3 Days in Sintra with Kids

Author: Dan Brewer

When we were researching destinations for our family trip to Portugal, Sintra quickly emerged as the clear winner. Set in the stunning hills west of Lisbon, Sintra is filled with great hiking, fairy-tale castles and a fascinating history. We were so excited about visiting this magical destination that we set aside 3 days in Sintra with kids during our family vacation to Portugal and Spain.

One of the things we liked best about visiting Sintra with kids was that you could walk and/or hike to virtually all the attractions. There is an abundance of family-friendly attractions in Sintra, but our favorites included the colorful Pena Palace, the magical Quinta da Regaleira and the majestic Moorish Castle.

An 8-year old boy has some fun at the Moorish Castle while on a family trip to Sintra, Portugal.
Our son having some fun at the Moorish Castle.

With its unique blend of history, adventure, and natural beauty, we loved our family vacation to Sintra. Read on to discover what adventures we got up to during our 3 days in Sintra with kids.

This post contains compensated links.

3 Day Itinerary for Sintra with Kids

Arrival Day

Our transatlantic flight from Canada arrived in Lisbon very early in the morning. By the time we arrived in Sintra we were able to drop off our bags at our apartment rental, but it was too early to check in. We were exhausted from very little sleep on our flights, so we wanted to find an easy outdoor activity that would help keep us awake.

Praia das Maçãs

As it turns out, the perfect activity for our arrival day in Sintra was to go to the beach. There are many beautiful beach resorts along Portugal’s west coast, but we decided to visit Praia das Maçãs due it’s reputation as being a very family friendly beach.

After a quick & cheap 20 minute Uber ride, we arrived in Praia das Maçãs. We had lunch at a hopping little café called Quiosque das maçãs where Celine had excellent avocado toast, while the kids and I each had delicious acai bowls.

The beach at Praia das Maçãs is pretty narrow, but it’s deep, so there should be a lot of real estate on the sand if you are there on a sunny beach day. The waves coming directly off the Atlantic Ocean were huge and powerful, and we could have watched them for hours.

Family travel expert Celine Brewer watches the huge waves at Praia das Maçãs with her son while on a family trip to Sintra, Portugal.
Watching the huge waves crash onto Praia das Maçãs.

There’s a good viewpoint on the north side of town where you can watch the waves develop into huge barrels. You can understand why this area has been host to surfing championships in the past.

The weather was a little cool during our visit, so rather than suntan, we rolled up our pants, took off our shoes and crossed the little river on the south side of the beach.

Dan Brewer, owner of Family Can Travel blog, carries his son across a river to go on a short hike to some Roman ruins at Praia das Maçãs, Portugal.

Why? There’s a little hiking path up to some oceanside cliffs which give an incredible viewpoint of the powerful waves. There’s also some Roman ruins which were formerly a temple dedicated to the sun and moon.

The ruins of a former Roman Temple at Praia das Maçãs, just outside Sintra, Portugal.
The kids from the FamilyCanTravel blog sit by a picturesque waterfall at Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra, Portugal.

Sintra Family Photoshoot

A family photoshoot is an excellent way to preserve memories from your trip to Sintra! Get $25 off your first Flytographer photo shoot.

Day 1 of our Sintra Family Trip

Our strategy of getting lots of fresh air and sunlight on our arrival day really paid off as we all slept soundly. We slept in way later than we typically do on a jet lagged day, but we all felt great, so it was worth the lost sightseeing time.

Quinta da Regaleira

Our main activity for our first full day in Sintra with kids was to visit Quinta da Regaleira, which was an easy 10 minute walk from our central Sintra apartment.

Quinta da Regaleira was designed by an Italian opera set designer for a Brazilian coffee magnate. Built in the early 20th century, this amazing property is so much fun to explore – it’s a must do attraction for any family vacation to Sintra.

An 8-year old boy is having a ton of fun exploring the amazing Quinta da Regaleira property in Sintra, Portugal.
It was so much fun exploring Quinta da Regaleira.

