Sintra, Portugal is possibly the most picture-perfect European city I’ve visited. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the castles in Sintra (because I could go on forever).
When we visited Sintra during our Lisbon tour, we could not get over the fun splashes of color all over. The city is ripe for exploration and the castles make the adventure that much sweeter.
I was surprised to learn about the high concentration of castles in Sintra but upon further research, I learned that Sintra used to be a playground for the wealthy.
Suffice it to say that visitors benefit from the perfectly manicured landscapes and striking castles. It’s so much fun to explore the castles in Sintra!
Without further ado, let’s get to it!
Helpful Tips for Visiting the Castles in Sintra, Portugal
Wear comfortable shoes: You will be doing a lot of walking during your time in Sintra. Make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes so you don’t get blisters. Believe me, you don’t want to miss out on climbing ancient castles!
Don’t forget sunscreen! I swear by this sunscreen, I discovered it in France and now buy it in bulk. You’ll never catch me without it! Shade is hard to come by while explore the castles in Sintra.
Admission: If you plan to visit most of the attractions covered in this guide, I suggest purchasing a combined ticket at the ticket booth or per-purchasing tickets online (a discount of 5%).
Best Sintra Castles & Palaces
#1. Pena Palace
I hate to admit it, but the hype around Pena Palace is completely worth it. It’s touristy for a reason, my friends.
The palace is so beautiful, if not for the fun colors alone. This is exactly the type of palace most folks imagine when they think about the best palaces and castles in Sintra. Thankfully it does not disappoint!
Head’s up: if you want to tour the interior of Pena Palace, arrive as early as possible (preferably when they open). We arrived mid-day and the queue to get in was over two hours long.
There’s no way we were going to spend two hours of our precious vacation day standing in line. We did not tour the interior but wish we could have. Oh well, it’s nice to have a reason to return.
Pena Palace admission:
- The entrance fee for the gardens is €7.50/€6.50/€26 (adult/child/family).
- The entrance fee for the palace and park is €14/€12.50/€49 (adult/child/family).
Length of visit:
- Typically 1 hour for the gardens and two hours if touring the interior.
- Heads up: Your visit may take closer to 3 hours due to long lines.
History of Pena Palace
Pena Palace was originally a monastery that reduced to ruins during the earthquake of 1755.
After the earthquake, the monastery was abandoned until King Ferdinand decided to transform it into a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family.
After his death, the palace went to his wife until it became the property of the Portuguese government.
Interesting fact: Queen Amelia, Portugal’s last queen, spent her final night at Pena Palace before leaving the country in exile.
Things to see at Pena Palace
Explore the park and visit the cafe on the terrace. Enjoy sweeping views of the lush forest beneath you while sipping an overpriced cafe.
Tour the interior of the palace. Just remember to get there early to avoid unbelievably long lines!
Did you know? On a clear day, Pena Palace is visible from Lisbon.
For more photos of Pena Palace, check out this quick post.
#2. Moorish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros)
Up, up, up we go! Up the steep hillside to the Moorish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros). This hike is no walk in the park, but it’s definitely manageable.
If I can do it, you can too! When I first saw photos of Castelo dos Mouros I assumed it was the great wall of China. It’s such a cool place to explore.
Castelo dos Mouros admission:
- The entrance fee to the Castelo dos Mouros is €8/€6.50/€6.50 (adult/child/senior).
Length of visit:
- Typically 1 hour.
History of Castelo dos Mouros
Castelo dos Mouros was originally built in the 8th century and positioned at a high vantage point to provide protection over Sintra. The sturdy castle fought off many would-be invasions, but fell to the Christian crusade in 1147.
Portuguese Kings hoped to strengthen the defense of Castelo dos Mouros but the royal court favored Lisbon and the castle was neglected for a while, destined to be forgotten.
Fast forward to King Ferdinand II who, fueled by a passion for the arts and middle ages, ordered the reconstruction of the castle. To this day, Castelo dos Mouros stands proudly, gates wide open, eager to accept visitors from all over the world.
Things to do at Castelo dos Mouros
Explore the grounds to your heart’s content. We spent an entire hour climbing up and down the stairs, all the way to the highest point when Pena Palace can be seen on full display (if it’s not too foggy).
