Visiting the Castles of Sintra, Portugal

If you google Instagram hotspots near Lisbon, the castles in Sintra are often top of the list, especially the Pena Palace. So is it really as nice as everyone on Instagram raves? Let’s find out in this blog post.

About Sintra

The city of Sintra lies around 33 kms to the north east of Lisbon and is one of the main tourist destinations of the area. It’s home to a significant number of castles, ruins and other buildings that used to be a summer residence for the royal families of Portugal.

View from Pena Palace

How to Get There

It’s fairly easy to get to Sintra from Lisbon as there’s a train that runs directly to Sintra from Rossio station in Lisbon. It takes around an hour and costs under 5 EUR for a roundtrip.

From Cascais you can take bus number 417 or an Uber which costs around 12 EUR. Once you get to Sintra, there’s a local bus (no. 434) that takes tourists to all the sights, but it does get super crowded in the summer. A fun alternative are tuk tuks or little electric rental cars!

Tuk Tuks waiting for customers

Pena Palace

Built on the foundations of an old monastry, in 1838 King Ferdinand II decided to create a summer palace for the royal family here. The architecture is something quite different from any other palaces you’ll find in Portugal. The vibrant colours stand out from the landscape around it and you’ll find tons of beautiful tiles and unexpected details everywhere.

Castelo dos Mouros

A short walk down the hill from Pena Palace is this castle which is also known as the Moorish Castle. It was build in the 8th century when it was a strategic point for the Berbers. It’s still fairly well preserved and quite fun to climb around on.

The best part of this castle is the view you get from the top onto Pena Palace.

View of Pena Palace from the Moorish Castle

Other Sights in Sintra

Since we sadly only had a half day in Sintra, we only visited the Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle and had a quick stop in town, but there are many other sights in Sintra that are worth seein. I’m definitely adding the Quinta da Regaleira and the Monserrate Palace on the list for my next visit. The National Palace of Sintra is also highly recommended.

The only downside to the sights are the steep entrance fees of 14 EUR or Pena Palace, 8 EUR for the Moorish Castle and the Quinta da Regaleira costs another 8 EUR. Plan your budget accordingly if you want to visit multiple sites in Sintra.

Also try and go as early in the day as possible. It was already quite busy when I was there in June and I heard that it gets very crowded in the summer months.

So was it worth it to come to Sintra? Definitely! Even if you’re not just there for the perfect Instagram shot, the architecture alone is worth making the trip. The Pena Palace is one of the most impressive castles I’ve ever seen!

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