Home / Travel Europe / Travel Portugal / 6 Best Palaces of Sintra | Royal Palaces & Castles that You Must See

6 Best Palaces of Sintra | Royal Palaces & Castles that You Must See

Love it? Share it!

Are you a fan of fairy tales, grand architecture, and jaw-dropping landscapes? Then you’re in for a treat in Sintra, Portugal. This enchanting town is home to some of the most stunning palaces in Europe, each with its own unique history and charm. In this post, we will share all the tips for checking off the best palaces in Sintra!

Girl in one of the Beautiful Palaces of Sintra Portugal
Beautiful Palaces of Sintra Portugal

As a former playground for the wealthy, Sintra is a treasure trove of architectural wonders. The town’s unique location, nestled between the mountains and the sea, has attracted aristocrats and artists for centuries, resulting in a rich tapestry of architectural styles. 

Whether you’re planning a day trip from Lisbon or staying in Sintra for a few days, this town will capture your heart with its romantic gardens, cozy restaurants, and charming atmosphere. 

So, get ready to discover the palaces of Sintra and fall under the spell of this Portuguese gem.

6 Best Palaces of Sintra | Royal Palaces You Simply Have to See

Best Castles and Palaces in Sintra Portugal pin
Best Castles and Palaces in Sintra Portugal

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Top Travel Resources

  • Accommodation: Find hotels and apartments with photos and reviews on Booking.com
  • Tickets & Tours: Grab skip-the-tickets and guided tours from GetYourGuide
  • Car Rental: Compare prices for vehicle rentals with Discover Cars
  • Travel Insurance: Safeguard your trip with travel insurance from SafetyWing
  • Travel Essentials: Browse our favorites from our Amazon Shop page

The most beautiful palaces in Sintra

Sintra exudes enchanting stories, awe-inspiring architecture, and picturesque scenery. With its palaces, castles, and gardens, the town has rightfully earned its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

From the colorful and eclectic Pena Palace to the mysterious and enigmatic Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra’s palaces offer a glimpse into the opulence and grandeur of Portugal’s past. 

Sintra Pena Palace
Beautiful Palaces of Sintra Portugal

The town’s cultural landscape will leave you in awe, whether you’re interested in exploring the elaborate interior of the palaces or simply admiring their stunning exteriors. 

Planning your visit might be overwhelming due to the many options of incredible castles and palaces worth seeing, but don’t worry – we’ve got your back. 

Top Tours to See the Palaces of Sintra

  • Day tour from Lisbon: Full-day guided tour covers Pena Palace, and Quinta da Regaleira with time to visit the National Palace and Cascais. Book it here
  • Hop on and hop off bus: Bus ticket from Sintra town center to the 6 palaces listed in this guide. Entry ticket to the palaces is extra. Grab the transport ticket here

So, let’s cut to the chase and discover the most beautiful Sintra palaces.

1. Palacio da Pena (Pena Palace)

Arguably the most famous palace in Sintra, Pena Palace needs no introduction. It’s an absolute visual and imaginative treat, and it’s no surprise that it’s a top pick for tourists visiting Portugal.

Pena Palace’s striking yellows, pinks, blues, greens, and whimsical turrets and domes will make you feel like you are walking around in a Disney movie. Its eclectic design reflects the tastes and styles of the monarchs who lived there over the years. 

From Gothic to Renaissance to Moorish, the architecture of Pena Palace is a stunning example of European Romanticism, characteristic of the 19th century.

Originally built as a monastery in the Middle Ages, Pena Palace has a rich history that spans centuries. After suffering damages from an earthquake in 1755, the structure was abandoned and destined to be forgotten until King Ferdinand II acquired the estate in 1838. 

Enchanted by the breathtaking nature upon visiting Sintra, he transformed the monastery into a summer palace for the Portuguese royal family.

Pena Palace’s beautiful and colorful walls

You can explore the palace’s many rooms and gardens, with treasures like antique furniture, stained glass windows, and exotic plants. 

The surrounding Park Pena Palace is equally impressive and worth a wander as King Ferdinand II planted trees from all over the world that have grown to imposing heights over the centuries.

If you plan on visiting Pena Palace, we recommend purchasing your admission tickets online. 

