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Explore The Castles Of Sintra in Portugal

Discover the Magical castles of Sintra, Portugal. From the colorful Pena Palace to the mystical Quinta da Regaleira, these Sintra castles will blow your mind.

Pena Palace and the castles in Sintra Portugal

If there is one destination in Portugal that feels like walking through a fairytale, it’s the beautiful city of Sintra.

There are few places on Earth where the the combination of natural beauty, architectural wonders, and accessibility come together in such a perfect way.

And if you’ve ever wanted to explore the magical castles of Sintra, Portugal, this guide will help you make the most of your visit so that you can be transported into a tale of your own making.

Where Can You Find the Castles in Sintra?

Sintra is a quick and painless day trip from Lisbon and Cascais. And while there are many great things to do in Lisbon, it’s worth hopping on the train or making the 30-minute drive to experience the magical Sintra castles, palaces, and stunning views.

Sintra is a place that I never get bored of. While it gains in popularity each year, and parking in Sintra can sometimes feel like winning the lottery, it’s still one of the most exciting and beautiful places to visit in Portugal.

And once you arrive, you’ll be within walking distance of 5 stunning castles in Sintra, the colorful Pena Palace, the ancient and raw Castle of the Moors, the hidden magical Quinta da Regaleira, the easy to access Sintra National Palace, and the often overlooked Montserrate Palace.

Pena Palace (Palacio da Pena)

Pena Palace colorful Sintra Castle
Pena Palace and its colorful facade.

The Pena Palace is quite possibly the most recognizable of all the castles of Sintra, Portugal.

Bathed in 19th century Romanticism architecture, the Pena Palace is bold, colorful, and exciting to explore.

This stunning property had humble beginnings as a chapel site around 500-years ago. Over time it was converted into a monastery that stood for centuries as a pilgrimage destination. It was tested time and time again by nature before finally being destroyed in 1755 by a great earthquake.

But in the 19th Century, Queen Consort, Prince Ferdinand II saw the property and the nearby ruins of Castle of the Moors and decided that this would be the perfect place for their summer home.

It was under the direction of the royals that legendary German architect Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege began work on the project that would ultimately become one of the most romantic destinations in all of Portugal.

as you explore the colorful facades, towering spires, arched doorways, and viewpoints over the town of Sintra, it’s tough to find any piece of detail that wasn’t considered during its construction.

You can still find evidence of the original Hieronymite convent within the property including the cloister, the dining room the sacristy, and the chapel.

They are all built within the section with the wide terrace and the glorious clock tower.

For the best photos head to the Queen’s Terrace which offers stunning panoramic views of the landscape as well as many of the unique architectural styles of this Sintra palace. 

Sintra National Palace (Palacio Nacional de Sintra)

Sintra National Palace in Portugal
The wild chimneys of Sintra National Palace

For most people exploring the castles of Sintra, the Sintra National Palace is the first stop.

This Sintra Palace is located right in the heart of the old town center and was an integral part of royal life from the 15th to the 19th Century. It even has a sordid history as the prison site for King Afonso VI when the throne (and his wife) were taken from him by his brother in the late 1600s.

Sintra National Palace can be recognized immediately as you enter the old town by the dramatic chimney’s with have bowed style in white stucco. And it’s a true delight to explore.

You can wander the winding staircases, massive kitchen, and hidden servant passageways as you make your way from section to section of the sprawling structure.

Make sure to stop at the Sala dos Brasoes. This stunning dining room has a marvelous ceiling that exudes the pomp of royal life.

Quinta da Regaleira

The initiation well at Quinta da Regaleira
The initiation well at Quinta da Regaleira – photo credit: Vitor Oliveira

Known for it’s marvelous gardens and landscapes that harken back to the days when secret societies of elite royals would gather, the hidden tunnels, towers, and secret passageways of Quinta da Regaleira make this one of the must-visit castles in Sintra.

Once a luxury estate run by the Barons of Regaleira, the property was bought in 1892 by an eccentric socialite popularly known as “Monteiro the Millionaire”.

With a name like that, it’s no surprise that when he partnered with architect Luigi Manini, the work that he put into the property would showcase his eccentric personality.

And what resulted was a paradise of grottoes and waterfalls dripping with Freemason symbolism as well as his passion for books and insects.

Where Pena Palace is all about the fairytale style of Sintra, Quinta da Regaleira instead exudes gothic mystique and mystery.

The most mesmerizing part of the entire property is the 9-story deep Initiation Well. This well, which is believed to be designed as an ode to Dante’s 9 circles of hell, takes visitors to a secret tunnel that runs under the estate.

Monserrate Palace (Palácio da Monserrate)

Arches of Monserrate Castle in Sintra
Montserrat Castle in Sintra

Often overlooked by those touring the castles in Sintra, the wonderful Monseratte Palace and park are among the most beautiful grounds in all of Sintra.

Monserattte Palace offers the chance to escape the crowds and enjoy the peaceful surrounds of this magical English villa.

The current state of the property is owed to a wealthy English merchant named Francis Cook who acquired the property back in 1856.

But Montserrat was put on the map by famed poet Lord Byron who wrote about the property in his poem titled ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage‘. Since then, Monserrate Palace has been one of the most popular castles of Sintra, Portugal.