Built into a steep hill, Quinta da Regaleira has an abundance of fun surprises at every turn. Some of these are big and easy to find, such as round turrets you can climb for a view, but some of them are subtle and hidden along the many unmarked pathways throughout the property.

Celine Brewer, owner of Family Can Travel, stands in a turret with her kids at Quinta da Regaleira while on a family vacation to Sintra, Portugal.
A great view from the turret.

If you have time, we highly recommend walking as many of the smaller pathways as possible, as there are many fun discoveries along the way.

The two main attractions at Quinta da Regaleira are the palace and the Initiation Well. To be honest, the palace was very boring – I don’t think we took a single picture of the inside. But, the Initiation Well was a much different story.

The Initiation Well

The Initiation Well is a fascinating spiral staircase that descends deep into the ground. Built in the early 20th century by an eccentric millionaire with a love for mysticism, this inverted tower symbolizes a journey of initiation.

A view of the The Initiation Well from the bottom looking up at Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra.
The Initiation Well was amazing!

The lineup to visit the Initiation Well was 30 minutes long, but it was well worth the wait. The amazing spiral staircase allows you to descend deep into the belly of the earth, enjoying the ever changing views of the elegant well along the way. A very beautiful & unique creation, the Initiation Well is a definite highlight of Quinta da Regaleira.

Secret Tunnels

To us though, the very best part of Quinta da Regaleira were the secret tunnels we found along one of the side pathways toward the bottom of the property. These small, dark & wet tunnels wound their way through the earth for quite a way.

We found this secret grotto by exploring narrow tunnels at Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra, Portugal.

The tunnels seemed to wrap around several small grottos and/or reflecting pools. The kids just loved running ahead, and exploring these amazing tunnels using only a phone flashlight to guide the way. They were so much fun that I hope you find them on your family visit to Quinta da Regaleira as well!

Tips for Visiting Quinta da Regaleira with kids:

Buy your tickets ahead of time and skip the big lineups at the ticket counter.

Some of the tunnels can get wet inside so we recommend wearing shoes that you don’t mind getting wet.

There’s a lot of hill climbing at Quinta da Regaleira, so make sure you feed your kids a good, high energy meal ahead of time. I wouldn’t want to visit Quinta da Regaleira with hangry kids.

A 10-year old girl enjoys visiting Quinta da Regaleira while on a family trip to Sintra, Portugal.
A view of the The Initiation Well from the bottom looking up at Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra.

Online Tickets

Save your family a lot of time by purchasing your Quinta da Regaleira entry tickets ahead of time.

Day 2 in Sintra with Kids

Park and Palace of Monserrate

The second day of our family trip to Sintra was Easter Sunday. We had a pretty slow start to the morning, with the kids running around our apartment finding the treats the Easter Bunny had left for them.

It was just before 10 am when we finally got out the door. We tried ordering an Uber, but given it was Easter, there weren’t any cars available. It was a beautiful morning, the sun was shining and it was only 1.8 miles / 3 km to our destination, so we decided to walk to the Palace of Monserrate instead.

The Brewer family walks to the Palace of Monserrate on Easter Sunday.

The walk to the Palace of Monserrate took us past Quinta da Regaleira and beyond into the beautiful countryside. The forest was filled with a wide variety of beautiful, and often massive trees, while the views to the valley floor below were stunning. The highway was narrow in spots, but there was always room for us on the shoulder as the cars past.

Family Tip

We’re a bit crazy and love to walk everywhere when we travel. For a family of four, an Uber will likely be your cheapest option to get to the Palace of Monserrate. Another option is to take the local 435 bus, which will take you right there as well.

After a 45 minute walk from Sintra, we arrived at the Park and Palace of Monserrate. We chose this activity for our second day in Sintra with kids due to its beautiful gardens, and it started paying off moments after we entered the property.

The sound of birdsong filled the air as we followed the walking path through a forest towards the Palace of Monserrate. In just a few minutes we arrived at a beautiful cascading waterfall, with calla lilies growing in the gentle pond below. After the crazy busyness of Quinta da Regaleira the day before, the tranquility of the Monserrate gardens was a nice change of pace.

a slow exposure photo of a cascading waterfall at the Park and Palace of Monserrate in Sintra, Portugal.