Castelo dos Mouros is a real treat for those that are interested in medieval castles and fortresses.
#3. Quinta da Regaleira
The whimsical gardens at Quinta da Regaleira mimic ancient secret orders, full of hidden tunnels and concealed symbolism.
They were created to fascinate, confuse and delight visitors to this incredible Sintra palace — largely thanks to the whims of the eccentric owner.
Prior to embarking on our tour of the most beautiful castles in Sintra, we did a lot of research. One of the most fascinating things we discovered was the Initiation Well housed at Quinta da Regaleira.
Intrigued, we wanted to see it first thing in the morning so we made that our first stop of the day.
Along the way, we passed through the breathtaking gardens and the striking Quinta da Regaleira Tower, which we promptly climbed, of course.
Quinta da Regaleira admission:
- The entrance fee for Quinta da Regaleira is €6/€4/€18 (adult/child/family).
- Admission includes access to the house and grounds.
Length of visit:
- Typically 1 hour.
History of Quinta da Regaleira
The land that Quinta da Regaleira sits on was purchased by António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro, an eccentric millionaire eager to appease his ideologies and bewildering whims.
His solution? Build an impressive estate that is large enough for him to collect and display his passions. Most notably his fascination with alchemy, Masonry and the Rosicrucianism.
And sure, money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy a lavish palace where you can keep your nice stuff — which is practically the same thing.
Things to see at Quinta da Regaleira
- Visit the Initiation Well – a mythical well used for initiations and rites of passages.
- Climb to the top of Regaleira Tower
- Explore the breathtaking gardens
- Tour the inside of the palace
#4. Monserrate Palace
Monserrate Palace, where gothic, Arabic and Indian architectural styles are seamlessly blended together is a breathtaking sight to behold.
This Sintra palace is often overlooked by visitors that are more eager to catch a glimpse (and photos) of the better known Pena Palace — which is quite the pity because Monserrate Palace is elaborate and feels like a hidden gem.
In our experience, this castle was the least crowded of all the palaces and castles we visited in Sintra.
Monserrate Palace admission:
- The entrance fee for Monserrate Palace is €8/€6.50/€6.50 (adult/child/senior).
- Admission includes access to the palace and gardens.
Length of visit:
- Tours typically last 1 – 2 hours.
History of Monserrate Palace
Monserrate Palace was imagined by an English millionaire by the name of Sir Francis Cook. Cook had a knack for world travel and his intent was to build a summer home that displayed his passion from the ruins of neo-gothic palace.
As fate would have it, Sintra was that very spot. Wandering the grounds makes visitors feel like they’re exploring different parts of the world – from India to Mexico to Arabia.
Things to see at Monserrate Palace:
- Beckford Waterfall
- The Ruined Chapel
- Mexican Garden
- The Music Hall and kitchen
#5. National Palace of Sintra (Palacio Nacional)
The National Palace of Sintra is the best-preserved medieval royal residence in Portugal. Portuguese nobility have inhabited it from the 15th century to the 19th century.
The palace is located in the city center, and will likely be the first one you see as you embark on your epic tour of all the best castles in Sintra.
Palacio Nacional admission:
- The entrance fee is €10/€8.50/€8.50 (adult/child/senior).
- Visits last about 30 – 60 minutes.
Getting to Sintra from Lisbon
The relaxing train ride from Rossio Station (in Lisbon) to Oriente Station (in Sintra) takes 45 minutes and costs a mere €2.20 euros per adult.
We were surprised to find that round trip fare for two adults set us back a mere €8.80 total. That’s nothing!
Since most visitors come for the castles, upon arrival, you have the option of walking to the palaces or taking a bus. Since 90% of our diet consisted of pastries, we decided to do the responsible thing and walk to the first stop, Quinta da Regaleira.
Personally, I recommend opting for the walk because it takes you through the charming town of Sintra at a leisurely pace. We didn’t have a hard time knowing where to go.
Best Castles in Sintra (Post Summary)
In short, these are the best castles in Sintra and well worth a visit!
- Pena Palace
- Moorish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros)
- Quinta da Regaleira
- Monserrate Palace
- National Palace of Sintra (Palacio Nacional)
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Until next time,