Sintra is a postcard. A postcard full of places cramming with tourists, of course, but also of quiet places to contemplate. And, above all, many tables to rest from the tour and refill your energy. With its fine architecture, significant monuments and museums and hidden treasures, is maybe the best choice for you if you are looking for some out-of-town hours. So save one day on your schedule, put on your hiking boots and visit Sintra, less than one hour away from Lisbon. You won’t regret it – scout's honor!
Recommended: Sintra and Cascais group tour
The best things to do in Sintra
There are over 80 trampolines and nine activities. The UPUP Park opened in May in Rio de Mouro and is for people who can’t seem to sit still. There is an inflatables area and another one called "Saco no Ar" (Bag in the Air), that has four acceleration lanes, with one and a half meters of depth, allowing you to improve your trampoline technique.
Price: €12 / hour-€ 39.5 / family pack
Towards Sintra there aren’t many instagrammable and trendy coffee shops, so Irina and Rui Duarte opened in April the Chia Juice Bar, with a terrace and a view to the lake, without having to wait forever or your order, and with much supply - and already much demand. It all started with the juices (during maternity leave Irina sold detox juices), but the menu grew with shakshukas, salads, toast and spinach or cocoa pancakes. They also have organic wine, both white and red, from Quinta do Cardo and Colé ice-cream bars.
The Vila Galé group opened a new unit in early June. The first calling card is the amazing view to the mountains and the Pena Palace. But this hotel, with 136 rooms and suites, has a concept based on the well-being and health of the whole family. There are detox, weight loss, relaxation, body invigorating, aging prevention, smoking cessation, postpartum and even personalized programs with a minimum duration of three days. There are also different holistic therapies, and the restaurants, one in buffet format, the other a la carte, both pay attention to the calories, but always maintaining the flavor.
Prices: from 140€
Maria Borga's ice-cream shop opened four months ago and stands in front of one of the best viewpoints overlooking Sintra: the Correnteza viewpoint. The ice-creams are 100% handmade, without dyes or preservatives, and use ingredients from local producers. There are always 12 flavors, some remain the same, such as chocolate with 70% cocoa or white coffee, made through a coffee bean infusion, where neither colour nor caffeine is extracted (one scoop 2.40€, two scoops € 3.40).
José Franco and João Bernardo have been working in this town since they were teenagers, so they knew quite well what was missing there. In Villa 6, which opened two months ago near the historic center, they dedicate themselves to their pregos (steak sandwich), of either picanha (sirloin cap) or loin (5 €). They completed the menu with more traditional tidbits such as alheira balls, pica-pau (fried beef with pickles) or octopus patties. To water it all down, there is Seteais Mag8 beer, from local brewer Hops & Drops.
Felix Tanguay, a Canadian who had a ski school in Switzerland, opened Quantum Park, which went straight into the category of one of Europe's largest trampoline parks. It has more than three thousand square meters for all: there are climbing walls with nine meters of height, a slide of vertical fall and, of course, the trampolines. But the challenge goes beyond the basic leaps. The floor of the basketball and dodgeball courts is in trampoline and there is also a jumping tower. There’s also a half-pipe for skaters.
Price: trampolines (12 €), climbing (14 €).
It's the big news from the area - and probably from the last few years as well. Argentine Pablo Bash bought the land of an old vacations colony and put in the work to make it a true village with space for camping, glamping and soon, a hostel. Inside there is a supermarket, a restaurant/bar, various street food concepts, a wine cellar and a craft beer bar. Right at the entrance are André Dias and Andreia Araújo with a photogenic bubblegum-pink van that sells bubble waffles stuffed with ice cream. They ordered the machine and began to replicate the original recipe from Hong Kong, which has tapioca flour. Following the path on the ground, you’ll get to Invino, with more than 100 wine references, always with special focus on local wines. To accompany the wine (glass or bottle) there are cheeses and sausages boards, preserves and olives. Another tip of the triangle is the taproom Hops & Drops, with eight faucets always running handcrafted beer. The last vertex is Italian and it is quite the truck. Jasbhagat came from Rimini to Portugal, first to become a yoga teacher, now to make pizzas with slow fermenting dough, with a mix of local and Italian ingredients, always organic. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays there is live music.
