Pena Palace


Visited the Pena Palace, Regaleira Palace and Moorish Castle in Sintra.

Time of Visit:  May and November 2023

Duration of Visit:  One and half day total (day trip from Lisbon)


Sintra is a city that has earned the distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage site.  It has a mixture of natural and exceptional cultural sites.   The cultural sites are what draw visitors to Sintra.  These sites are mainly anchored on six palaces, a Moorish castle and an historic city center.  Throughout the city there are also public artworks on display and a few medieval structures such as fountains.

The city is built on a mountainside so expect to do some uphill and downhill walking while exploring.  The Moorish castle and the star attraction – Pena Palace are built on top of the mountain.  Pena Palace’s exterior is very colorful. 

We visited Sintra twice.  Once in May 2023 and again in November 2023.   We were able to visit Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle on our first visit and the historic city center and Regaleira Palace on our second visit. Here we describe our experience and what we learned.

Getting to Sintra

Comboios de Portugal train

By far, the easiest way to get to Sintra is by train, especially if you are staying in Lisbon.  We stayed a few kilometers from the airport and rode the Comboios de Portugal or CP train at its Roma-Areeiro station.  The cost was 2.30 Euros one way plus 0.50 Euros for the card with the embedded microchip. 

The train station at Sintra is about a 15 minute walk from the historic city center and another 10 minutes to Regaleira Castle.  Just do not follow Google Maps on the walking directions from the train station to the city center as it will take you on a path that has lots of ups and downs.  We were fortunate enough to avoid this mistake thanks to a couple of locals that saw us going the wrong path while navigating using our cell phone,  It is much easier, though a longer path to just follow the main road to get to the city center.

You can drive yourself to Sintra but your parking cost would be more than the train fare.  There is a parking lot by the train station but it is limited in space so get there early if you want to score a spot.

Going Around Sintra

Hop on hop off bus around Sintra waiting at the train station

The town of Sintra is not really big.  However, the cultural sites are spread out and are on top of mountains if not, on mountainsides. This would entail some uphill and downhill walking. So walking from one site to another is not really practical, especially on hot summer days. Plus the roads are narrow making it somewhat treacherous.

Fortunately, the town of Sintra has a hop on and hop off bus. Riders pay a flat fee to ride for 24 hours.  The buses do have a schedule so you just have to time your visit at one site so as not to wait too long for the bus to take you to the next site.

There are also taxis, Uber and tuk-tuks that can take you around.

Moorish Castle

Lots of ups and downs walking the Moorish Castle walls….
….but the views are outstanding

We liked the Moorish Castle.  There is really no castle to explore here.  What is explored is the rebuilt perimeter wall that undulates as it follows the mountain terrain. There are some terrific views all along the perimeter wall.  It is like a baby version of the Great Wall in China.

Unlike Pena Palace, we did not have to wait in any line to enter the Moorish Castle grounds.  We just walked right through the turnstiles after purchasing our entry tickets.

Pena Palace

Pena Palace

Pena Palace receives a lot of visitors.  There is an entry fee to visit the palace. We bought our entry tickets electronically (on-line) when we arrived on site in the early aternoon.  We got lucky as there were still open time slots but still ended up waiting in-line for two hours before we entered the palace. Our suggestion is pre-purchase your electronic tickets way before the desired visitation date and time to minimize wait time.

The line to get into the palace
Palace courtyard

Pena Palace is perched on top of the mountain.  It is a good walk uphill to get to the waiting area where visitors have to wait in a line. The palace tour winds its way in the various rooms.  The rooms are decorated with aristocratic memorabilias ranging from room furnishings to painted portraits. 

The tour concludes at the palace promenade where visitors are allowed to linger and take photos. 

Regaleira Palace

Regaleria Palace

Next to Pena Palace in beauty is the Regaleira Palace.  This palace is about a 10 minute walk from old town with a short uphill section to get to the entrance gate.  If you like exploring and discovering cool things, you will need at least a half day here.  The palace grounds is huge and there are gardens, trails, paths, caves, grottos and medieval structures to explore.  By far, the main attractions at the Regaleira Palace is the palace itself and the Poço Iniciático or Initiation Well.

The palace is right by the street but taking that all important souvenir photo is much nicer from within the palace grounds.  The Initiation Well requires an uphill walk of between 15- 20 minutes from the entrance gate.  It is well worth it. 

Looking down at the Initiation Well. It is one way to go down to the bottom.
One of the many cool structures within the palace ground

if you want to explore the area above the Initiation Well, we would suggest you do this first then visit the well on the way down.  Reason being is that the well exits is at the bottom which is at least five stories deep.  So you would have to walk uphill again to see the upper palace grounds.


Sintra is a wonderful destination that demands more than just being a day trip from Lisbon.  However, if you want to base yourself from Portugal’s capital city, the Comboios de Portugal train makes it a convenient way to get there.

To us, visiting the Moorish Castle, Pena Palace and Regaleira Palace was well worth the time and cost.  the The Moorish Castle provided something different to do and see.  Walking its walls, though may be tiring because of its ups and downs, took us back to medieval times. Pena Palace is like no other palace we have seen in Europe. We do not remember much of its inside but its colorful exterior left an indelible mark in our minds.  Finally, Regaleira Palace itself is not a large palace but its ground is.  There are many things to see and do within the palace ground such that at least half a day is needed.

We would encourage you to set aside at least a couple of days in exploring Sintra.  You get to set eyes on cool historical and cultural sites while getting your exercise.