Capital of Romanticism, Sintra is a village full of charm and mystery. Classified by Unesco as a World Heritage site, the village is at the foot of the Serra de Sintra and has much to visit with children. Its stories and typical fog give Sintra a magical and mysterious atmosphere, which seems to be out of a fairytale. But, if Sintra is a village full of history and tradition is, at the same time, a place with a interesting contemporary cultural offer , both for adults and children.
Tiny pieces of history
In 1995 Sintra received from UNESCO the classification of World Heritage in the category of Cultural Landscape, the first in Europe. This recognition was due to its unique characteristics, a perfect blend of luxuriant nature and palaces, chalets and mansions of romantic architecture.
The first traces of human occupation are very old and date back to the Paleolithic era. This area was also inhabited by Romans and Muslims.
It was an important area at the time of the foundation of Portugal, with the first king of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques, granting a Charter to Sintra in 1154.
And it was, for many centuries, the holiday refuge of the royal family, which settled first in National Palace of Sintra and later in the Pena Palace.
But it was in the 18th and 19th centuries that Sintra conquered the interest of the Portuguese and foreign aristocracy. Attracted by the exoticism of nature, the unique climate and the mysterious environment of the mountains, many magnates built or rehabilitated palaces, chalets, farms and mansions to settle here.
What mysterious clouds are these, right above Sintra?
The clouds above the Sintra give it an enigmatic look. Looks like there's a different energy on the hill. In fact, there is an explanation for this: when it blows from north or northwest, the wind comes loaded with moisture. Upon reaching the mountain, the wind rises and the humidity condemns. And, thus, appear the clouds and fog that usually cover Sintra.
Capital of Romanticism
When D. Fernando II, husband of Queen D. Maria II, acquired the ruins of the m Monastery of Pena, located at the top of the Serra de Sintra, and transformed it into an incredible palace of romantic style, Sintra acquired a new magic.
Therefore, in the whole area were built residences, gardens and parks with the same style of the palace and Sintra became the first and one of the most important examples of the romantic architecture of Europe, with a unique landscape that still remains intact today.
All you need to know before visiting Sintra with children
- Sintra is 25 kilometres from Lisbon. It has several easily accessible roads, despite the compact traffic at the time of return home. Parking should be done in paid parks that exist in the town centre. But there is also the option of the train to Sintra, as informed by the CP.
- Normally, Sintra is colder and wetter, even on hot days. And because the streets are sloping and the climate is humid, the floor is slippery. So always wear warm warm clothes and comfortable shoes that won't slip.
- To visit the monuments you can travel from Tuk-Tuk (always fun) or on the Scotturb buses, which take you to the main monuments. Bus 434 runs the Pena and Moorish Castle Circuits and bus 435 runs the 4 palaces: Sintra National Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, Seteais Palace and Monserrate Palace. More information here
- If you prefer to walk, consider not only the distances between the places you want to visit but also the slope of the road. Because in Sintra the streets are very steep!
- I'd better get a snack and some water. Don't forget that you'll be walking a lot and the hunger will squeeze often. In Sintra there are plenty of outdoor spaces where you can rest and have a picnic with the children.
- Sintra is a very popular place for tourists. For this reason, it is difficult to enter the main monuments without finding queues, sometimes very long. Ideally, visits should be scheduled for the opening time or close to the closing time. It's, of course, quieter on weekdays.
- It is possible to buy tickets online and thus avoid queues at the ticket offices. It's cheaper to buy combined tickets if you want to visit several monuments. More information on the Parques de Sintra.
- There are some points in the highest monuments, such as the Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle, where low walls and great heights can prove dangerous. Always keep children close and safe.
Planning a visit to Sintra with children
- A full visit to Sintra is not made in a single day, especially with children. Sintra is a small village with many palaces, a castle, several gardens, parks, farms and museums interesting for children who deserve to be visited and who take their time to see. So don't chase all the sights in one day.
- Make the most of the nature of the mountains and palatial gardens, the wonderful views, the fun of getting to know the chambers of kings and princes. But no rush. Sintra has a fairytale atmosphere and stories to tell. So be creative and make up stories in every mysterious place you pass through.
- There are so many incredible places to visit that it is worth spending a night in the village. If it doesn't work, save visitors for other days. Actually, it's always nice to be back in Sintra.
What to visit with children
Pena Palace and Park
Pena Palace is one of the strongest images of Sintra and Portugal. It is a place that you really have to visit and therefore a good option to start your tour.
The palace, built in the 19th century at the top of the Serra de Sintra, seems unreal. The fog that usually surrounds it, its architecture and the strong colors form a magnificent ensemble, worthy of a children's story. Children will love the interior of the palace, discover how the kings lived and know their rooms, private bathrooms and so many other differences in life and objects today!
The palace is inserted in Parque da Pena, fascinating by its nature and the nooks it hides. It consists of several areas of gardens and forests where many indigenous and exotic plants grow from various locations around the world. It is therefore one of the most beautiful parks in Portugal and Europe.
