Visit Town And Explore Palaces Of Sintra Outside of Lisbon 

Visit Pena Palace, Moorish Castle And Quinta da Regaleira

Visit Town And Explore Palaces Of Sintra Outside of Lisbon  Portugal.jpg

A Great Town And Palaces Of Sintra To Visit

We were excited by the opportunity to explore the great palaces of Sintra outside of Lisbon.  When we spent 4 weeks in Portugal on our first visit, we were sad we missed the chance to enjoy some time in Sintra.  So on this return trip to Portugal, we made sure not to miss this treat.

We stayed at the lovely Ritz-Carlton Penha Longa Resort outside of Sintra.  And even though we were busy as we enjoyed so many great experiences to enjoy on the resort, we planned a full day off the resort to Sintra.

Our visit started at the Pena Palace.  From there we walked and explored the Moorish Castle.  Our palace tours finished with the Quinta da Regaleira.  Each of these UNESCO World Heritage sites was very different but fascinating in its own right.

At the ticket kiosk at Pena Palace we purchased a ticket for entrance to the Pena Palace grounds with inside tour, the Moorish Castle, Quinta de Regaleira and the Monserrate Palace.  There was a discount for booking multiple sites.  We had ambitious plans for our day trip to Sintra.  

During the day trip, we enjoyed lunch in the small town of Sintra.  And then went back on another day as a special treat on our stay at the Ritz-Carlton Penha Longa Resort.

Start High At The Pena Palace

From Lisbon, there were many tours that went to the palaces of Sintra.  In the town of Sintra there were buses and tuk tuks up to the palaces.  From our hotel in the countryside outside of Sintra, it was easy to grab an Uber and get dropped off at the gate to the Pena Palace of Sintra.  

We hiked up from the gate and were captivated when we got our first view of the colourful and fanciful Pena Palace (“Palácio Nacional da Pena”). As we got closer the intricate detail came into focus.  

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We wandered through the different levels inside the Pena Palace and got a good look into royal life.  The rooms were well restored and stunning in detail.  We even saw the inside of the Palace of Pena Chapel with its colourful stained glass.

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Explore All Around The Pena Palace

After our inside tour, we went around the outside walls of the Pena Palace.  From this high vantage point, we got great views down into the courtyard at the Pena Palace.  We saw the amazing vista out over the countryside.  And  we even saw our next stop at the Moorish Castle off in the distance.

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We made a short stop at the Garden of Queen Amelia at the Pena Palace before we left.  The gardens were a wonderful spot to unwind after a long visit to the Pena Palace.  But on this trip, we quickly moved on.  We had more to explore on this day trip.

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When we toured the inside and outside of the Pena Palace we got a stunning introduction to the palaces of Sintra.

Wander To The Moorish Castle

From the view at the Pena Palace, the Moorish Castle (“Castelo dos Mouros”) appeared off in the distance.  When we reached the gate of the Pena Palace, we asked one of the waiting tuk tuks about a ride to the Moorish Castle.  We were told it was a short walk back along the road.  Later we realized that the one way road meant that the tuk tuk path would be really long to double back.  If we wanted a ride between the Moorish Castle and the Pena Palace, we should have visited the Moorish Castle first.

The Moorish Castle was established during the time of Islamic rule.  This strategic position defended the surrounding territory and the water access to Lisbon.  The property was restored by King Ferdinand II in the 19th century.  In 1995 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We set off along the road and followed the signs to the entrance for the Moorish Castle.  At that point our tickets were not checked and we began the climb along the path to the fortress on the rocks.  There was much to see as we walked.

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As we got close, we started to see the walls of the castle through the trees.  When we turned the final corner we found the Church Sao Pedro de Canaferrim.  Beside the church was a tomb for Christian and Moorish remains that read “What man brought together, only God may separate”.

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After a quick look we headed towards the gate to the Moorish Castle.  Once we moved through the line, our ticket was checked.  We were excited to start our wanders in this very different example of the palaces of Sintra.

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The Stone Fortress Of The Moorish Castle

A large open courtyard was inside the gate.  This spot included a small cafe and the washrooms.  That was our stop on the way out.  There were two ways to get to the fortress walls.  We took the level path towards the centre and came back down the stairs on the wall.

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We started our visit with a look out over the countryside.  The town of Sintra was below us.  And off to one side we saw our next stop at the Quinta da Regaleira.

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From this point we walked up along the walls to one side of the fortress.  Flags flapped high on the stones.  We walked around the castle keep as we climbed ever higher.

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From this high vantage point, we got a great view over to the other tower of the Moorish Castle.  But after climbing to the top on one side, we had no energy left to climb to the top on the other side.

