Not far from Lisbon, the Sintra Cascais Natural Park offers both Unesco sites and amazing natural sites: A great region to spend a few days! To help you plan your trips, here is my selection of the top things to do in Sintra and around: palaces, beaches, cliffs, parks...
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Why visit Sintra and its Region? Video
Before we have a look at all the things to do in Sintra and its region, below is a short video snapshot with some of the most beautiful locations in the area:
Top Things to do in Sintra-Cascais Natural Park
More suggestions will come in the article, but if you are looking for a good snapshot of the region, my top 5 places to see are the following.
However, everyone has different taste. I tend to be in awe with amazing views of nature and where everything is very scenic.
- Praia do Magoito Beach, with its impressive cliffs
- The Castle of the Moors in Sintra, for the history and views
- The Pena Palace in Sintra, for the uniqueness
- Praia da Adraga Beach, for the rock formations
- Cabo da Roca, for the natural wonder that are the panoramas
See them in more details in the rest of the article
Those 5 and all my favorite places to see in the area are included in my 2 guides to help you plan your Portugal road trip:
Top things to do in the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park & Map
Map of Sintra Cascais Natural Park
Below is a simplified Map of the Sintra Cascais Natural Park and its location in relation to Lisbon.
Destinations in the Natural Park
- Sintra Town - The highlight of the park is, of course, the town and mountain of Sintra (Serra da Sintra). The whole area is a Unesco listed site. It combines a beautiful forest, parks, ruins as well as unbelievable palaces. It is a great day trip from Lisbon, but if you have time, I recommend staying overnight.
- Cascais & South Coast - Cascais is the most famous resort town in Portugal. Not far from Lisbon, this is where we can find the 'Lisbon Beaches'. Cascais itself is not in the National Park, but it starts on its left.
- Cabo da Roca - the westernmost point of Mainland Europe, home to stunning cliffs and coastline.
- West coast of Sintra Cascais National Park - amazing beaches of great variety. Don't miss Magoito, one of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal.
- Inland - If you want to avoid the tourists, head inland off the beaten track. Take your car in those small roads and discover valleys, farms, windmills and abundant wildlife.
How to get to Sintra
Sintra is very easy to reach, only 30min from Lisbon. You can visit the region by car OR by train + hop on hop off bus or via a small group tour from Lisbon (including the coast).
Check out this link to see the best rated accommodations in Sintra.
More info at the end of the article.
Things to do in Sintra town
Let's start with the best places to visit in Sintra. Below are the major Sintra attractions which are part of the Sintra Unesco site, only 30 minutes from Lisbon.
If would only have one day in Sintra, I recommend visiting the Pena Palace and the Castle of the Moors. With these 2, you discover very distinctive structures and amazing views of the region. But if you have more days, you can find more interesting attractions listed below.
Don't try to pack to much, the places are huge!
Castle of the Moors
This medieval castle is on top of one hill of the Serra da Sintra.
Ruins of the wall are accessible with great views of the valley and of the Pena Palace.
More photos and info on the Sintra Castle of the Moors Article.
This is one of the most famous buildings in Portugal. This very unique site, full of colors and shapes, sits on top of the mountain range.
The Pena Palace has been named one of the the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
More photos and info on the Sintra Pena Palace Article
Walking in Sintra
The walk between the old and the new city is quite enjoyable with statues and green areas. Take some time to explore the street. There is much more to see in Sintra!
National Palace of Sintra
This is the most easily accessible of the Sintra attraction, as it is in the center right before starting your way up to Pena. This white building with both Gothic and Manueline architectural elements used to be the royal residence.
Another famous point of interest in Sintra, this palatial villa also presents a variety of architectural elements. It has a large and well-designed park you can explore, especially on a hot day.
Quinta Da Regaleira
This is another of the key places to visit in Sintra. This palace is quite exuberant in itself, but it is mostly famous for its forested park with paths that will lead you to interesting discoveries. The most famous feature is the initiation wells that look like underground towers.
if you have more time and are wondering what more there is to see in Sintra: consider visiting:
- the Convento dos Capuchos, quite a different style to anything else here.