The walking path led us to the magnificent Palace of Monserrate. It’s a highly photogenic building, especially when you factor in all the beautiful plants and flowers surrounding it.

a brightly colored Bird of Paradise flower grows at the Park and Palace of Monserrate near Sintra, Portugal.
Monserrate Palace

As impressive as it is from the outside, visiting the inside of the Monserrate Palace doesn’t take long. It’s very elegant, ornate and impressive inside with an enormous amount of details. I especially liked the three story high rotunda in the center of the Palace, with a round balcony on the second floor and a beautiful domed ceiling overhead.

The elegant exterior of the Monserrate Palace in Sintra, Portugal.

The rooms of the Palace of Monserrate were equally impressive, but there wasn’t much to them, so we visited them rather quickly. We thought the billiards room, the library and the round music room were the most impressive rooms in the palace.

An elegant hallway inside the Monserrate Palace in Sintra, Portugal.
Monserrate Gardens

To finish our visit to the Palace of Monserrate, we enjoyed a 0.6 mile / 1 km loop through the amazing gardens. From a pure gardening perspective, the gardens here are much nicer than the gardens at Quinta da Regaleira, although it lacks the fun little pathways to surprising locations.  

The Mexican garden was one of the highlights of the Palace of Monserrate gardens, with many beautiful cacti, and some truly massive yucca plants. There’s a huge rose garden here as well, but given it was late March, most of them hadn’t bloomed yet.

The kids from the Family Can Travel blog have fun taking pictures in the Mexican Garden at the Palace of Monserrate near Sintra.
The elegant exterior of the Monserrate Palace in Sintra, Portugal.

Online Tickets

If you buy your Monserrate Palace & Park tickets online, you’ll receive a free audio guide for your visit.

Day 3 in Sintra with Children

We saved the best for last on our final day in Sintra with kids. We chose to save the Moorish Castle and Pena Palace for this day as it was Easter Monday and we had hoped that the crowds would be smaller at two of the top attractions in Sintra.

Hike From Sintra to Moorish Castle

One of the main reasons why we chose a family trip to Sintra was the fact you could walk or hike to many of their top attractions. The main hike, being of course, the beautiful hiking trail from Sintra to the Moorish Castle and beyond to the Pena Palace.

The hike to the Moorish Castle began less than a minute from our Sintra apartment rental. The hiking trail begins with a series of switchbacks on a cobblestone path through a very beautiful garden, including some nice waterfalls.

Celine Brewer walks to the Moorish Castle with her kids while on a family trip to Sintra, Portugal.

If you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll be treated to some nice views of the Pena Palace, Quinta da Regaleira and more.

About halfway up the hike to the Moorish Castle, the trail transitions to more of a traditional hiking trail. Much less steep now, the trail travels through a cool boulder field and underneath a popular rock climbing area.

The FamilyCanTravel.com family enjoys a family walk from Sintra to the Moorish Castle.

The final leg of the trail to the Moorish Castle provides many views of the castle overhead, while down below you can see for miles through the beautiful forest.

Given the Moorish Castle looms very high above Sintra, this was a steep hike in spots, but to be honest, it was faster and easier than I expected.

Moorish Castle

When you tell a kid to close their eyes and picture a castle, they picture a castle perched up high on a rocky hill, with tall stone walls, turrets and battlements. In essence, they picture the Lego castle, which is exactly what the Moorish Castle in Sintra looks like. It’s a picture perfect castle, which will excite the imaginations of all visitors young and old.

The Moorish Castle is a super fun thing to do with kids in Sintra, Portugal.
What a beautiful, classic castle!

We love visiting old castles like the Moorish Castle where you are free to roam and explore at your leisure. It’s fun to let the kids pick and choose where they want to go. We ended up on the walking path around the battlements which circumnavigates the castle walls.

Celine Brewer enjoys the amazing views of Sintra from the Moorish Castle.
We loved the incredible views of Sintra!