It is the bar at the bottom of Praia Grande, hence the name (it translates to “Bar at the bottom”), and it has been here for more than 20 years, but only 10 years ago did it go beyond the sandwiches and salads and started to work as a serious restaurant and not as a beach bar. Manuel and José Cotta, brothers, also started opening it during the winter for hot chocolate with a sea view. The mother, Madalena Cotta, is responsible for much of the food that comes to the table. There is fresh fish and seafood, cataplanas for two (€ 36) and comfort dishes such as octopus rice (€ 14) and sirloin steak (€ 19). In the winter there is a Portuguese stew buffet on Sundays. At the door is also a tiny cart of açaí.
The idyllic locality in which it is inserted gave the name to this classic fish and seafood restaurant, where the meals are made in a glassed room with a panoramic view to the sea at Azenhas do Mar. Here everything is great: start with the Bulhão Pato clams and the octopus salad, delight yourself with the fried shrimp, head for the barnacles and then split a tuna or loin steak. For an experience for two, you are sure to pay 60€. But it's worth every penny.
Good seafood served au natural, but not just that. In this restaurant there are also limpets from the Azores with aromatic herbs butter (€ 29/kg) and fried shrimp with garlic (€ 12.50), but the real stars here are European lobster, the lobster and the shrimp. In the fish dishes there are fried turbot with garlic rice, coriander and tomato açorda (13.65 €) and in the meat ones there’s Portuguese fried lamb chops with crunchy onion and fried egg (13.40 €).
Since 1985 there is chorizo bread coming out of the wood oven near Praia das Maçãs. Those responsible for so much bread – and here they don’t go cheap on the chorizo - are Maria Silvestre Quintino and Lurdes Rosa, her daughter, who has been here full time for 14 years. "It's to be eaten warm", advises Lourdes, so as soon as it leaves the oven, where it stays for 15 to 20 minutes, they put them in well-covered baskets to conserve the heat (1.50€).
Avenida Eugene Levy. It only opens on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
It is in the heart of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, which makes it impossible to speak of Sintra without mentioning Penha Longa, the luxurious resort that has an empire of restaurants inside. There is plenty to choose from if you just want to go there for dinner, without having to check in: LAB by Sergi Arola, with a Michelin star and the Catalan chef Sergi Arola at the head of the restaurant, has a kitchen that bets on the Mediterranean flavours but with some world inspirations, with both a la carte or tasting menus. Midori is the oldest Japanese restaurant in Portugal, with 25 years. Pedro Almeida is the chef in the front of the kitchen and has now made the first serious changes to the menu. Before starting the tasting menu - you can choose between the kiri (€ 95) or the yama (€ 130), with seven and nine moments each - the chef comes to the table to show the fresh fish of the day. Want more? There is also the Pan-Asian Spices and the Italian Il Mercato.
The full name of this house says it all: Taverna dos Trovadores (the troubadours tavern), where you drink both white and red at any time of the day or night. It was abbreviated, of course, to Taberna dos Trovadores but still lives up to the name, in the drinking and on what comes to the table, where the grilled meats are their strong suit. And here you are guaranteed live music.
It has the shape of a pillow and needs no introductions, such is the fame it has been achieving. This puff pastry with egg cream, almond and sugar was made for the first time by the granddaughter of the founder of the Piriquita pastry shop. They are crispy and creamy and although they are already found throughout the whole town, the original ones are still found in Piriquita, which in Sintra already has two houses with travesseiros always warm and ready to eat (€ 1.40). For the less purists, there are already versions with chocolate and apple fillings (€ 1.30).
The first references to the Sintra queijadas, the sweet made with fresh cheese, sugar, eggs, flour and cinnamon, date back to 1227 and the oldest house that produces them is Sapa (Volta do Duche, 12). But there are more bakeries with their own production that have the actual queijadas: Casa do Preto (Estrada Chão de Meninos, 40) makes their queijadas from scratch, from the pasta to the filling; in Pastelaria Gregório (Avenida D. Francisco Almeida, 31), founded in 1890, the queijadas are also the queens and have been awarded several prizes in pastry contests; in Piriquita production began at the request of King D. Carlos I and their success rivals with that of the travesseiros.