A stroll in the park is guaranteed fun for children because there are many surprises scattered. The Nora, the Picadeiro, the Queen's Table, the High Cross (highest point of Sintra, 529 meters of altitude), the Fountain of Birds, the wonderful Valley of the Lakes, the Chalet of the Countess D'Edla and many other fascinating constructions (in total are about 30) that there is to discover on a ride without a rush. You can also take a horse carriage ride through the park. Find here more information about the palace and the park.
The Fairy of Pena Park
There is, in Pena Park, a cave where, every night, a fairy flies and hides. It is said that the fairy is very sad because of a heartbreak of love and that at midnight she cries her sadness in this cave.
No one knows very well where the cave is, what a fairy this is and why she is unhappy. But also no one doubts that Pena Park is a beautiful garden to house fairies, whether they are sad or happy.
If I were a fairy, I would also come to live in this park. It's so beautiful!
Arriving at Pena Palace
- It is possible to walk up to the palace and the trails through the mountain forest are very beautiful. However, they are climbing trails of more than 1 kilometre and hikes of more than 1 hour. They're, of course, exhausting.
- But you can choose to go by bus (434 from Scotturb does the Pena Circuit), Tuk Tuk, by car or by taxi. There's a parking lot near the entrance. However, don't forget that on busy days, you can easily find slow or stationary traffic and parks can be full. It is always easier to use alternative transport.
- Between the ticket office and the entrance to the palace we have to walk up a hill of about 300 meters. Although the hike is short, it is demanding due to the slope. There's also a bus that takes them to the palace. You get paid, but with little kids, you can make up for it.
- Finally, outside the palace, it is important to always pay attention to children. In some areas, the walls are very low and the height very high.
Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira is an enigmatic and very beautiful place. It owes its name to the Baroness of Regaleira, who bought the space in 1840.
Later, in 1893, the millionaire António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro acquired the property and transformed it into what it is today. He delivered the architectural design to Luigi Manini, Italian architect author of the Scala of Milan, with the intention of creating a great space, eccentric and full of symbolism.
This farm was enriched with architectural and decorative elements from manueline and gothic styles and with symbols of Freemasonry, Templars and Rosa-Cruz.
As we enter the Quinta da Regaleira We feel the enigmatic aura of space. The first impression is the palace and its original architecture, full of statues, pinnacles and gargoyles, reminiscent of an enchanted castle.
But it is, definitively, the garden that has a special charm.
Discovering the garden takes time but is fun, in search of nooks, narrow rails, wells, underground galleries, towers and other secrets that will awaken kids’ curiosity.
The Initiatic Well
The Initiatic Well is what causes the most impact. Hidden between stones, the entrance to the well can go unnoticed. But as soon as we find it, the vision is magnificent.
The well appears to be an inverted tower, 27 meters deep and with spiral staircases that seems to lead us to the center of the Earth.
This place is full of symbolism and is believed to be used for initiation of Freemasons rituals.
At the bottom of the well we find several tunnels and galleries connected to each other and that will lead to different points of the farm. It deserves, therefore, to venture into the galleries and find out what awaits at the end of each tunnel.
Quinta da Regaleira is huge and it takes some time to see it. So, come with time to get to know the whole farm and don't leave without visiting the palace.
APP Quinta da Regaleira 4.0 provides more informed accompaniment with a set of characters only visible through the smartphone. Believe me, they know a lot about Regaleira! More information here
The Moorish castle has an incredible location on the top of another hill in the Serra de Sintra. It is a military fortification built by Moors in the 10th century and conquered by D. Afonso Henriques (first king) at the time of the Foundation of Portugal.
It has always been used until 1755, when a part of the castle was destroyed by the earthquake.. In the 19th century, D. Fernando II bought the castle and promoted rehabilitation works.
Currently, the castle can be visited and offers an incredible view that extends to the ocean. Visiting the castle is traveling to the time of conquest of territory.
It is easy to imagine how, many centuries ago, the enemies would have approached the castle to conquer it, climbing the hill, and the battles that would have taken place there.
Inside the walls there is much to see: The Praça de Armas, the Church of St. Pedro of Canaferrim, the cistern, the silos, tombs and foundations of Muslim dwellings and other archaeological finds that testify the various people who have passed through here. Climbing the walls and visiting the Menagem Tower or the Royal Tower is another interesting moment of the visit.
But, pay attention to the children! The Moorish Castle is a beautiful place to visit but can become difficult with children, due to the irregular floor, the stairs and the heights that can be revealed dangerous in some locations of the walls.
Finally, as the entire visit is outdoor, before decide to visit it, consider the weather.
Monserrate Palace and Park
Monserrate Palace is just a short distance from the centre of Sintra, about 7 kilometres along the road that goes to Colares. However, it is a visit worth visiting with children: the Palace and the park are one of the most beautiful examples of romanticism that characterizes Sintra.
The farm is very old. However, it was in the 18th and 19th centuries that it acquired the characteristics it has today. There were several English owners, passionate about Sintra.
