Sintra is a charming town and UNESCO World Heritage Site nestled in the hills outside of Lisbon, Portugal. It boasts castles, palaces and ruins and is an absolute must-see if you are in the Lisbon area. We planned our getaway to Lisbon (we were based in Valencia, Spain at the time) before we had even left the USA. Our daughter was obsessed with the photos of the “purple castle” (Palácio da Pena) and seeing it in person made her princess-loving dreams come true.
Overnight Stay in Sintra
While it is a very easy day trip from Lisbon, and one that should not be missed, I strongly encourage you to take your time and stay a night in the gorgeous, castle-laden town of Sintra. Staying the night allows you to wake up early and easily beat the crowds coming in from Lisbon for the day. It is also completely idillic. Wandering the quiet streets of Sintra and while a castle loomed above us up on a hill is one of my favorite memories of our time in Portugal.
What to See in Sintra with Kids
Palácio da Pena
Whether you are on a day-trip or you stay the night in Sintra, the Palácio da Pena (Park and National Palace of Pena) should top your list. It is a castle out of your little one’s dreams. My daughter, with all of her travels, still talks about this castle often. I suggest seeing the interior first to keep morale high, as it was hard for our littles to maintain interest and their place in the line you are basically made to stay in throughout the tour. They were completely entranced however, once freed to roam the castle walls, turrets and open spaces.
Castelo dos Mouros
If you have the time and energy, cross the road from Palácio da Pena and visit the hilltop medieval Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle). There is a stark contrast between the gray ruins of Castelo dos Mouros and the bright colorful Palácio da Pena, but eleven centuries will do that to a place. This castle is viewable from the town down below (and from our hotel window!) and its looming presence is stunning.
Quinta da Regaleira
If you only have one day, Quinta da Regaleira should be your second stop after Palácio da Pena. It was a beautiful mix of nature and ruins that left imaginations run wild. Don’t worry about being the first in line when the doors open (save that for Pena Palace), there is plenty of space in which to spread out. You will have to wait in line to see the spiral staircase, but we didn’t find this wait to be too long. Our kids could have played here all day and it felt like our visit barely scratched the surface of the massive grounds.
Do yourself a favor and save the time you would wait in line for tickets. Buy them ahead of time!
Walk Through Town
One of our favorite memories from Sintra is playing with giant bubbles a street artist had set up. We hold onto to this memory so tightly, that we tried to create our own giant bubbles at the twins’ fifth birthday. You can find artisans set up along the path from the train station into the town center, and it is such a lovely walk.
Getting To, From and Around Sintra
Getting to Sintra by Train
Getting to Sintra and back is easily done by train. If coming to or from Lisbon’s city center, the Rossio-Sintra line will serve your travels. It takes 40-minutes from Rossio to Sintra and costs €2.25/€1.15 (adult/child) each direction. The Oriente-Sintra line provides easy access to Lisbon’s Airport. An overnight stop in Sintra is an ideal bookend to your time in Lisbon, and this train line easily accommodates that itinerary. I suggest checking Google Maps for the time table information.
Getting Around in Sintra
Once in Sintra, you have a few option on how to get around to see the sights. The option most people use is the Tourist Bus, which you can grab near the train station (expect long lines) or near the town center should you have stayed the night. The buses move in one direction and stop at all the sights in the vicinity. Taxis and kitschy transport options (like tuk tuks) are widely available and will save you a ton of time that you spend waiting on the bus. They will not, however, save you money. Expect to spend 10€ per person on a tuk tuk ride to Pena Palace.
Tip: If you have a baby in tow, skip the strollers and baby wear!
Where to Stay in Sintra, Portgual
We booked with points and stayed at Casa da Pendôa in a lovely two-bedroom apartment with a kitchenette. The two king-sized beds in two rooms were a perfect setup for our small family. The quaint hotel is located in the center of the town where you can find restaurants, cute shops, and access to public transportation that will take you to all the main sights. It was also just a short walk to Quinta da Regaleira.
We hope that your family enjoys Sintra as much as we did! It truly was one of our favorite places in our around the world trip. Connect with us on Instagram or drop a note below if you have questions or want to share memories.