra according to Tripadvisor. In my opinion, the most interesting park I’ve ever been to. Better to skip the Pena Palace, but make sure to come to Quinta da Regaleira!
The creator of the manor when conceiving the park decided to surprise everyone and create a mystical and mysterious place, and he succeeded. The building of the manor resembles the castle of a fairy-tale princess. In the garden there are sculptures of mystical animals, paths, underground grottos and secret passages. All the letters of the English alphabet are encrypted in the ornamentation and decorations, which turns a walk through the garden into a quest.
But the most interesting is the nine-tiered underground well tower. The levels of the tower symbolize the circles of hell according to Dante. You can get out of the tower by underground passages to the waterfall, but you will have to jump on bumps in the artificial pond.
Prices: adults 6 €, children from 6 years old and pensioners 4 €. Family ticket (2 adults+2 children) — 22 €.
The schedule is 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.
Palacio de Monserrate (Palace of Monserrate)
A palace and park complex with plants from the former Portuguese colonies. The garden is divided into themed zones, from desert landscapes with giant cacti to tropical thickets and waterfalls. The best place for romantic photo shoots and leisurely strolls.
Not all tourists know about Monserrat Park, so it is always comfortable and not crowded. Portuguese couples often hold weddings and weddings here, you can watch from the sidelines.
Prices: adults 7,60 €, children from 6 years old and pensioners 6,18 €, under 6 years old admission is free.
The schedule is 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with Monday off.
Bottom line: if you only have one day to see all the sights of the city, be sure to walk around the historic center, visit the Quinta da Regaleira estate and Pena Castle.
Do not buy souvenirs and food in parks and palaces, prices there are twice as expensive. In some places you will have to walk on mountain paths and cobblestones, clothes and shoes should be comfortable.
Sintra National Palace (Palacio Nacional de Sintra)
The distinctive feature of the building is two large chimneys. The palace served as a royal residence, where balls and formal receptions were held. Therefore, the kitchen became a key place, and the two giant chimneys served to keep the food heated.
The rooms have restored interiors, furniture and paintings on the walls. Compared to Peterhof, the Portuguese kings lived quite modestly.
It is better to visit the palace closer to the evening: most tourists come to Sintra for a day trip, and the queues are smaller in the afternoon.
Prices. Adults 10 €, children from 6 to 17 years old and pensioners over 65 years old 8,5 € .
Opening hours. From 9:30 to 19:00, Monday is the day off. Ticket sales end at 18:30.
Apple Beach (Praia das Macas)
Due to the waves and water temperature not exceeding +17°C, the beach is not suitable for swimming. However, you can try surfing, and there is a surf school with lessons for beginners on the beach. Lifeguards monitor safety and will advise you on safe places to swim and surf.
The views of sunsets from the beach at Praia das Macas are excellent, come here in the evening after a walk around Sintra.
Along the shoreline there are cafes and restaurants to suit all tastes and wallets. One of the restaurants received a Michelin star in 2019.
You can get to the beach on an old streetcar with no windows or doors. It runs only during the warm season (from May to the end of September). The ride is more like a children’s attraction, but it is even more interesting. Take a light jacket or sweater with you, because of the lack of windows it gets chilly.
Prices. One ride on the retro streetcar costs 3 €, pensioners and children -2€. Travel time is 45 minutes.
The schedule and traffic patterns can be viewed on the City’s website.