Visiting Sintra, Castelo dos Mouros and Pena Palace

A visit to Sintra and its National park, Castelo dos Mouros and Pena Palace is one of the main tours and day activities from Lisbon. It is also sometimes combined with a visit to Cascais and some of its beaches.

How to get there?

By Car

If you have a car it is quite easy and fast, as it takes around 30 minutes from Lisbon city centre.

The only problem would be to find a parking space, but there are many options along the way. You will find free public spaces on the road as you are approaching Sintra town, and also private parking as well.

Once in town, you have a few options:

  1. You leave your car in town and then walk uphill to the castle and palace (see the section below)
  2. You leave your car and take another transport uphill: bus or taxi (see the section below)
  3. You drive uphill and find a place around the castle or palace. There are several parking spaces along the way, and also right next to the buildings

By Public Transport

There are a couple of options to travel from Lisbon city centre to Sintra by urban trains/metro. If you manage to get to Agualva-Cacém station, you can take the Linha de Sintra (18839) which takes you to Sintra town in 15 minutes.

And there are many options to get to Agualva-Cacém station, depending on where you are in Lisbon. For instance, you can take the R 6409 departing from Caldas da Rainha (see map above). The company managing these services is CP-Comboios de Portugal, and tickets are available to buy online.

Once on Sintra train station the best alternative is to take the 434 bus, which performs a one-directional loop of; train station, historic centre, Mouros castle, Pena Palace, then returns to the train station. The alternative to this, avoiding the walk, is a taxi to Pena that costs €6.50, but demand in the summer outstrips supply.

Walking up to The Castle or Palace

Walking up from the town to the castle is a great way to see Sintra National Park, and exercise a bit. This is ideal for trekking/hiking lovers.

The total distance is 5.6 km and the elevation is 474 m. It takes an hour a half one way, and a bit less on the way back. It’s important to know than you need to find the Villa Sassetti path, as you don’t want to walk by the main road. It’s not hard to find at all, but you can get a map at the tourist information office if you have doubts.

A good alternative would be to go up with the bus and down by the walking path.

Sintra

View from the top of the hill

Sintra is a small town of 63.55 km2 and a population of 30,000. It is located within the hills of the Serra de Sintra. The historical centre is cute but there is not much to see really, although I recommend walking around, where you can find narrow streets, colourful houses and small shops.

People usually arrive at the town and stay no more than half an hour, to then start the journey uphill to the castle and palace. The view from uphill is beautiful, as you can see in the picture above.

Castelo dos Mouros

Castelo dos Mouros

The Castle of the Moors (Castelo dos Mouros) is a hilltop medieval castle located in the municipality of Sintra and about 25km northwest of Lisbon, classified as a National Monument, part of the Sintra Cultural Landscape, and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I was built by the Moors -hence its name- in the 8th and 9th centuries, it was an important strategic point during the Reconquista, and was taken by Christian forces after the fall of Lisbon in 1147. It was restored in the 19th century by King Ferdinand II, who transformed it into an attractive ruin and sightseeing point and a major feature of the gardens of the Pena Palace.

It could take up to one and a half hours to walk around the castle. As you can see in the picture below, it is quite hilly and full of stairs and corridors. The views of Sintra and its surrounding are beautiful.

Tickets can be purchased onsite, or even better, online in advance with a 5% discount. It’s open from 9 am to 6.30 pm (last admission 6 pm) and tickets cost 8€ for adults and €6.5 for children.

Pena Palace

Pena Palace

The Pena Palace (Palácio da Pena) is an outstanding Romanticist castle that stands on the top of a hill in the Sintra Mountains above the town of Sintra. It is a national monument and constitutes one of the major expressions of 19th-century Romanticism in the world. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. It is also used for state occasions by the president and other government officials.

It was established on top of the hill as a result of the creative genius of Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, king consort of Queen Maria II. Its construction began in 1839 around the ruins of an old Hieronymite monastery erected in the sixteenth century by King Manuel I and acquired by Ferdinand II. Around the Palace, using species from all over the world, the king planted the Park of Pena (85 hectares), which is the most important Arboretum in Portugal today [parquesdesintra.pt].

The park, the palace’s gardens and its interiors are impressive. It can get quite busy during high season, so better to book in advance and be patient if you need to queue. It can take up to one and a half hours to see all the palace and take enough pictures. Note that the view of the palace as a whole is better from the distance, either from the castle or around the park.

Tickets can be purchased onsite, or even better, online in advance with a 5% discount. It’s open from 9 am to 6.30 pm (last admission 6 pm) and tickets cost 14€ for adults and €12.5 for children. Tickets for the park are separated and cost 7.5€ for adults and €6.5 for children.

More Pictures

Castelo dos Mouros
Castelo dos Mouros
Stunning picture of the palace (source: official website)
Another impressive picture of the palace (source: official website)
Palace’s interior (source: official website)
View from uphill

Tours

Some recommended tours are the following:

Travel tips and recommendations

  • Visit our post “Tram 28, the most famous tour in Lisbon. Tips, route and best stops” to know everything about this popular tour in the capital.
  • A piece of very important advice if you are driving: read carefully how to use electronic toll roads, as you will probably get fined otherwise.
  • In Lisbon, we stayed at Hotel Ibis Saldanha and it worked very well for us. It is a modest hotel with a great breakfast and good value for money. 5 minutes from Saldanha metro station.
  • Last but not least, if you are in Lisbon and have some extra time, I would strongly recommend visiting Porto. It is only 3 hours away by train or car, and it is an incredible city. Once in Porto, do not miss the beautiful Douro Valley, land of wine, sun and great landscapes.

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