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It was a long walk back down to the road after our visit to the Moorish Castle.  It was certainly a very different one of the palaces of Sintra we visited that day.

After The Palaces Of Sintra Visit The Old Town

From the Moorish Castle it was easy to grab a ride to the Sintra town.  Most cabs and tuk tuks were shared rides so we were glad when we got a tuk tuk all to ourselves at a reasonable cost.  The palaces of Sintra were up steep hills so we were glad to sit back and enjoy the scenery.

The driver navigated the rough roads quickly down from the heights.  As we entered town we got a quick view of some of the distinctive buildings we first saw from above.

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We were dropped off on the main road and the path down into the old town was pointed out to us.  With several suggestions for lunch, we headed down.  We saw a little of the colourful old town as we searched for a lunch spot.  We looked for all the beautiful Portuguese tiles we found on every visit to Portugal.

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When we reached the Patio A Esqina, we were ready to stop.  The outdoor patio looked like a perfect spot to recover enough energy to finish the day.  We ordered drinks and a selection of small plates.  And enjoyed our break.

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We really wanted to spend more time in the quaint town of Sintra but we were not done yet with our tour of the palaces of Sintra.  From our view of Sintra from above and from the map, the Quinta da Regaleira looked like an easy walk from town.  So off we went.

Explore The Poco Iniciatico At The Quinta da Regaleira

We got our first view of the Quinta da Regaleira as we walked along the road.  The interesting tiled walkway to the front gate took us past the palace.  We used our tickets for entry. 

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When we entered the gate there were several paths to follow.  We headed in the direction of the Poco Iniciatico.  This was the iconic spot that may be the most photographed place at the Quinta da Regaleira.  Under the first tower we saw we found an interesting fountain.

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We met a friendly informative local guide and followed him on the long twisty uphill path to reach the Poco Iniciatico.  While the Poco Iniciatico was often called a “well”, it really was more like an underground tower with spiral stairs that went down.  It never acted as a water source but rather was used for ceremonies.

We joined the long line of people that slowly wound their way down the stairs.  We snapped pics up and down as we descended.  The guide we met on our walk happily took our pics. 

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Quinta da Regaleira Poco Iniciatico - Moorish Castle Visit Town And Explore Palaces Of Sintra Outside of Lisbon Portugal.jpg

When we reached the bottom we moved along underground tunnels.  At one point we looked out under the waterfall of the Lago da Cascata.  The tunnel finally dropped us quite a distance down from the Poco Iniciatico.

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We were quite excited we got to see the iconic Poco Iniciatico on our tour of the palaces of Sintra.

Wandering The Grounds Of The Quinta Da Regaleira

As we wandered the grounds of the Quinta da Regaleira, we stopped often and explored the interesting spots we found.  The Torre da Regaleira stood as what might have once been a watchtower.  Across from this we admired the intricate details of the Portal dos Guardiaes.  

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We loved the colour we found at the Fount of Abundance.  The tower at the Ziguarte was quite decorative.  And it drew us up for a panoramic view.  

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Everywhere we looked we found artistic elements.  There was certainly much to see as we wandered around the Quinta da Regaleira.

See The Chapel And Palace

As we headed back towards the palace, we found the Regaleira Chapel.  This  Roman Catholic Chapel was decorative outside.  Even the bench outside was a work of art.

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We found the interior of the chapel was richly decorated with frescoes, stained glass windows and lavish stuccoes.   

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The palace and grounds had many wealthy owners over time.  We took in the outside of the palace from different angles.  Gothic pinnacles, gargoyles, capitals, and an impressive tower decorated the outside facades.

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The inside was open and we did a slow walk through.  We got a great look into the life of royalty when we toured the inside of the Pena Palace.  There was much less to see in the Quinta da Regaleira palace.  But the intricate details spoke of the beauty that once must have been on display.

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By the time we finished with our tour of the inside of the palace, we were truly exhausted.  We saw far more on our day trip to the palaces of Sintra than we expected when we started.  But we were happy when we got a quick Uber back to the Ritz-Carlton Penha Longa Resort.

Palaces Of Sintra And Culinary Treats Too

We were totally impressed with the approach to customer delight we experienced at the Ritz-Carlton Penha Longa Resort.  An escorted tour back to Sintra with our charming customer experience ambassador Carolina and the renowned Chef Siopa was a highlight for us.  

Chef Siopa took us to some of his favourite shops in Sintra for local Portuguese treats.  Our first stop was at Donna Estefania for queijadas and travesseiros.  The second stop we enjoyed was at Queijadas Da Sapa for a different version of queijadas and Pastel de Feijão.  We even made a stop at a local market.