Along this pathway, there was plenty of opportunities to climb turrets and enjoy incredible vistas of the surrounding area. There are also amazing views of the Pena Palace, the historic town center of Sintra, the Quinta da Regaleira and even as far as the Atlantic Ocean.

We arrived at the Moorish Castle at opening time (9:30 am) and nearly had the place to ourselves. We were able to fully explore the castle in just under an hour. I imagine it will take longer if you are there at a busier time.

An 8-year old boy on a family trip to Sintra poses for a picture at the Moorish CAstle with the colorful Pena Palace in the background.
Great views of Pena Palace!

The Moorish Castle was our favorite thing to do in Sintra with kids. It’s such an amazing classic castle that is just so much fun to explore.

Celine Brewer enjoys the amazing views of Sintra from the Moorish Castle.

Online Tickets

If you buy your Moorish Castle tickets online, you’ll receive a free audio guide for your visit.

Hiking from Moorish Castle to Pena Palace

Continuing our day of family hiking in Sintra, we hiked from the Moorish Castle to the Pena Palace. It’s a very short trail between the two, although it is worth mentioning that parts of it are on a real hiking trail with plenty of protruding tree roots to walk over.

It’s not long until you arrive at the main entrance gate to the Pena Palace Gardens. It’s an uphill climb from the main gate to the Pena Palace gate. You can pay to take a bus up, but it’s really not that hard.

a 10-year old girl on a Sintra family vacation poses for a picture in front of Pena Palace.

Pena Palace

The Pena Palace is amazing from the outside! It’s bright pink and yellow walls make it one of the most colorful palaces anywhere in the world. It’s very much worthwhile seeking out new and different vantage points to get pictures of this incredibly picturesque palace.

The bright, colorful exterior of Pena Palace is one of the reasons it is the most popular thing to do in Sintra, Portugal.

Visiting the inside of the Pena Palace is such a popular thing to do in Sintra, that you need to buy a timed entry ticket. To be very honest with you, the inside of the palace is a big letdown compared to the beauty of it outside.

Everyone will have a different opinion on this of course, and if you are the type of person who loves opulent interiors and antique beds, then you’ll probably love visiting the interior of the Pena Palace.

The multi-colored exterior of the Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal.

We’re just the type of people who would rather walk through a beautiful forest, instead looking at an antique desk. We’re still glad we saw the interior of the Pena Palace, but it’s fair to say it wasn’t the highlight of our family trip to Sintra.

a 10-year old girl on a Sintra family vacation poses for a picture in front of Pena Palace.

Timed Entry Tickets

This is the most popular attraction in Sintra. Buying a timed entry ticket for the Pena Palace is highly recommended.

Parque da Pena

After our tour through Pena Palace, we went for a very beautiful family walk through the Pena Gardens. Our main target was to visit the Chalet of the Countess of Edla.

The walk from the Pena Palace to the chalet was very beautiful, through many different types of gardens. With many trails in the area, it’s easy to get lost, so having a map on AllTrails made it much easier. Our favorite part was walking through the Queen’s fern garden.

The kids from the Family Can TRavel blog walk through Parque da Pena with the colorful Pena Palace high on a hill in the background.
Parque da Pena is another great location for views of Pena Palace.

Chalet of the Countess of Edla

We couldn’t believe our eyes when we arrived at the chalet – it was something straight out of the pages of Snow White. This elegant two-story yellow chalet was adorned with bark for the finishings. The effect of the design within the natural setting was nothing short of amazing.

Family travel expert Celine Brewer, stands in front of the Chalet of the Countess of Edla while on a family trip to Sintra, Portugal.
What a fun & creative building!

Valley of the Lakes

Our final stop within the Pena Palace Park was the Valley of the Lakes. A small chain of lakes within the park, these lakes pack in a lot of scenery. Home to many ducks, swans and fish, the lakes are surrounded by nature’s beauty.

The finishing touches are the little castles and/or turrets they have built within the lakes. The result is just so picturesque, we could have stayed there for a very long time.