Average price: € 0.90.
It looks more like a little fairy tales house, but it is quite real, and it was here that Elise Hensler, Countess d'Edla and opera singer, lived her love story with King Fernando II. The Condessa d'Edla chalet, reopened to the public in 2013, was inspired by the Swiss mountain constructions and is surrounded by botanical species from around the world, as well as various fountains and small belvederes. The ticket includes a visit to Quinta da Pena, the chalets’ interior and Jardim da Condessa. Adult ticket: € 9.50. Children under 5 years don’t pay.
It is at the top of the beautiful town of Sintra that stands one of the main expressions of nineteenth-century architectural Romanticism in the world, and probably the most well-known Sintra postcard. Standing out as the first palace in this style in Europe (note that the National Pena Palace, or Castle of Pena, was about 30 years ahead of the Neuschwanstein Castle, in Bavaria, one of the meccas of castles). It was the home for kings between 1834 and 1910 and today is one of the most sought after tourist attractions, and Parque da Pena - which stretches for 85 hectares - has the most luxurious landscapes with native and exotic species from the four corners of the globe.
It is one of the most welcoming cafes in Sintra. It is housed in a former queijada (cheese pastry) factory, has a high ceiling and walls full of swallows. There are breakfast menus for €8 (every day until 12.00) and brunch (between 12.00 and 16.00) from €14, which include the giant scones with jam and butter that characterize Saudade, bolo lêvedo (sweet muffin bread) of the Azores and yogurt parfaits.
One of a kind in the whole world, the Bonsai and Tree Museum has micro orange trees, apple trees, pomegranates and olive trees, as well as a 112 year old and 1.60m murraya that came from China and costs 15,000 euros. In the middle of this forest, which is easily a Japanese postcard, is the Bonsai Family Residence, a residence that welcomes groups or families who want to take advantage of the museum in an unprecedented perspective (from € 75 per night). Be aware of the workshops that teach you how to treat your bonsai (and that’s no easy task) as they explain vegan and vegetarian cooking tricks.
Fun fact: legend has it that there is a haunted house in Sintra. It’s a mother’s fault the legend exists, a lady of unknown name, who had three daughters, Ana Maria, Joana Maria and Teresa Maria, and who lived in a villa, the Casal das Três Marias. The mother was involved in occult forces and, at night, left the girls to sleep to go to Sintra to perform her rituals. This force did not want it to be only the mother to perform the witchcraft and began to speak with the three Marias as well. One day the four of them disappeared, but they say that their spirits stayed in the house. The Casal das Três Marias is abandoned, but if you have the courage, take the trail there, film everything and feel the energies.
Rosarinho Gabriel has transformed an old cellar in As Coisas da Terra (Dr. Brandão de Vasconcelos Avenue, 31), a space with furniture, curiosity pieces, art, antiques and her own atelier, where she develops architecture and interior design projects. In the Páteo do Titão (Arco do Terreirinho, 2) there is homemade ginjinha to take home, preserves and beautiful china. The Loja da Quinta, in Galamares (Avenida 25 de Abril, 86), does not go unnoticed, even if you’re just passing by on the road, with hand-painted and handmade ceramics from the region of Alcobaça and Caldas da Rainha hanging on the outer wall. For vintage finds, go to Mão em Mão (Rua Tomé de Barros Queirós, 29) and discover old-fashioned shirts and coats that are fashionable again. Finally, and for something completely different, be adventurous and go and get a tattoo at Bang Bang, Nazaré Pinela's studio.
More of Sintra
Some are perfect for families, others are little havens for couples or even paradise for surf lovers. But all of them put together stand amongst the most beautiful beaches you can find in our country and in the world. And they’re only a few moments away from Lisbon. From Cascais to Sintra or Arrábida, here are the most beautiful Lisbon beaches.
Is anyone there? This is the key question of almost every horror fiction and one of the sentences to avoid in haunted houses in real life (in movies it is usually a fatal mistake). Just because you should not risk it, even if you do not believe in witches, you know ... "they do fly on brooms!" From the center of Lisbon to Sintra, we made a special itinerary of sites that may be considered unfit for more impressionable souls. Even if they are full of people, the ghosts and the spirits wander around and no corner of the street is totally safe.