Hiking Sintra Castles was the highlight, for me, of our trip to Portugal.
Pena Palace and the Castle of the Moors, high above the town of Sintra, are two highlights of any visit. Most people take a cab, tuk-tuk or the local bus (€4.60). We wanted to hike, but couldn’t find much information online, so I decided to write a more detailed post on how to get to the castles on foot.
How to get to Sintra
We took the metro to Rossio (€1.50). From there we bought a train ticket for €2.25 (€4.50 return) and took the 40 minute train ride to the last stop.
When we exited the train station there were dozens of people trying to get us to book a ride or tour, but no signs saying which way to go if you wanted to walk.
Follow these directions to hike to the Sintra castles. We eventually walked down this street, which was about one o’clock after exiting the station.
Soon we saw the Sintra Municipal building on the right.
We kept it to our right and followed the road as it curved to the left around a roundabout.
We were soon on Volta Duche, winding its way up to the historic center of Sintra.
You know you are in the historic center when you see the National Palace of Sintra.
From the train station, the walk is about 10 to 15 minutes to the historic center.
Hiking Sintra Castles
We were anxious to get to the castles so we decided to save wandering the historic center until later. We went straight to the Tourist Information Center (the building with the big black and yellow sign that says SINTRA).
We asked for directions at the TI, but they just gave us a map and pointed us back out the door. We looked at the map and realized that it didn’t help us at all (hence the need for this post).
We took the road to the left of the Tourist Information Center. In less than 5 minutes the road came to a T.
Quinta de Regaleira
The castles are to the left. However, before going to the castles, we took a right at the T and in about 5 minutes came to Quinta de Regaleira. This is actually a really unique place and, in the end, I liked it better than either of the castles. Admission recently went up to €8.
We headed down the road another 5 minutes or so, and came to Palacio de Seteais on the right. It’s worth a brief stop (it’s free to roam the grounds) simply for the views.
Across the road from Palacio de Seteais, we saw this trail. This is one of the ways to get to the Pena Palace. We did NOT go this way, so can’t provide any details.
The Trek to Castle of the Moors
We turned around and went back to where the T was in the road
and this time went what would be left at the T (technically coming from Quinta de Regaleira we just went straight). Soon after, the road came to a T again.
At this point there were a number of people who stopped us and explained how hard the climb was and tried to talk us into taking a tour with them or at least a ride to the top. We politely declined and continued past them and to the right. We followed the sign to Vila Sassetti.
Pass through Vila Sassetti
We got to this point and, with the iron gates, didn’t know if we were allowed to enter. Well, you can. We went through the gate on the left that says Vila Sassetti.
Once inside, we followed the well manicured, cobbled path.
It was all uphill but the walk was so nice we barely noticed the climb.
After maybe 10 minutes, we came to Vila Sassetti. The building is closed, but we stopped to look around the grounds for a few minutes.
From here we got a view of the Castle of the Moors. Yes, it’s still pretty far away.
We found some restrooms. These rest rooms were some of the cleanest public rest rooms I have ever been in. And they are free (not so common in Europe).
After a bathroom break we continued along the path, which is, again, all uphill, but pretty easy to follow.
We came to a wall (forgot to take a picture) with a door in it and climbed through. Apparently we left Vila Sassetti as, from this point on, it was a simple dirt path.
The path was easy to follow as, when there were questions as to which way to go, there was always a sign pointing the way.
Castle of the Moors
Finally we got close enough to get a great view of the Castle of the Moors. From this view, you have about 5 more minutes of walking to the ticket booth.
After the ticket booth, we had another 5 minute walk along this path to get to the main entrance.
We eventually came to the inner wall. To get past this point, you need a ticket (€10). We chose not to buy the ticket and turned around after having lunch on a bench.
We walked the 5 minutes back along the path to the Castle of the Moors ticket booth and turned left and followed the road, along with a jillion cars and busses.
About 5 minutes later we came to the entrance of the Pena Palace.
Summary: Hiking Sintra Castles
We much preferred to walk to the castles instead of getting a ride up. We were alone most of the time and the scenery was great.
It took about 15 minutes from the train station to the historic center.
From the historic center to the Castle of the Moors took us another 45 minutes or so. We took our time and looked around, so you could probably make it up faster if you wanted to.