Francis Cook, a merchant and collector of English art, was the one who most invested in the palace to be one of the most beautiful in Sintra. This palace was frequented by intelectuais as the british poet Lord Byron and the novelist William Beckford.
The palace is beautiful, a combination of Gothic, Indian and Moorish influences and with exotic and vegetarian decorations.
The garden has 33 hectares, divided into several thematic areas such as the Garden of Mexico, the Garden of Japan, the Valley of the Ferns, the Rose Garden and the Ornamental Lakes, with lush vegetation from all over of the world.
Right in front of Quinta da Regaleira, now transformed into a hotel Palace of Seteais, Neoclassic architecture example, has a fantastic viewpoint, overlooking the sea.
There is a secret in this location for a good photograph: Pena Palace, on the hilltop, is perfectly framed in the center of the Arch of the Palace of Seteais!
The village centre
The village of Sintra is small and it can be easily visited on foot with children. There is a lot to see: Sintra Nacional Palace, News Museum, Centro Interpretativo Lendas e Mitos. And it is, also, very nice to get lost in the streets and discover shops, restaurants and tradicional pastries.
Sintra National Palace
The National Palace, National Monument, is very old. It was a moorish palace, probably built in the 11th century. But it came to belong to the Portuguese Crown after the conquest of Lisbon to the Moors by D. Afonso Henriques in 1147.
It has been the subject of rehabilitation and enlargement works throughout various centuries. Because of that, it is a mixture of different architectural styles. The palace served as an official holiday residence and many kings settled here.
Its interior is very rich: the palace displays, for example, the largest collection of Hispano-Moorish tiles in Europe and has a chinese pagoda of the 18th century. The 2 huge conical chimneys, 33 meters high, are the most prominent when viewing the palace.
News Museum is a nice museum to be visited with children. It is an interactive museum that takes us on a journey through journalism, media and communication, to better understand the world in which we live.
Several episodes of the history of Portugal and the world are approached in a interactive way where everyone can participate. You can even make a report that will be on the museum Youtube channel. Cool!! You will find all the information you need on the museum website.
Centro Interpretativo Mitos e Lendas
In this center we learn more about the stories full of mystery and magic of Sintra in a sensory experience.
Legends such as the Tomb of the Two Brothers and the Sete Ais are counted with the use of holograms in full size. But many other experiences that stimulate new sensations and that give to know the history and mystical stories of this mysterious village. This center is located in the Tourist Office of Sintra.
Sintra is the birthplace of some of Portugal's most delicious pastries: Travesseiros and Queijadas.
Queijadas of Sintra has a distant and poorly documented origin. But the oldest brand is the Fábricas das Verdadeiras Queijadas of Sapa, which still exists today. The first reference to the Queijadas of Sapa was in 1756 and the business still remains in the same family.
Casa da Piriquita is another traditional pastry shop. It was founded in 1862 and manufactures the most famous Travesseiro of Sintra, a delicacy that King D. Carlos adored. It was he who encouraged Constância Gomes (whom the king called Piriquita for being very short), and her husband, pastry makers, to produce Travesseiros. This sweet, which has 160 years of history, is an example of the connection of the royal family to the population of the region.
The Pastelaria Gregorio and the Casa do Preto are other mandatory points. All with a long history and tradition in the pastry of Sintra. They are great suggestions for a snack with children in Sintra.
Fun things to do in Sintra with children
In Tapada D Fernando II there is a reserve of donkeys created in partnership with the Association for the Valorization and Preservation of Donkey. Here, children can know the donkey, an animal very attached to our culture. Prior booking is required. More information on the site Parques de Sintra .
Quinta Pedagógica Burros do Magoito
This farm is located in the Arneiro dos Marinheiros village, near Magoito, and is open all year. Here, children may have contact with the animals of the farm and with nature. They can, for example, brush and feed the animals and learn about the preservation of the environment. All activities require prior booking. www.burrosdomagoito.com
Oficina da Ciência de Sintra
Oficina da Ciência de Sintra is located in the old garage of electric trams, in Ribeira de Sintra, Estrada Nacional 247. It has several exhibitions with interactive modules to discover science in a simple and intuitive way. It's a fun space for kids.
Centro Cultural Olga Cadaval
It is the main cultural center of Sintra. It is worth checking its agenda if you are visiting the village, because the center has a very interesting cultural program for the whole family, without forgetting the children. More information on website..
Extending the Visit
Sintra is located in the Sintra-Cascais Nature Reservation and the whole region is beautiful and deserves to be explored as a family.
If you want to rest from the monument visits and do a diferent program, take the tram and go to the beach. It is a quiet journey of about 40 minutes and 12 kilometres that separate the village from Praia das Maçãs. The ticket costs 3 Euros.
Or, visit Cabo da Roca and its lighthouse, about 18 kilometres from the centre of Sintra. Cabo da Roca is the westernmost tip of Continental Europe. So, it is not every day that we can say that we are the ones that, at this very moment, are more to the west of European continent!!
So, enjoy the village, dream and come back. Because it is always good to walk in Sintra with children!!