For centuries, the charming town of Sintra has served as a relaxing summer retreat for the crème de la crème of Portuguese society, and gained international acclaim in the Romantic period as a source of inspiration for such writers as Lord Byron, who referred to Sintra as “glorious Eden.” Nowadays, the cultural landscape of Sintra is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. On this day trip from Lisbon—in the company of a historian—we will delve into the magic and mysteries of Sintra over the course of about four hours, visiting a carefully chosen selection of monuments in order to get a feel for what has proved so captivating for lovers, royals and storytellers alike.
From Lisbon to Eden…
Meeting our docent at Lisbon’s central Rossio Station, we’ll take the train out to Sintra together and get started with a bit of background information about Sintra itself and how we will spend the day. Many tour companies offer Sintra excursions with a private car service, but at Context, we prefer to live like locals and find this option to be more scenic and sustainable (not to mention cost-effective!).
Palácio da Vila
Upon arrival in Sintra, our first stop is the Vila Palace, or National Palace of Sintra, the best-preserved medieval royal residence in the whole of Portugal. We’ll marvel at the mix of architectural styles (Moorish, Manueline and Mudéjar to name but a few) and learn about the different warriors and kings who have called the palace home across the centuries. We might visit the Swan or Magpie Rooms, each named for the depictions of their namesake birds painted on their ceilings, and learn the secrets behind the wealth of motifs and symbols to be found within the palace.
Quinta da Regaleira
After the National Palace, we will make our way into the historic centre of Sintra and then up the hill to the truly magical Quinta da Regaleira. This palace and sprawling estate turns our tour into a pilgrimage of sorts as we try to uncover the assortment of mysterious symbols which allude to all sorts of intrigue and rituals that have taken place within. We will explore the sprawling 5 floor palace, taking in the exuberant Gothic features and learning about the Quinta’s many owners across its checkered history and the traces they have left behind. Because our guide is a historian, we'll connect the decoration of Quinta da Regaleira with the larger context of European history.
We'll then head into the famous gardens to seek out a myriad of symbols which refer to the Masons, the Knights Templar, alchemy and more. Making our way through lakes, fountains, grottos, caves, and even a network of secret tunnels, our docent will explain some of the myths and mysteries of the site, perhaps stopping by the richly decorated chapel or the imposing Initiation Well, where it is not hard to imagine the mystical Tarot ceremonies that once took place there. Weaving our way through the nooks and crannies of these verdant grounds with stunning views of Sintra’s many other monuments and secrets at every turn is a truly sublime and special experience.
Sintra Your Way
After exploring the gardens (and provided we don’t get caught up in any occult rituals), our docent takes their leave, but not before imparting their insider knowledge about how to spend the rest of your day. Perhaps you’ll opt to explore the extravagant Pena Palace, the Moorish Castle or the exotic Monserrate Palace with its lush gardens. Or maybe you want to know the best spot for a traditional Portuguese lunch. Whatever you fancy, we’ve got you covered and will leave you equipped with flexible train tickets to make your way back to Lisbon at your convenience. Upon your return, consider further delving into historic Portugal with our Lisbon Old Town Walking Tour
, in which we explore Lisbon's Alfama neighborhood. Or, get better acquainted with bustling central Lisbon with our Baixa Walking Tour of Lisbon including Bairro Alto & Chiado
Sintra Tour Takeaways
You’ll leave with a better understanding of the eccentric and often breathtaking beauty of Sintra as well as the secrets and symbols of many of its illustrious inhabitants. With our packed itinerary of key sites, along with the freedom to keep exploring on your own, we’re sure you’ll be left convinced that, in the words of the great Portuguese novelist Eça de Queirós: “Everything in Sintra is Divine, There is no corner that is not a poem.”
Where do we meet? Where does it end? The tour meets near Rossio Train station in Lisbon. You will take the train to Sintra with your docent (the ride is about 35 minutes). The tour ends in Sintra. You will have return train tickets that can be used anytime. Most people choose to stay in Sintra, have lunch, and return to Lisbon independently.
We’re staying in Sintra, can we still do the tour? This tour is designed as a day trip from Lisbon. All group tours are required to start in Lisbon. Should you like to book privately, we can arrange for the docent to meet you in Sintra. If booking online, please mention this in the notes section so we can adjust your booking.
Can this be done by car? While this tour is designed to travel by public transport, if you are booking privately we can certainly arrange for car service. Please contact us for more info.
Can we visit more palaces? Can we customize the tour? If booked privately, we can customize the excursion to focus on a particular theme, or extend it to visit other monuments in Sintra, such as Pena Palace or Montserrate Palace. Please contact us for availability and pricing. Otherwise, we encourage you to remain in Sintra after the tour, where you can have a leisurely lunch and explore other palaces independently. Your docent will provide you with your return train tickets.
Is this tour appropriate for children? This walk is not a part of our official family program. That said, we may be able to arrange a visit with a family-friendly docent. Please contact us.
Is this seminar walking intensive, and/or wheelchair accessible? We do cover extensive territory on this seminar. Please contact us with any questions; we will be happy to advise if this seminar will be appropriate for you.