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Sintra Town Queijadas da Sapa - Moorish Castle Visit Town And Explore Palaces Of Sintra Outside of Lisbon Portugal.jpg

The chef also made plans for another treat for us.  Joana from the Sintra Welcome Centre took us on a tuk tuk tour of some of her favourite viewpoints around Sintra.  

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One of the spots that Joana chose gave us a great view in the distance of the palaces of Sintra we visited on our day trip.

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Our return visit to Sintra was made extra special by our Penha Longa Resort hosts.  It was lovely to get some perspectives of Sintra from locals as we moved from spot to spot.  And we sure enjoyed all the Portuguese pastry treats.

Plan To Visit The Palaces Of Sintra Outside Of Lisbon

We had an amazing but very packed day when we visited the palaces of Sintra.  And were very glad we planned this day trip as one of our great experiences at the Ritz-Carlton Penha Longa Resort.  We saw a lot but it was hard to really enjoy everything properly with so many visits packed into one day.  

When we bought our tickets, we also purchased entry for the Monserrate Palace.  But after a full day exploring the palaces of Sintra, we were far too tired to see Monserrate Palace on this visit.  We kept the ticket and hoped to visit before the ticket expired within 365 days. 

We enjoyed a brief stop in the quaint town of Sintra for lunch on our day trip to the palaces of Sintra.  And our return guided visit showed us more with some very tasty stops for Portuguese treats.  But one day we will go back and explore the town of Sintra at a slower pace.

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78 Comments

  1. Sinatra is so gorgeous. I would love to do all that you have mentioned here – Pena Palace already on the list. I am glad that you shared your experience on the Moorish castle and I would definitely finish that first so that I can get the ride back to Pena. Those underground tunnels and gems are just so my kind of experience. Lovely post as always.

  2. Wow! The views from the Pena Palace are fantastic. I’ll bet it was difficult to pull yourself away. Loved the intricate details, too. The Moorish castle looks like a walk back into medieval history. I always enjoy the historic sites like this one. Were you able to bring back any of that gorgeous tile with you? Loved your iconic photo of the Poco Iniciatico, too! I bet you were tired at the end of that day!

  3. I am always amazed by the architecture of ancient times, and these castles are no exception. It takes me back many years to my childhood and the plastic castle toys I loved playing with. Of course, they pale in comparison to these actual, magnificent structures! How accomplished the builders were to create such stunning works of art with stone! I especially love the Pena Palace, with it’s sophisticated interiors and garden expanses. And the decorative paths at Poco Iniciatico are a labor of love. The Regaleira Chapel is lovely too, but I must admit, I prefer to marvel at the blocky Medieval architecture of my childhood dreams.

  4. We visited the palaces of Sintra on a long layover in Lisbon. So we had only a few hours to see the main sights and it was in winter on a rainy, somewhat cold day. We have to go back and visit the Quinta da Regaleira and the Moorish castle too. But anyway, the Pena palace is one of the most unusual castles I have visited in my travel life.

  5. Reading this brings back great memories of my visit here. I don’t remember visiting the stone fortress or climbing to see those views so I will need to go back. The Portuguese tiles in this region are so memorable, we also took some home with us! An area outside Lisbon I want to revisit, I highly recommend everyone to see it!

  6. Thanx for showing the Moorish Castle since that’s the one I did not visit. I visited the Quinta da Regaleira in the center of Sintra which I liked a lot and then I went uphill to the Pena Castle. I actually liked the gardens a lot. The castle is definitely unique and interesting but the style is quite…eclectic, actually a bit too eclectic for me. Therefore, I prefered the Quinta da Regaleira. Howsoever, a trip to Sintra is an absolute must when visiting Lisbon.

  7. You are lucky enough to see this beautiful town of Sintra and see inside the Palace of Pena Chapel. It seems luxurious and only someone with high value can live in such a place. The view of the town above the Stone Fortress Of The Moorish Castle looks amazing.

  8. I read this and get excited to return to Portugal in a couple of weeks, and it makes me think I need to revisit Sintra. I, like so many, go and see Pena Palace and leave. But you show us all that there is soooo much more. I clearly didn’t spend enough time at each of those Palaces and the town itself. Inspired to return and do it justice like you did. Saving this for reference.

  9. Oh wow, each of these castles looks so well preserved and unique! Pena Palace has always been on my bucket list, but I didn’t realize there were so many other castles in Sintra! If that wasn’t enough to convince me, I’m still drooling over the pastries. 🙂

  10. Definitely will take you advice to not overlook Sintra! I love the Ritz-Carlton and I will definitely have to check out the resort there when I plan my trip. Nice to know the palace tickets don’t expire for a year! It can always be tough to fit everything you want to see in.

