Fairytale Sintra, Portugal: Sights & tips for your visit

The beautiful castles and palaces of Sintra

Pena Palace

Pena Palace is Sintra’s most notable landmark. This is due to the bright colors and the creative architectural style. Pena Palace is the former summer palace of the royal family and has beautiful domes, towers, gates and azulejos (ceramic tiles). The architectural style is a mix of Moorish and Manueline influences.

Not only the palace but also the location is impressive. Pena Palace is built on one of the highest points of the Sintra mountain. Therefore, you are treated with insanely beautiful views over the entire area, including the huge green park, Parque da Pena, surrounding the palace. Here you will find more than 500 species of plants and trees that the king imported from all over the world. From the entrance it is a 15 minute walk through Parque da Pena to get to the entrance of the Summer Palace.


There are two types of tickets for the Pena Palace. A ticket for Parque da Pena and the inside of the palace (€14) and a single ticket for Parque da Pena (€7.50). If you choose to only visit the park, you can still walk around the palace to admire the colorful exterior and enjoy the beautiful viewpoints over the green surroundings. We only saw the exterior. Get your tickets in advance and skip the line!

Castelo dos Mouros

The Moors conquered the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century. To defend this area, they built the castle Castelo dos Mouros in the 9th and 10th centuries. On top of a mountain, so they could see enemies coming from afar.

Walk the remaining walls of the castle. From here it is possible to see the other castles and palaces. A visit to this special castle costs €8 per person. Buy here tickets for Castelo dos Mouros.

Quinta da Regaleira

Quinta da Regaleira is a mysterious estate with a huge, lush garden and a castle. The estate was bought in 1892 by a Brazilian coffee and gemstone merchant. His goal was to show his wealth with this estate.

You will be surprised by the many hidden tunnels, paths and passage. Be sure to take a look at the 27 meter deep Initiation Well, which is actually an underground tower. The spiral staircase leads you through tunnels to other parts of the garden full of fountains, towers and a chapel. A visit to this mysterious palace costs €10 per person. This price includes a visit to the palace. Book a guided tour to learn everything of this mysterious estate.

Monserrate Palace

The romantic Monserrate Palace is definitely our favorite place in Sintra. The palace is often skipped by Sintra visitors which is too bad! The good thing about that is that it is less crowded here than at other places in Sintra. Explore the enormous exotic garden with flora from all over the world and a very special chapel. In the palace you can expect beautiful Arabic and Indian influences in the Gothic architectural style. You will also find a huge main hall, galleries with arches and detailed rooms. A ticket for Monserrate Palace costs €8 per person. This price includes a visit to the palace. Get your tickets here.

Sintra Town

Besides the impressive castles and palaces, it is also very nice to walk through the narrow streets of Sintra Town. Here you can get a delicious lunch in one of the many restaurants. In the historic center you will also find the National Palace of Sintra. The palace has a special architecture and beautifully detailed rooms with coats of arms of families who have lived there, ancient objects and painted ceilings. A ticket cost €10 and you can buy the tickets here.

Buy your tickets in advance

Do you already know which places you want to visit? Then it is useful to buy your tickets in advance. This saves you time, especially at the popular palaces. You will also receive an online discount at most palaces and/or you will receive a discount code that you can apply to your other ticket(s). With an online ticket, you skip the line at the cash desk and just have to queue to get in. If you prefer to explore Sintra on a guided tour, check out the offers below.

How to visit Sintra

Most people visit Sintra by train from Lisbon. A train to Sintra departs every 20 minutes from Rossio station. The train ride takes 40 minutes and a return ticket costs about €5. Are you traveling with the Lisboa Card? Then the train tickets are free. You can also take bus 417 from Cascais to Sintra. The ride takes about 45 minutes.

Are you traveling through Portugal with a rental car and are you going to Sintra by car? Then know that parking in Sintra is very hard. At Pena Palace and the Moorish castle there are no parking spots at all and at the other sights there are only a few small parking spaces that are often already full. There is a car park close to Sintra station, called Parque de Estacionamento Estacao de Sintra. Or park your car outside the center and walk the last part from here to the Hop-On Hop-Off buses (if you don’t want to walk everything yourself).