A very photogenic turret stands in a calm lake in the Valley of the Lakes in Sintra, Portugal.
Dobongsan Trail Map on AllTrails

AllTrails Map

We used this AllTrails map for all of our Day 3 attractions, including the Moorish Castle, the Pena Castle, the Chalet of the Countess of Edla and the Valley of the Lakes.

How Long to Visit Sintra with Kids

Including our arrival day, we spent 3.5 days in Sintra with our kids. This allowed for a more relaxed pace than we would typically have, which was kind of nice in a way.

It’s entirely possible to cram in all the highlights of Sintra into a single epic day trip from Lisbon, but if you have the room in your itinerary, we’d recommend spending two full days in Sintra with your kids. This will allow you to see all the highlights of Sintra without feeling too rushed to have to see it all in one day.

The Brewer kids look down into the Initiation Well while on a family trip to Sintra, Portugal.
Our kids looking down into the Initiation Well.
The elegant exterior of the Monserrate Palace in Sintra, Portugal.

Recommended Sintra Tour

This full day tour from Lisbon visits all the highlights of Sintra, plus a visit to the picturesque fishing village of Cascais.

Where to Stay in Sintra

There are two main areas you can stay in Sintra: in the historic town centre or in the main town around the Sintra train station.

It’s cheaper and easier to find a place around the train station, but the tradeoff is that you’ll need to walk uphill for 15 minutes each time you wish to visit the historic town center.

An aerial photo of Sintra, Portugal with the Sintra National Palace.
We stayed in the historic town center of Sintra.

We ended up staying in this great 4-bedroom apartment rental right in the heart of the historic town center. We really enjoyed being in the heart of the action and not having to walk very far to the main shopping areas, restaurants and main attractions.

Where to Eat in Sintra with Kids

Botica Pizza

We were pretty hungry on the first night of our Sintra family vacation, so we sought out a pizza place. When we travel with kids, we find that pizza is a great way to fill them up every single time with a good high energy food.

A 10-year old girl is eager to eat her pizza from Botica Pizza while on a family trip to Sintra, Portugal.

The highest rated pizza place in Sintra is Botica Pizza, so we made the downhill journey there. The trip was worth it as the pizza from a wood fired oven was excellent. Plus, we had so much leftover, that we brought home nearly a full pizza for breakfast the next day!

Ale Hop Sintra

This fun little café was our go-to place for custard tarts, which are a popular dessert throughout Portugal.

The kids from the Family Can Travel blog are excited to eat custard tarts from Ale Hop in Sintra, Portugal.

Sabot Lucky Burgers

As we were renting an apartment in central Sinta, we needed to buy some breakfast supplies. The mini marts in the historic town center charged extortionary prices for groceries, so we sought out the nearest supermarket, which turned out to be near the train station.

We decided to make a trip out of it and try one of the restaurants near the train station. Sabot Lucky Burgers was a highly rated restaurant so we decided to give it a try, and we’re glad we did. The burgers were big, juicy and delicious. In fact, my daughter exclaimed that hers was the best burger she’s ever had (I think it was the caramelized onions that did the trick!).

a delicious hamburger at Sabot Lucky Burgers in Sintra, Portugal.

Sintra with Kids – Final Thoughts

And that’s it! We hope you enjoyed reading about our three days in Sintra with kids. It’s an incredibly beautiful area of Portugal and easy to reach from Lisbon. We highly recommend you visit Sintra with kids as part of your family trip to Portugal!

The family from the FamilyCanTravel.com blog poses for a photo at the Moorish Castle with the Pena Palace in the background.
We loved our three days in Sintra with kids!

Follow along on our family travels – our next stop after Sintra was hiking the Portuguese Coastal Camino Trail with kids!

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Dan Brewer is an intrepid family travel blogger with a passion for exploring the world's most captivating destinations. With 58 countries under his belt and a sense of wanderlust that knows no bounds, he has made it his life's mission to share his travel experiences and insights with fellow families who love to travel.

When Dan isn't traveling with his wife and kids, he's either out enjoying the Canadian Rockies he calls home or working on one of his three travel sites (Family Can Travel, Travel Banff Canada and Ultimate Sports Road Trip).