- The Sentais Palace, a more classical building built in the 18th century
- Quinta do Relogio, recognized for its Moorish revival style
Cabo Da Roca & Western Coast
If you head west from Sintra, you will reach the Atlantic coast with amazing cliffs and beautiful beaches.
Cabo da Roca
This is the westernmost point on mainland. Quite a touristic place... but there is enough space for everyone to enjoy the views. However, if you are planning to visit the amazing cliffs of the Algarve region, you could skip this place as the cliffs are not as impressive in comparison.
Praia Da Adraga Beach
A stunning beach with a beautiful arche and large rocks breaking the waves. Photographers love it!
More photos and info on the Praia da Adraga Article
Praia Do Magoito
This is one of my absolute favorite beaches in Portugal. You start with a fantastic viewpoint at the end of the beach. Then you can easily access the beach and admire the solidified sand dune on your way down.
More photos and info on the Praia Do Magoito Beach Article
Praia Da Maças
This is not the most scenic beach in the area, but the large sandy area makes it a favorite to spend a day at the beach.
Coastal White villages
If you have time, drive the small roads along the coast and discover the many white villages overlooking the ocean.
If you head further North, you will find:
- Praia da Samarra, a narrow cove
- Praia da Vigia, a long stretch of sand with high cliffs, access limited via some paths
- Praia do Sao Juliao, at the limit of the Natural Park with good facilities to spend the day at the beach. If you walk North of it, you have a great view of the coastline
Things to do around Cascais
To the South is the famous seaside resort of Cascais.
The most famous beach is Praia Grande Do Guincho with its sand dunes.
The South part of the park also includes:
- Praia da Cresmina
- Farol do Cabo Raso
- Fort of São Jorge de Oitavos
And if you are looking for a very scenic place, and are ready to go off the beaten track, try getting to the amazing cliffs at Praia do Porto do Touro.
Inland - driving around Sintra
Sintra and the park are very touristic. So, if you want to avoid the crowds, go on an adventure. Take the small roads between farms to discover small valleys, views of Serra da Sintra and many many windmills.
And not Far: Mafra
After touring the Sintra region, you can go back to Lisbon. But if you are heading North towards Obidos, have a stop in the town of Mafra (outside the Natural Park). The façade of the Mafra national palace is quite impressive and worth a stop. Built in the 18th century, it was also a monastery for a while
PLANNING TIPS - the Sintra region, Portugal
How to get to Sintra and the region
- OPTION 1 - Driving - Lisbon to Sintra: 30min highway drive via A37 (Parking options are limited close to certain palaces but there are large carparks near Pena and Castle of the Moors)
- OPTION 2 - Metro-train from Lisbon or the train for the Lisbon Rossio Station and then you can take the Hop on hop off bus - one loop takes you to all the palaces and the other to the coast.
- OPTION 3 - A lot of organized day tours from Lisbon will take you to Sintra, Cabo da Roca and the coast - Just sit back, relax and let the guide tell you all about the region - check out program and price
- Lisbon to Cascais - 35 min via A5
- Sintra to Cabo da Roca - 30min via N247
How long to stay in the Sintra Cascais Natural Park.
- If you stick with the highlights, 2 days are sufficient, but 3 to 4 days will allow you to discover more
- If you spend 3 days in Lisbon , I also recommend spending one of the days in Sintra.
- WHERE I STAYED - I stayed 1 night in Sintra at the CasAzul apartments. Check out my review on the Portugal Accommodations Article
- LOCATION - Especao Edla for another mid-range option with great location in the city center and modern decor - check latest prices
- ATMOSPHERE - The Romantic Suites & Garden Guesthouse for those looking for accommodations with historical feel - get ready to travel back in time! - check latest prices
- OFF TOURISTIC TRAIL - For an option off the touristic Sintra but not far away: Quinta de Sao Tadeu has a mix of modern and old. Really well done! - check latest prices
- CHEAPER - Consider the Casa Azul Hostel - really good location, great owner (same as my rental apartment) - check latest prices
- LUXURY - Tivoli Palacio de Seteais - check latest prices
Planning a road trip in Portugal? Check out my guides to facilitate the planning:
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