Getting around in Sintra

The easiest way to discover the highlights of Sintra is with the Hop-On Hop-Off buses. There are two different bus lines that both start and end at the bus stops next to the train station. You can buy your ticket for €11.50 per person at the bus stop (you can pay with your debit card here) and you can take the bus all day long.

Also read: 13 Best things to do in Lisbon

Bus line 434 takes you to the historic center, the Moorish castle, Pena Palace and back to the train station. Note! Pena Palace is the most visited landmark in Sintra. If you want to avoid the big crowds, we recommend going early in the morning or towards closing time. We chose to go to Castelo dos Mouros first. It is still so quiet there, because most of the tourists go directly to Pena Palace. After this you can easily continue by bus to Pena Palace. If you first visit Pena Palace it is only possible to walk to the Moorish castle (this is about a 15 minutes walk from the exit of Pena Palace)

Bus line 435 takes you to the historic center, Quinta da Regaleira, Monserrate Palace and back to the train station.

How much time should you spend in Sintra?

You can easily spend a whole day in Sintra. There are many sights, and because everything is quite far from each other, it is unfortunately impossible to visit everything in one day. We were in Sintra twice and recommend you to plan a maximum of 2-3 sights per day. In this way you can fully enjoy and discover the castles and palaces at your own pace.

13 best things to do in Lisbon, the bustling capital of Portugal

Sightseeing & activities in Lisbon

1. Hop on tram 28 towards Alfama – One of Lisbon’s oldest neighborhoods

In Lisbon, the iconic yellow trams have been running through the city since the 1930s. A nice thing to do is to take a ride on line 28. This is the most famous line and runs right through the historic city center and through the most authentic neighborhoods of Lisbon. Buy your ticket from the driver and enjoy the ride through the steep winding streets.

You can go to Alfama by tram. This is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Lisbon. Here you will get to know the Portuguese way of life. Stroll through the authentic streets and admire Lisbon’s oldest cathedral, Sé Catedral. In the evening you can enjoy Portuguese music in one of the many fado restaurants. Fado is the more than 150 year old Portuguese life song and comes from the poorest neighborhoods of Lisbon.

Other highlights of Alfama are the beautiful viewpoints Miradouro das Portas do Sol, Miradouro de Santa Luzia and Miradouro de Santo Estêvão.

2. Admire the beautiful sights of the city center

Baixa and Rossio together form the lively center of Lisbon. The neighborhoods are full of sights, large squares and eye-catchers.

Arco da Rua Augusta

At the end of the busy shopping street Rua Augusta is the large triumphal arch Arco da Rua Augusta. The arch represents the reconstruction of Lisbon after it was destroyed by a terrible earthquake in 1755. The arch connects the city center with the main square Praça do Comércio.

Tip: You can get on top of the arch for an amazing view of Praça do Comércio and the Tagus River.

Praça do Comércio

One of the most beautiful squares in Lisbon is Praça do Comércio, which borders the Tagus River. Before the earthquake in 1755 caused major damage, this was an important place. The royal palace was located here, heads of state were received and moored their ships and it was the center from where Portugal controlled the trade with all its colonies. Today, the enormous square has a monumental statue of King José I in the middle and is surrounded by bustling terraces of restaurants and impressive buildings.

Elevador Santa Justa

In the middle of the shopping area is the 19th century Santa Justa, an iron elevator that was intended to connect the lower city of Baixa with the upper city of Chiado and Bairro Alto. Lisbon is built on hills and by the invention of this elevator you had to climb steep hills less often. It is possible to take the elevator up to enjoy a great view of the city.

3. Taste the typical Portuguese Pasteis de Nata

Eating Pasteis de Nata was definitely the highlight of our visit to Lisbon. Throughout the city there are bakeries and restaurants where you can buy these golden creamy delicacies. But be warned; once you have tasted one, you will want more and more! 

