The best place to stay in Portugal with kids is Sintra. It is one of the most magical and fantastic places I have ever been to in Europe. After traveling half of the world, I could never imagine that there is such a tiny place in the European continent that would remind me of Asia and comfort me so much. I would say, it was the greatest choice to visit Sintra with kids during our Portugal family holidays.
For me, Europe is always associated with medieval castles, luxury palaces, Renaissance and Baroque architecture, and numerous museums. Don’t take me wrong, Sintra is full of castles and palaces but it is located in the foothills of Portugal’s Sintra Mountains that gives you an instant feeling of living in a fairy tale enjoying forests and rainforests at the same time.
- How long to stay in Sintra?
- When is the best time to visit Sintra
- Best way to get to Sintra from Lisbon
- Getting around Sintra
- Things To Do In Sintra Portugal
How long to stay in Sintra?
Among all the places we stayed in Portugal with kids, Sintra was the highlight of our trip. I highly recommend taking the opportunity of being in Portugal and visiting Sintra from Lisbon for at least three days. Sintra day trip is a good idea when you have a very limited time, but rather than that you should definitely stay more. There are lots to see and enjoy. The last thing you want is to rush. So, if you have got a week in Portugal and would like to spend it in Lisbon, I would suggest planning your Sintra itinerary as follows:
- 3 days: Lisbon (city)
- 3 days: Sintra (mountain resort)
- 1 day: Cascais (beach)
I would leave full days both for Sintra and Cascais because you need a lot to explore. Two days in Lisbon is totally enough too.
! Check the Lisbon itinerary for two days with a map and tips.
Important! Plan your time wisely and try to arrive at any of the Sintra sights first thing in the morning or better half an hour before its opening regardless of you traveling to Sintra with a toddler or alone. This is exactly why you need more days in Sintra. Nowadays, this place became mega-popular in that the queues reaching one kilometer in length (no kidding!), and people are prepared to wait. On the other hand, you do not want to feel overcrowded, so choose your time well. You are lucky if you travel with babies under two. In this case, you are granted priority access. If you come by the time of the opening, you are the first to enter and so you have got an extra 30 minutes before the place is filled with people. Alternatively, I advise you to take it seriously and purchase the fast track access.
When is the best time to visit Sintra
We have traveled to Portugal during Christmas and New Year – the very off-peak. It was well-proved in Algarve, but Lisbon and Sintra were the busiest places, even Porto was filled with people at that time of the year.
Sintra always has queues throughout the entire day until the last admission at 4 pm. As it has been said, come early, buy a skip-the-ticket-line entrance or travel with kids under two years of age.
Based on our experience, there are only two days when you can wander around the sights with 10-20 people at most, enjoy nature and take amazing photos: 31st of December and 2nd of January. The last admission on the 31st of December is at 1 pm, most of the sights close at 3 pm. Officially everything is closed on the 1st of January.
Let us share our detailed itinerary in Sintra with kids including the availability of public transport, costs, tips on avoiding the queue, and most importantly magical places you must visit.
Apart from our journey to Sintra, we have made a 16-day trip across Portugal with our 2-year old toddler and our family friends with a 1-year old baby. Check our full itinerary with things to do in Portugal, tips and important information to know about:
- Driving across Algarve coastline;
- Wandering around beautiful Lisbon;
- Taking the train to magical Sintra (you are reading this post now!)
- Enjoying medieval and baroque Porto.
Best way to get to Sintra from Lisbon
You can get to Sintra directly from Lisbon by taking the 45-minute train. If you go by car, it will take you half an hour only.
If you get to Sintra directly from Cascais, take the 30-minute bus or train. It will take you half an hour to get to Sintra from Cascais too.
Since you will need to spend at least an hour of total time to get to Sintra, I recommend booking the place in Sintra which makes your stay there more pleasant. Also, it gets extremely crowded at the tiny Sintra train station on the way out, you can easily get stuck there for another half an hour.
Getting around Sintra
Sintra is quite a small town and it is fairly easy to get around there. Of course, you can take horses and tuk-tuks but they are extremely overpriced. If you travel in a group of people, it is a much better option to take Uber or taxi to get to Pena palace or Moorish Castle, because the bus ride will cost you more.
You will need to take Sintra 434 bus to get to Pena Palace and Moorish castle. This route has been specially designed for tourists. If you take the bus, come at least half an hour earlier before the opening to get in a queue. You will have priority with kids under two years of age. Of course, you can hike up the hill, but it will take you a minimum of an hour, and note that there is no pedestrian lane on the way, so it would be a dangerous activity with your little ones. Since these two attractions are the most popular, the bus ride costs you the most compared to other bus lines. A single ticket is €3.90, while the entire loop as a Hop-on Hop-off ticket costs €6.90. This is why it is way more expensive comparing to Uber when you have got more travelers.
For the Park and Palace of Monserrate take the bus nr. 435. It is located a bit further and passes through Quinta da Regaleira. The round trip costs you €5.00.
You cannot get one bus ticket for the day or two. The rest of the major activities, including Quinta da Regaleira, Old Town, Sintra Natural History Museum and National Palace of Sintra are within a walking distance.