The cost of admission is around €13 ($14). Keep in mind that the tickets you buy are for a specific date and time. We would also recommend arriving a little early, as it can get busy, because who wants to waste time standing in a queue?

There are also multiple Sintra tours that include sightseeing at the palace complex, with a stop in Cabo da Roca – they are perfect if you wish to extend your trip beyond the castes! Click to check out this day tour to Sintra from Lisbon

2. Palacio Nacional de Sintra (Sintra National Palace)

The Sintra National Palace, in the heart of the town, is likely the first palace you will encounter when exploring Sintra’s magnificent castles and palaces. Its most distinctive features are the two large conical chimneys that tower over the building and can be seen from afar. 

Sintra National Palace
Sintra National Palace

The palace was built between the 15th and 16th centuries by the Moors as a fortification, which makes it one of the most historic buildings in the area. It later became the royal residence. 

Over the years, the National Palace has undergone renovations, expansions, and additions by different Portuguese nobility.

The minimalistic whitewashed exterior of the structure may not look very impressive, but as soon as you step inside, you’ll be transported to a world of opulence and grandeur. 

Each section of the National Palace has its own unique character and charm, and you can spend hours exploring the various rooms and halls.

Sintra National Palace, Portugal.JPG
Chamber with table and chairs in Sintra National Palace, Portugal

Some of the unmissable rooms in the palace include the Coat of Arms Room, which is decorated with the crest of some of the most important Portuguese royalty. 

Then there’s the Magpie Room, where you can see the influence of Chinese art in Portugal through beautiful tiles with magpies on them. 

The Palatine Chapel, the only part of the original palace still standing, is a must-see for its stunning Gothic architecture. Be sure not to skip over the Swan Room – it’s one of the palace’s most gorgeous spaces and features amazing swan-shaped decorations.

Sintra National Palace, Portugal.JPG
Palace of Sintra (Palacio Nacional de Sintra) in Sintra on a beautiful summer day, Portugal

The National Palace of Sintra is open to the public, and a ticket allows you to explore the various state rooms at your leisure. The entrance fee is around €10 ($11) for adults and €8.50 ($9.30) for children and senior citizens, and it is open daily from 9:30 AM to 7:00 PM. 

If you want to learn about the palace’s history while exploring the grounds, you can buy an e-ticket with an audio tour online. It will cost a little more (around €17/$19) but will allow you to immerse yourself even further into the history and significance of the National Palace.

3. Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle)

The Moorish Castle is arguably the most impressive historical site in Sintra. With its striking hillside location just a 10-minute stroll from the Palace of Pena, the castle walls offer breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

Moorish Castle in Portugal
View of ruined castle wall of Moorish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros) Sintra, Portugal

This medieval castle holds a significant place in the country’s history. It was constructed between the eighth and ninth centuries and served as a watchtower. 

The castle has a unique and strategic location on a hill overlooking the surrounding landscape, including the Pena Palace and the Sintra National Palace. 

The Moorish Castle was initially built as a military fortification to protect the region from invading forces. Following a devastating earthquake in 1755, the fortress fell into disrepair. 

Luckily, King Fernando II restored the outside walls and towers to re-establish the castle’s grandeur in the 19th century, putting the Moorish Castle on Sintra’s map again. 

Although the castle is mostly ruins of Moorish revival architecture today, it is still worth a visit for its historical significance alone. You can explore the fortress’s walls and towers, which offer stunning views of Sintra and the castle’s gardens.

The castle is on a steep hillside, so prepare for light hiking. Alternatively, you can take an Uber to the gate, but where’s the fun in that? Once inside, you can explore the grounds to your heart’s content. 

The Moorish Castle is a real treat if you are interested in medieval fortresses, and it is one of the most remarkable ancient castles in Sintra.

Visiting hours for the castle start from 9:00 in the morning until 6:30 in the evening, and the last admission is accepted one hour before the castle’s closing time. 

You can buy tickets at the information desk at the Sintra train station. Or, purchase a ticket online for around €16 ($17.50), which includes a self-guided audio tour.

4. Palacio de Monserrate (Monserrate Palace)

Nestled in the heart of the enchanting Sintra mountains lies the Monserrate Palace, once the summer resort of the Portuguese royal court. 