Everyone makes Pastel de Nata in their own way, so some are crispier or have a little more cinnamon or vanilla flavor than others. You can eat the original Pastel de Nata at Pasteis de Belém, where the pastries were first made and sold. They are crispy, creamy and topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Yummy!

Do you want to make Pasteis de Nata yourself? Then we have the perfect recipe for Pasteis de Nata for you!

4. Stroll along the Tagus River

A walk along the Tagus River is relaxing. There are also many beautiful sights to admire.

Ponte 25 de Abril

During the walk you will enjoy great views over the bridge Ponte 25 de Abril, which is certainly the eye-catcher of the walk. This 2.2 kilometer long bridge connects the city center with the south bank. At its highest point, the bridge hangs 75 meters above the Tagus. In the evening the bridge is beautifully lit. So don’t forget to take an evening stroll along the Tagus.

Monumento Cristo Rei

The hundred-meter high Cristo Rei monument stands atop a huge pedestal on a hill on the banks of the Tagus. With the imposing statue of Christ, Portugal begged God not to involve the country in the Second World War. The statue stands with protective arms spread out towards the city.

Torre de Belém

Be sure to take a look at the floating Torre de Belém, a former defensive tower from the 16th century. The tower is currently a national monument to commemorate the voyages of discovery and trade in the Golden Age. Torre de Belém can be reached via a bridge and from inside you have a nice view of the river, Ponte 25 de Abril and the monument Cristo Rei. A visit to Torre de Belém cost €9. You can buy the tickets here or if you have a Lisboa Card the entrance is free.

Padrão dos Descobrimentos

Admire the monument Padrão dos Descobrimentos up close. It is built in honor of the Portuguese explorers who explored the world in the 15th and 16th centuries. The structure has the shape of a ship with wavy sails.

5. Enjoy the creativity in LX Factory

Under the bridge Ponte 25 de Abril you will find LX Factory, an old factory site and nowadays the place to be. It is a hidden artistic and cultural hotspot brimming with creativity. The old factory buildings now house impressive art galleries, alternative design shops and unique pop-up stores. Spot the colorful street art and have a snack or a drink at one of the many bars, restaurants or rooftop bars and mingle with the locals and creatives.

6. Spot the most beautiful tiled buildings and facades

As you walk the streets of Lisbon, you will see azulejos (painted, tin-glazed ceramic tiles) everywhere. They are decorated with all kinds of patterns, figures and colors. The tiles make the facades of the houses, the walls of monasteries, churches, palaces, train stations and even parts of fountains and gardens super colorful. We went out to collect the most beautiful tiles for you.

7. Visit the National Tile Museum of Lisbon

If you are interested in the history of the tiles or if you just want to spot some exclusive ones, we recommend you to visit the National Tile Museum of Lisbon. The museum has an extensive collection of the ceramic tiles. The Moors introduced the tiles and the Portuguese have completely absorbed it into their culture. The museum’s collection shows how the style and design have changed over the years. Also the location of the museum is very special. The museum is located in a 15th-century monastery that consists of beautiful archways, an inner garden and a church. A ticket to visit this beautiful museum cost €5 which you can buy here. Do you have a Lisboa Card? Then the museum is for free.

8. Watch the sunset from one of Lisbon’s miradouros

Lisbon is located on 7 hills and therefore has several spectacular viewpoints. Our favorite miradouros are miradouro da Graça, miradouro de Santa Luzia, miradouro das Portas do Sol and miradouro de Santo Estêvão. At each of these viewpoints you look out over the terracotta colored roofs and you can spot the special highlights of the city from a different angle.

9. Get lost in the streets of Mouraria, Bairro Alto and Chiado 

In addition to Alfama and Belém, Lisbon has a number of great neighborhoods, each with its own atmosphere and character.

In the Mouraria district you will spot a lot of art, especially graffiti. Another (literal) highlight is to climb to the Castelo de São Jorge castle, which is located on the highest hill in Lisbon. From here you have a beautiful view. Furthermore, you experience local life at its best by getting lost in Mouraria. The district is known for the many decorated and atmospheric streets full of bars and restaurants.

