Sintra is a dream land. It feels like you are galavanting through a magical storybook just to visit this out-of-this-world town, and being there was like living out a fairytale! The array of cultures throughout each different castle, the abundance of beauty in each garden, and the mystery and excitement to be found in the old ceremonial grounds brings out a childlike joy in a person. I have listed all the parks and palaces you can visit in Sintra, as well as links to each. My detailed guide for the three I suggest, in order, as well as some important tips for the trip are all below as well!
How to get there: You can get to Sintra from the Lisbon city center Rossio train station on the Sintra Line. It takes about 40 minutes and is only around 5 euros. You can then hop on a bus or take a tuk-tuk up the mountain. A car is a bit more ideal for getting to Sintra and then up the mountain, but the train does the job as well! I can not stress enough that it is VITAL to get there as early as posssible. The traffic is insane as the roads are one way up and one way down the mountain and it only continues to get very, very crowded as the day goes on.
There are five palaces and castles that can be visited in Sintra, as well as several gardens. I would suggest sticking to three, at most four, as it is a lot of uphill walking and will be a very long and tiring day. Not to discourage, as it is extremely worth it, just a fair and honest warning. You can get tickets online at a 5% discount and can get even more of a discount by buying several and bundling them together.
The three parks that I chose to visit, after extensive research, were Pena Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, and the Palace of Monserrate. They are best seen in this order, to save both time, and your feet.
Pena Palace and it’s grounds are by far the most visited and probably what you have seen in any picture or post on Sintra. The bright yellow and reds so picturesquely built atop the hill and can be seen for miles. The views from the palace itself are out of this world. You can buy tickets for just the grounds and walk around the outside of the castle (we opted for this) or for the grounds and a tour of the inside (there will be quite a line).
Quinta da Regaleira is not an option on the national website to buy tickets and bundle, but tickets can be bought on site. This was such a unique and adventurous park. It was once used as a ceremonial initiation ground and there are so many interesting twists and turns throughout. You can crawl into a cave and come out in the bottom of an ancient initiation well. Such a fun time and an intriguing part of history.
Palace of Monserrate is a completely different kind of Palace. All one floor, this Arab looking castle is made of slight pinks and the attention to detail is mind blowing. The gardens on the grounds here are some of the prettiest and most diverse I have ever seen. You go from feeling like you’re in a rainforest, to a stream with a rose garden, to a giant green hill with views of distance mountain peaks. My personal favorite part of Sintra, and the least crowded place we visited, by far.
Note: The weather can drop dramatically as you go up the mountain. I definitely advise bringing a light jacket, no matter the time of year. The top of Pena Palace was also one of the most windy places I had ever been. Comfortable sneakers are also a must as there is lots of climbing and walking that will take place. There are no food places around the mountain to stop and get lunch, so I suggest packing lunch or planning a break between parks to go down into the town and find food. We ate at a delicious little outdoor restaurant right at the bottom of the hill that we actually found from smelling them grilling outside as we passed! We had some divine chorizo and everything they were grilling both looked and smelled delicious.