People often overlook it in favor of other palaces, like the nearby Pena Palace and Moorish Castle. So, if you want to avoid crowds of tourists and explore a palace off the beaten path, this is the place to go.

The arabesque Monserrate Palace on a hilltop: Palaces of Sintra, Portugal
The arabesque Monserrate Palace on a hilltop: Neo Gothic Palace of Sintra, Portugal

Monserrate Palace was built in 1858, but the estate on which it stands has a rich history dating back to the 16th century.

The original property was owned by a nobleman named Álvaro de Castro, who built a chapel on the site in the 1560s. The estate has changed hands many times and underwent numerous restorations and abandonments over the years.

In the 19th century, the land was acquired by Sir Francis Cook, an Englishman who fell in love with Sintra’s lush landscape and mild climate. He built the stunning neo-Gothic building, which became his family’s summer residence. 

The palace is a striking blend of architectural styles, including Indian, Gothic, and Moorish, making it an intriguing and exotic sight to behold.

Monserrate Palace at Sintra Lisbon Portugal

Inside Monserrate Palace, you can explore the palace’s many rooms, each decorated with intricate tilework, carvings, and beautiful paintings. Despite not being furnished, the stunning architecture alone is well worth seeing. 

The Music Room, in particular, is a must-see, with its ornate dome ceiling and beautiful stained glass windows.

The palace is surrounded by a beautiful botanical garden that features a wide variety of exotic plants. 

Highlights include the Fern Valley, the Rose Garden, and the Waterfall Walk, which takes you on a scenic stroll through a series of small waterfalls and ponds.

You can get an admission ticket at the entrance to Monserrate Palace, or buy tickets online. Both options cost between €7-8 ($8-9). 

We recommend purchasing online tickets in advance, as it will save you time and effort, giving you more time to explore the palace.

5. Seteais Palace

If you have always wanted to find out what it feels like to live in a royal residence, Seteais Palace (also known as the Tivoli Palacio de Seteais Sintra Hotel) is the perfect destination for you. 

In 1954, this neoclassical palace was transformed into a luxury hotel, offering you the chance to live like royalty.

Seteais Palace
View of the beautiful Seteais Palace located in Sintra National Park, Portugal

Built in the 18th century, Seteais Palace boasts lavish architecture and opulent interiors. This stunning palace has been preserved to showcase its historical charm and features ornate rooms with intricate details, including gilded mirrors and crystal chandeliers. 

It also houses a collection of artwork and antique furniture. The interior walls are adorned with stunning frescoes of plants, flowers, and mythical creatures. 

You can still enjoy the majesty and splendor of the palace, even if you are not a guest at the hotel. The palace’s surrounding gardens offer a maze-like shrubbery and picturesque countryside view. 

Seteais Palace
Seteais Palace

You can also dine at the on-site restaurant, where you’ll be treated to delicious Portuguese cuisine amidst the palace’s stunning interior décor. 

The terrace bar is also open to everyone, and it’s an ideal spot to have a refreshing drink while enjoying the gorgeous exterior.

Staying at the Seteais Palace is an experience of a lifetime. With its rich history, luxurious accommodations, and opulent surroundings, the palace offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the Portuguese royal lifestyle and indulge in the grandeur of the past.

6. Quinta da Regaleira

Quinta da Regaleira is not your average Sintra palace. From its underground tunnels to its intricate Masonic symbolism, this estate is full of surprises and secrets waiting to be discovered. 

Fountains at Quinta Regaleira
Fountains at Quinta Regaleira

Located just 10-minutes from Sintra town center, the property, and grounds are an incredible experience, with hidden stairways, grottoes, and mysterious symbols.

The grounds on which the palace stands have a fascinating history. Initially, it belonged to the Viscountess of Regaleira, a family of wealthy merchants. In 1892, Augusto Carvalho Monteiro, a businessman and art collector, bought the property and started working on transforming it into a place that would reflect his interests in alchemy and Masonry. 

The building that became known as Quinta da Regaleira was built between 1904 and 1910. Monteiro added various symbolic elements to the estate’s architecture and landscaping, creating a mysterious and extravagant atmosphere. 