Tip: End up at the cozy bar Empanadas Union for a drink and a small bite, cheers!

One of the most famous sights in Bairro Alto and Chiado is the Convento do Carmo Monastery. After the disaster in 1755, this monastery turned into a ruin of remaining Gothic arches. The missing roof, and the damaged columns show how devastating the earthquake was.

10. Visit the impressive Mosteiro dos Jerónimos

In the Belém district you will find a number of historical buildings, monuments, museums and cultural highlights, including Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. This monastery was built after the successful overseas explorations and shows how powerful and rich Portugal was in the 15th and 16th centuries. Admire the detailed arches, the special courtyard garden with fountain and the church with colorful stained glass.

A ticket for Mosteiro dos Jerónimos cost €10. Get your ticket in advance. You can also visit Mosteiro dos Jerónimos for free with the Lisboa Card.

11. Experience Lisbon’s vibrant nightlife on Pink Street

Discover the vibrant nightlife in the Cais do Sodre district, which was first known as the red light district of Lisbon. For hip bars, restaurants and good nightlife, head to Rua Nova do Carvalho, better known as Pink Street. Here you can enjoy drinks, fun and music until late at night.

12. Discover futuristic Lisbon

Parque das Nações is a modern neighborhood in the east of Lisbon. You will find a lot of art, culture, a large oceanarium, the shopping center Vasco da Gama and futuristic buildings here. It is definitely worth a visit to this area. Spot the Vasco da Gama Bridge and the Vasco da Gama Tower. Want to see it from above? For only €4, you can float over the Tagus in a cable car. It is nice to walk the way back along the boulevard.

13. Try food from the Time Out Market

The Time Out Market is an old market hall. Taste different cuisines, order what you like and take a seat at the long tables. The atmosphere is great and there is something for everyone.

Experience Lisbon in a different way

Where to eat?

In Lisbon you will find cozy bars and restaurants on every corner of the street. These are our favorite spots for a drink or something to eat.

💛 Vegan Junkies Club
💛 Café Janis
💛 Café Frutaria
💛 Augusto Lisboa
💛 Fauna & Flora
💛 O Botanista
💛 Empanadas Union
💛 Manteigaria (in this tiny factory you get the best Pastel de Nata)

How to get around in Lisbon?

The best way to explore Lisbon is by foot. In this way you can easily discover the typical, winding streets. We loved to get lost in the different neighborhoods and spent hours of doing some random explorations!

You will also use public transport. Lisbon is hilly and Belém and Parque das Nações are quite far outside the city center, so to walk everything is very tough. Traveling around by public transport in Lisbon is easy. There are lots of bus and tram stops throughout Lisbon, so you will always find a place nearby where you can get on.

Tip: The cheapest way to travel around Lisbon by public transport is to buy a rechargeable ticket, called Viva Vigem, at the train station. Otherwise you pay a ticket at the driver (only cash) for €2 per ride, no matter how many stops you travel.

Lisboa Card

An other option to travel around in Lisbon is with a Lisboa Card. You have options to buy a Lisboa Card that is valid for 24, 48 or 72 hours. With this card you can travel unlimited by train (also to Sintra and Cascais), tram and bus. And you also avoid queues and visit several sights for free or with a discount. For example you have free access to Torre de Belém, Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and the Santa Justa Elevator. See here if this card will save you money.

Trips from Lisbon

Must do: A trip to Sintra

You can travel by train from Lisbon to Sintra in 40 minutes. Here you step into a completely different, fairytale-like world. The area has been a World Heritage Site since 1995 and consists of several castles and summer palaces surrounded by exotic gardens. Almost all sights are built on the hills of Sintra, so you often have beautiful views over the green surroundings.

There is a lot to see, so think about what you want to visit in advance. We visited Sintra twice and recommend planning up to 3 sights in a day. Our favorite sights are the romantic summer palace Monserrate, the colorful Pena Palace, the mysterious gardens of Quinta da Regaleira and the special castle Castelo dos Mouros.