  11. I am obsessed with Sintra–it was our favorite town in Portugal! It’s so romantic and dynamic with its 1000+ years of history. Pena palace is wonderfully over the top and the Moorish castle is straight out of a fairytale. Makes me want to go back!

  12. Loved that you packed so much into your day! This post with all of its incredible photography makes me realize I need to scratch Portugal off my bucket list sooner than later! I’ll be Pinning this post for reference – many thanks.

    • We would definitely strongly recommend a trip to Portugal. And plan to visit Sintra. We missed it on our first visits but were happy we finally got to see the town and palaces of Sintra.

  13. Gorgeous photos! The architecture is stunning. I especially love the bright colours of the Pena Palace. You saw a lot in a short time so I understand your desire to go back; I hope you make it back to Monserrate Palace before the ticket expires 🙂

  14. Wow this post has just been added to my bucket list. What stunning views, architecture and design everywhere. I never knew about the Garden of Queen Amelia Or the moorish castle. I’ve only heard about the main Peña palace.

  15. This is so cool! I’m getting ready to head to Portugal but don’t quite know where exactly to visit, so I found this so incredibly helpful! I especially want to visit Pena Palace now. Those views looked unbeatable! Thank you for putting this together, your trip looked like so much fun!

  16. Sintra has so much to offer, but Pena Palace will be forever my favorite 😍 Great tips… and this is coming from someone who used to live in Lisbon!

  17. I loved my time at Sintra! Though I messed up and walked all the way there from the train station which was quite a long way. 🤣 loved the memories you just made me remember!

  18. What an amazing trip! I don’t know if I’m more impressed by the inside or outside of Pena Palace. And that food looks really tasty.

    • We were very glad we went inside the Pena Palace to get a good look at life at that time. But the outside was stunning. Just one of the amazing palaces of Sintra for sure.

  19. Your post brings me back nice memories of Sintra visit some time ago. Still it seems that you have seen much more than me, so it’s a good reason to come back some day! Thanks for sharing!

  20. What an amazing trip! Sintra is gorgeous. When I went in the summer only the museum was open due to wildfire risk. Will hopefully get to go back one day and see Peña palace.

  21. WOW, this place is like a fairytale castle – the kid in me just wants to wander all day through the palaces and gardens! Also the food looks amazing, can’t wait to check out SIntra when we visit Portugal someday.

  22. Ah you’ve captured Sintra really nicely! It’s my favourite place to go for the weekend as we live so close! Thanks for sharing your beautiful images!

  23. So much culture, history, and beauty in Portugal. I can’t wait to visit and see it firsthand. Your pictures are absolutely stunning! The food looks delicious as well. Saving this post for later.

  24. I had no idea there was so much to see in Sintra. I’m especially intrigued by the Poco Iniciatico. Your beautiful photographs make it seem like an underground castle. Thanks for the great post.

  25. Wow, these palaces look like they’ve come right out of a storybook! I hadn’t heard of Sintra but now it’s definitely on my list! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  26. It looks like you visited a fairy tale. The palaces are stunning and wow the views! I would love to visit Sintra and spend a few days doing all that. I am impressed you managed to see all of that in one day.

  27. Your pictures are stunning! I love the architecture and the food. Pena Palace looks absolutely incredible. Thanks so much for sharing. Definitely saving this for when I’m ready to plan a trip to Sintra.

  28. Wow! Everything about Sinstra is absolutely breathtaking! The colors of the Pena Palace were beautiful and the Moorish Castle- wow! And I would love to walk down the stairs of the Poco Iniciatico. So beautiful! Adding to my bucket list. Thanks for sharing!

  29. Wow! I was in Lisbon earlier this year but it was a short trip & I missed Sintra. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know there was so much here! What a fascinating place with the colourful Pena Palace & the contrast between this & the Moorish Castle. And the Poco Iniciatico is definitely my kind of place. Thanks for highlighting, clearly I need to plan another trip to Portugal!

  30. I love Sintra!!! I got to go to the same three palaces that you did; I’d love to go back and check out the others there! I’d also love to explore the town itself a little more, it looks so cute!

    • We definitely want to go back and explore more of the charming town of Sintra. And see the other great castles and palaces in the area. A great spot to spent a few days.

  31. The palaces and castles in Sintra are so beautiful. I love all the intricate details! Thanks for sharing, def adding this to my “someday” list 😉

  32. There’s definitely a lot to do in Sintra other than visiting Pena Palace. We really enjoyed our day trip here but would love to explore more of the attractions you’ve pointed out.

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