Quinta da Regaleira Sintra Castles
Quinta da Regaleira Sintra Castle Complex

Along with the chapel, he also built a palace, an extensive network of tunnels, and a luxurious park with rare trees and plants along with the chapel.

The property and grounds are an incredible experience, with hidden stairways, secret caverns, and mysterious symbols spread across the estate. 

And the atmosphere is just as enchanting as the gardens themselves. It’s gloomy yet romantic, and you will feel transported to a world of secret orders and concealed tunnels.

The palace is surprisingly small but complex and displays a mixture of Neo-Gothic architecture and ornately carved pinnacles. The main attraction of Quinta da Regaleira is its elaborate gardens, which are far from the traditional gardens that you’ll see in other castles in Sintra.

Of course, the highlight of the estate is the famous Initiation Wells, two underground towers lined with stairs. The wells were used for ceremonial purposes and are believed to be linked to Tarot mysticism. 

Quinta da Regaleira Sintra Castles Initiation Wells
Initiation Wells

Many link the wells to the Knights Templar (although they stayed here around the 12th century, these wells are not from that era). 

However, they’re an excellent spot for Instagram-worthy pics and offer a window into the history of this mysterious estate. 

But there’s more to Quinta da Regaleira than just the wells. The Regaleira Tower, the palace, and the gardens are all worth exploring, and the whole property feels like a treasure trove just waiting to be discovered. 

The property is recognized for its cultural value, giving you one more reason to include this gorgeous estate in your list of places to see in Sintra.

Admission tickets are a bit pricier than other Sintra attractions, but it is well worth seeing everything this fascinating estate offers. You can book your tickets online, starting at €16 ($17.50).

Best palaces in Sintra map 

Sintra palaces map
Click to view the full map and download it

Getting to Sintra Portugal | Sintra Day Trips Planning

The nearest international airport to Sintra is located in the capital city of Lisbon. From Lisbon, you can either drive, catch a train or join a guided tour. 

Getting to Sintra by train: 

The best way to get to Sintra from Lisbon is by train. You can catch the train from Rossio Station (at the centre). Tickets can be purchased at one of the automated machines at the station. 

Travel time is 40 minutes to Sintra Station. The station is located just a short walk away from the town center. 

Getting to Sintra by car: 

If you are renting a car and driving around in Portugal, it will take 40 minutes to get to Sintra from Lisbon. You will be covering a distance of 28.4 km (17.6 miles). 

The only thing to keep in mind here is that during peak seasons, finding parking is a hassle. If you find a parking spot, great – you will still have to walk or ride a bus to get to the sightseeing sites or palaces as mentioned in this guide. 

Getting to Sintra by tour: 

Day tours to Sintra include a detailed stop at the Pena Palace (interior sightseeing), lunch, and then free time to explore the Sinta National Palace and the town center. 

Some of the excursions also include Moorish Castle, Montserrat Palace, and/or Quinta da Regaleira. When we visited Sintra, Quinta de Regaleira was not offered, so we ended up visiting it on our own. 

Some tours stop at Cabo da Roca and the beach town of Cascais!

Here are our top tour recommendations: 

Sightseeing in Sintra town centre:

When traveling by train or car, you can walk and explore the town centre, shop or check out museums such as the Sintra Natural History Museum. 

In order to visit the castles mentioned in this list, we recommend using the 434 bus to get to different sites. The 434 bus connects you from the Sintra train station to Pena Palace, Moorish Castle, and the town centre. 

Bus 434 Sintra to Pena Palace
Bus 434 Sintra to Pena Palace

Because the palaces are located on a hill, you will need a ride to get to the top. Some people have hiked/walked all the way up, but we don’t recommend doing that from the base of the town to the hilltop as the roads are very narrow and steep. 

Short hikes to the Pena Palace gardens and nearby are still fine – but during the peak seasons (and with the heat) it is quite unbearable. 