Read our extensive blog about Sintra and discover which sights you would like to see during your day out.

A little taste of Lisbon: In these 6 steps you make the best Pasteis de Nata

What do you need?

To make the little round pastries, you need a baking mold with small round (muffin) tins. You also need two different pans, a whisk and an oven that you can heat to 280° degrees.

Ingredients for Pasteis de Nata

You can make the tastiest Pasteis de Nata with the following ingredients:

1 roll of puff pastry
250 ml of whole milk
150 ml of water
2 egg yolks (M)
25 gram butter (unsalted)
2 tbsp flour
150 grams of granulated sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
8 thinly peeled lemon slices
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cinnamon sticks

Note! This amount is enough for 9-10 pastries.

Step by step: How do you make Pasteis de Nata?

It is not difficult! We will explain step by step how to make the best Pasteis de Nata.

Step 1: Make the custard

You start by making the custard. In a bowl, stir together 2 tbsp flour, 1 tsp cornflour, 2 egg yolks and 50 ml milk with a whisk until it’s smooth. Add the remaining 200 ml of milk in a pan along with half of the butter, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 4 thinly peeled lemon slices and 1 cinnamon stick. Bring this almost (!) to a boil. Make sure that the mixture is warm and in the meantime keep stirring with the whisk in the pan. Is the mixture warm enough? Then remove the cinnamon stick and lemon peels. Pour the warm mixture from the pan into the bowl with the white flour, cornstarch, egg yolks and the other milk. Keep stirring. Return the mixture into the pan and bring to a boil, stirring continuously, until it turns into thick cream. Add the other half of the butter to the thick cream and stir it further until it is lump-free. Is it lump free and has the butter melted completely? Then you can remove the pan from the heat.

Step 2: Prepare the sugar syrup

Now make the sugar syrup. Put 75 ml water, all the granulated sugar, 1 cinnamon stick and the 4 thinly lemon peels in a pan and put it on the fire. Don’t set the heat too high, as it can go wrong quickly. Do not stir, just move the pan occasionally and make sure all the sugar is moist. After a while the mixture turns into a nice brown sugar syrup. Then lower the heat and carefully add the remaining water to the mixture, continuing to swirl the pan so it doesn’t clump. Leave it on low heat for a while. Then remove the cinnamon stick and lemon peels from the sugar syrup.

Step 3: Finish the custard

To finish the custard, gradually add the sugar syrup to the custard. Keep stirring all the time so that the custard stays lump free. Save some of the sugar syrup so you can sprinkle the top of the Pasteis de Nata at the end.

Step 4: Fill the baking tins with the custard

Before the Pasteis de Nata can go into the oven, there is still some preparation that needs to be done. Roll up the puff pastry. Then cut the roll into 9-10 slices. Grease your baking cups with butter. Fill the 9-10 baking molds with a piece of dough and spread the dough up to the edges of the tins. This gives you 9-10 beautiful cups, which you can now fill with the custard. Make sure there is no air between the dough and the tins, make some holes in the bottom of the dough if necessary. Fill the baking cups just below the rim with the custard because the custard will puff up a bit in the oven. They are now ready for the oven!

Step 5: Into the oven

Heat the oven at the top and bottom on the highest setting (about 280° degrees) and place the rack high in the oven. When the oven is preheated, place the baking tins on the hot grid and bake the Pasteis de Nata for 10-15 minutes at 280° degrees. Until the tops of the pastries turn brown. When the Pasteis de Nata are out of the oven, leave them in the baking tins for another 10 minutes. Take them out and now you can sprinkle them – while they are still warm – with the remaining sugar syrup.

Step 6: Serving Pasteis de Nata

The sweet puff pastries can be served cold or warm. We prefer eating them cold, then you will taste more of the vanilla and the cream is thicker. You give the final touch by sprinkling the pastries with icing sugar or cinnamon if you like. This gives that little bit extra flavor to the Pasteis de Nata. And now… Just taste!! And dream away to your favorite memories of Lisbon.