Things To Do In Sintra Portugal
Park and National Palace of Pena (Palacio Nacional da Pena)
This is usually one of the first major sights where all the tourists go to. This gorgeous castle stands on the top of a hill in Sintra Mountains above the entire Sintra town. It is so high that it can be seen even from Lisbon on a clear day. How to get to Pena Palace from Lisbon? It is fairly easy to take the train or book a tour if you have only one day for Sintra. In this case, you will be able to visit Quinta da Regaleira too.
Pena Palace was built in the 19th century and represents the Romanticism. It is believed that different colors of the castle represent the most essential elements of the Earth: fire (red), water (blue) and sun (yellow).
The palace itself is very small. If you stuck in a queue that reaches out to the entrance to the premises, I strongly advise to skip on it and enjoy the walk around the castle. It has absolutely stunning views and tiny entrances that much worth of the visit.
Queues are usually for the entrance inside the castle, where you can be introduced to how the family lived. There are only two floors and several rooms to observe, so if you can’t make it, leave it for now.
Pena Park is enormous. It has a lot to offer. If you just look at the map, you will realize that you spend the entire day wandering around. In our opinion, 2 to 3 hours should be enough. If you travel to Sintra with kids and babies, it is a perfect place to take a nap and have a picnic.
Castle of the Moors or Moorish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros)
It is a good idea to plan Pena Palace and Moorish Castle in one day, simply because they are located close to each other and you will be able to save on expensive bus rides.
The Moorish castle is not as big, nor it is too challenging to climb. Buggies should be left out at the entrance, so it is a good idea to bring a baby carrier with you if necessary. Two hours is more than enough to explore this part of Sintra.
It also takes you only five minutes to walk from the exit of Pena Palace, no bus is needed.
Castle of the Moors is a hilltop ruinous medieval castle, which was first established during the 9th century by the North African Moors to guard Sintra town. But it fell into disrepair after the Christian conquest of Portugal. It was only restored back in the 19th century featuring more ruins rather than the castle itself.
The castle of Moors is an absolutely stunning place where you can enjoy stunning views of Portugal forever. The place reminded me very much of China Great Wall. It is smaller, narrower but so much worth visiting.
Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira is the third most popular tourist destination. However, we have visited it last on the 2nd of January, which was a success, because we actually had an opportunity to take our time exploring all parts of this incredibly magical place, and, of course, photos with no people around were amazing.
Quinta da Regaleira is a decorative 20th-century residence. It is only a 15-minute walk from the main tourist center in the Old Town, so no transport is necessary.
This place is believed to be one of the most mysterious bringing back the references to the Knights Templar, the Masons and dark alchemy which were involved in ancient secret orders. The main attraction of the entire Quinta da Regaleira is the well that is meant to serve for the initiation ceremony for the Knights Templar. The well is 27 meters long, when you go all the way down you end up in a tunnel that brings you in deeper tunnels and different exits such as to the cascade. These tunnels run the length of the gardens and end up on different levels.
Only there we spent two hours. And it didn’t finish without the surprise of me been misled by the light and jumping into a pool of swamp instead of a cave. So, be careful! It was our beginning of the day, and I ended up to fully soaking myself in the water along with the backpack full of dry pants for Teo (as we were in the middle of potty training), his food and … my one-week-old Google Pixel phone which, I must admit, is a truly amazing invention. Not only it takes fabulous photos, but it also worked fine after being dried out for three days.
Quinta da Regaleira was by far my favorite (along with the Palace of Monserrate which I mention the next!). It has an amazing garden filled with concealed symbolism. Another absolutely must-see place there is the Labyrinth cave that is located on the lake. There is no sign or anything, but make sure to get inside the cave (bring your flashlight!) and wander along with numerous little tunnels in absolute darkness which is quite breath-taking.
Park and Palace of Monserrate (Palácio de Monserrate)
The Palace of Monserrate is one of the greatest sights we have visited in Portugal. It reminded me of a lot of Asia. It is not only a palace but an amazing botanical garden filled with trees, plants, and flowers from all over the world.
It is a pity lots of tourists miss out on this site due to the location and time limit, however, it is very much possible to visit the Palace of Monserrate the same day after Quinta da Regaleira. The bus that goes through both these sights is 435 and costs €5 round trip for the whole day with a possibility to hop on hop off in between.
The actual palace was imagined by an Englishman, Sir Francis Cook, who decided to build a summer residence from the ruins of a pre-existent neo-gothic palace around 1860. This is probably why you can find that the Rose Garden was a gift from the Cornwall society. The palace itself is a mixture of Arabic, Gothic and Indian architectural styles. It looked to me very much a luxurious palace with the fountain inside and lots of carving work.
Again, we enjoyed exploring the site on the 31st of December almost being alone. The garden is hugely full of exotic species. Apart from the rose garden, there is the whole Mexican garden section. All plants are of enormous size, so we felt we were traveling through different continents. The last but not least unique place was a type of ruinous construction covered with the tree that reminded Root of Banyan tree that grows in Cambodian temple.
In case if this is not enough, below are the suggestions for more places to visit in Sintra:
- Sintra National Palace
- Queluz National Palace
- Sintra Natural History Museum
And, of course, a walk around Old Town is a must but this you will cross at any point during your visit to the incredible Sintra’s sights.
We wish you to have a memorable and relaxing time in Sintra!
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