The Sintra town centre also has a hop-on and hop-off bus tour that takes you to all the palaces listed in this guide. Here are the stops on this bus ride,

  • Moorish Castle
  • Pena Palace
  • Sintra Town Palace
  • Quinta da Regaleira Palace
  • Monserrate Palace

Book this hop-on and hop-off bus tour here

Tips for visiting palaces in Sintra

Visiting beautiful castles and palaces in Sintra is an incredible experience filled with history, beauty, and breathtaking views. This charming town attracts many tourists, so it is best to be prepared for your visit. 

Here are some useful and savvy tips to help you make the most of your Sintra trip:

  • It’s best to arrive at your destination by 9:00 AM, as most palaces receive the bulk of their visitors after 10:00 AM. Buying tickets online in advance can also save you some time at the site.
  • Choosing which palaces to visit depends on your preferences and how much time you have to spend there. If you’re only spending one day in Sintra, we recommend visiting two or three at most. Each destination requires at least 2-3 hours to explore the buildings and grounds properly.
  • Wear good walking shoes, as you might have to do a bit of hiking to get to some of the palaces. Remember to apply sunscreen as well, as the shade can be hard to come by while exploring the castles and palaces in Sintra.
Don’t miss Pena Palace on your trip to Portugal
  • When purchasing your tickets for the castles, consider choosing a combo ticket to save money. Many combined ticket and organized day trip options are available online, so be sure to compare deals and find one that suits your interests best.
  • Be mindful of the weather, as Sintra can get quite foggy and chilly, especially in the mornings and evenings. Make sure you are prepared by taking note of the weather forecast, and bring layers in case you get cold.
  • Consider a guided tour, as this can give you a deeper understanding of the history and significance of the beautiful Sintra castles and palaces. Many tour operators offer tours in a variety of languages.
  • There are specific rules and regulations in place for visitors to maintain the historical and cultural significance of the palaces. Make sure that you stick to these rules, such as no flash photography or touching the artwork, to help preserve the palaces for future generations to enjoy.

Best places to stay in Sintra, Portugal

There are many charming accommodation options to choose from depending on your tastes and budget. Here are a few of our top recommendations for places to stay when you visit Sintra:

  • The Five House: Located less than a quarter mile from the city’s historic center, The Five House is the ideal place to stay if you want to explore the city without breaking the bank. It is housed in a stunning old building and offers free Wi-Fi, delicious breakfast options, friendly service, and a lovely atmosphere. Book your stay here
  • Villa Bela Vista: Villa Bela Vista is a lovely hotel with stunning rooms and terraces that offer magnificent views. The villa has a quaint charm with its beautifully decorated and furnished interiors, featuring marble bathrooms that add to the luxurious feel. It is conveniently located in the heart of the city center, within walking distance of the National Palace of Sintra. Book your stay here
  • Penha Longa Resort: Nestled among the breathtakingly beautiful rolling hills of the Sintra Cascais Nature Reserve lies the luxurious Penha Longa Resort. This opulent resort includes a golf course, Michelin-starred restaurants, a tranquil spa, and many more amenities. While it is pricier, the stunning mountain views and meticulously manicured gardens make it well worth the cost. Check availability here
  • Osborne Guest House: Osborne Guest House is situated in the heart of Sintra, just a short distance from popular attractions like the Sintra National Palace and Quinta da Regaleira. With beautiful gardens, a sunny terrace, and a cozy bar, it is the perfect spot to sit back and relax after a long day of exploring and sightseeing. Plus, with free Wi-Fi available throughout the property, you can stay connected and plan your next adventure in Sintra. Check your availability here

Best castles and palaces in Sintra | Wrapped up

If you’re a fan of opulence and grandeur, Sintra’s castles and palaces are a must-visit. Each palace has its own unique charm and story to tell, and they all offer a stunning architecture that will take your breath away.

Sintra itself is a gorgeous city full of history, culture, and breathtaking landscapes that will leave you in awe. It’s no surprise that the town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s definitely worth adding to your Portugal travel itinerary.

Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply looking for a picturesque place to explore, Sintra’s amazing cultural landscape will not disappoint. So, plan your trip, pack your camera, and get ready to experience the magic of these magnificent palaces for yourself.

Read more of our Portugal travel guides:

Pin: Beautiful Castles and Palaces in Sintra Portugal

Palace Sintra and travel tips pin
Palace Sintra and travel tips

Love it? Share it!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.