In fact, one of the many trails that wind their way through the gardens of Montserrate (Trail +6a) is named the Lord Byron Trail in his honor.

Monserrate Palace blends the elegance of Indian architecture with the raw strength of Moorish styles and adds just a tweak of Gothic mysticism into one of the most stunning properties in Sintra.

Castle of the Moors (Castelo dos Mouros)

Pena Palace from the Castle of the Moors in Sintra
Pena Palace from the Castle of the Moors

Many visitors to Sintra are drawn to the colorful facades of Pena Palace or the raw mystique of Quinta da Regaleira. Myself though, just like when I was exploring the desert castles of Jordan, I LOVE to dive into the history.

Show me a fascinating ruin that’s barely hanging on to life, and I will dig in to find the story behind it.

And it’s this reason that the Moorish Castle, or the Castelo dos Mouros, is one of my favorite castles in Sintra.

The Castle of the Moors was built back in the 8th century. And the list of battles, revolutions, and history spans well over 1,000 years.

This Sintra castle was a crucial stronghold that changed hands with near dizzying frequency. From the Muslim Moors who established the castle in the 8th Century.

It was controlled briefly by Viking King Sigurd the Crusader of Norway in 1108 before passing on to Christian forces in the 12th Century. From there it was taken by a small Jewish community during the 15th Century.

All that is left of the Castle of the Moors are the walls and battlements, but it’s more than enough to inspire your imagination as you dream about the wild history of the oldest castle in Sintra.

Walk the stone battlements and take in the views over the lush forests. Make sure to head to the top for one of the most unique views of the Pena Palace.

Tivoli Palácio de Seteais

Tivoli Palacio de Seteais
Tivoli Palacio de Seteais – photo credit: Ivo Gomes

So you’ve seen all of the beautiful palaces and castles of Sintra and you’re dying to stay in one yourself. Well, just like one of our favorite palaces in Evora, Portugal, there’s a castle in Sintra that you can now stay in yourself!

While Tivoli Palacio de Seteais is an attraction that the public is can explore, it’s also one of the latest hotels in Sintra, and the only palace in the city where you can actually spend the night.

If you want to wrap yourself in royalty and live the Sintra palace life, this is the place to do it. You can check their pricing and availability here.

How Do You Get To The Sintra Castles?

As much as I loved road tripping around Portugal with my family, Sintra is a day trip from Lisbon where you might want to leave the car behind. Although it’s only a 30-minute drive from Lisbon to Sintra, the streets, especially in the old town are jammed with tourists. This is especially prominent during the high season.

Save yourself hours of trying to find parking and leave the car at home.

The train from Lisbon to Sintra is a quick 40-minute journey and costs just a few dollars per rider. Depart from the Rossio Train Station and catch one of the trains that leaves every half-hour. You can check the train times here.

Getting Around Sintra

Gardens in Sintra Portugal
Ruins in the garden near the Castle of the Moors

Once you’re in Sintra, getting around is a breeze. Most of the castles are within walking distance of each other (although it does mean a lot of walking). And while you can see them all in one day, you’ll be exhausted if you try.

If you truly want to enjoy yourself, check into one of our recommended hotels and home rentals in Sintra and enjoy your time in the city.

Sintra has two bus lines that run loops up to the old town. Plan your visit before you arrive so that you can plan your routes accordingly. You can purchase the tickets ahead of time and then have them on hand for when you need them. They can be purchased either on the bus or at the Sintra train station.

Bus 434 covers the Sintra Train Station, the National Palace of Sintra, the Castle of the Moors, and Pena Palace. Bus 435 covers the Sintra Train Station, the National Palace of Sintra, Quinta Regaleira, Seteais Palace, and Monserrate Palace.

The Sintra bus routes run about every 15-minutes during the high season and about every 20-minutes during the low season. If you visit Sintra in the summer, expect the transit to be very crowded.

Tips For Visiting The Castles of Sintra

Like any popular tourist destination, visiting the castles of Sintra, Portugal is best enjoyed with a little bit of planning (but not so much that you can’t enjoy yourself).

  • Dress Comfortably – As much as the glorious palaces deserve it, Sintra is a place to leave the high heels and dress shoes behind (or at least store them in a bag). You’ll be doing a lot of walking and if you don’t want to tend to blisters, you’ll appreciate some walking shoes.
  • Pay Attention To The Weather – With any mountain town, the weather in Sintra can be unpredictable. The temperature can be hot and sunny one minute and foggy, cold, and rainy the next. It’s this weather that often leads to the magical fog that lays on top of the forest canopy. Dress appropriately and bring a rain jacket.
  • Time Your Visit – As the day get’s on, things in Sintra get busier. If you want to beat the crowds, stay in one of these Sintra hotels and get started bright and early. If you really want to enjoy yourself, set aside two days in Sintra.
  • Attraction tickets – You can purchase most Sintra Castle tickets in advance through this website. As a bonus, you’ll get 5% off of the price.

Now It’s Time For You To Experience The Castles of Sintra for Yourself

If you love castles, there are few better places in the world where you can see as many unique and fascinating ones as you can in Sintra, Portugal.

If you’ve already been to see the Sintra castles, drop a comment below and tell us about your experience. Or, if you love travel with kids, head over to our Family Travel Facebook Community and share your tips. We would love to hear your ideas.

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