Magical palaces around Lisbon, Sintra & Cabo da Roca - Portugal
Updated: Jun 14
In my earlier Lisbon girlstrip blog I already mentioned that I love this region of Portugal because of Lisbon itself, but also for the many palaces within a 15 to 30 minutes’ drive from the city! As promised I would still write a separate blog about it as I have so many more pics to share and love to tell you all about the 5 magical palaces we visited, along with Sintra and Cabo da Roca!
Sintra is a Unesco town filled with palaces, castles and national monuments, just 30 minutes from the city, and should not be missed during your visit to the region! But what many people don’t know is that there are also a few stunning palaces even closer to Lisbon!
All of these palaces and Sintra can be reached by train or bus, but as we wanted to see as much as possible, we were happy to book 2 day tours to visit 5 palaces with True Locals, which were more than worth it!
You can see the routes we took in this map, and I will happily show them to you through many of our pics:
This palace, just 15 minutes driving from Lisbon, was built in 1671 for the 1st Marquis of Fronteira as a private residence, is heaven for tile lovers like me, and known as one of the most beautiful residences near Lisbon. Although the house itself is filled with 17th- and 18th-century decorative tiles, frescoed panels and oil paintings, the beautiful gardens with even more tiles, statues and fountains steal the show and are free to visit!
The extensive gardens, diverse altars and decorations are stunning, and it’s very quiet here when visited during the week.
Just 10 minutes from Fronteira palace and 20 minutes from Lisbon, you will find the National Palace of Queluz. The location between Sintra and Lisbon makes it perfect for a palace sightseeing day combo! It's still quite undiscovered by tourists, so chances are you will have this remarkable palace, with its stunning gardens all to yourself, like we had.
The, from the front, sober looking palace was built in 1747, and has an exciting history, as it served as the official royal residence during the 18th century to hide mad queen Dom Maria I from the public view. We were amazed by the opulence of the interior combining Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical architectural designs in spacious rooms, gorgeously decorated with traditional tiles and artwork.
The gardens are however inspired by French styles and stunning as well, see for yourself:
The magic of this traditional Portuguese town is unmistakable, and with its cobble stoned streets, traditional tiled- and colorful buildings, unique shops and quaint family-run cafés it's perfect for a traditional lunch and some souvenir shopping.
But next to the natural surroundings, quaint atmosphere, traditional charm and many historic buildings, Sintra is also the place to visit for national monuments and Unesco heritage sites, which make the town rightfully one of the most popular day trip destinations from Lisbon.
Because of the steep hills, the distance between the main sights, and long queues in summer, an organized tour to Sintra is highly recommended and worth the value for money! I recommend this tour with Alex of True locals: Sintra day trip with True Locals.
In one day we managed to see 3 of the most beautiful sights during this customized day trip, along with a visit to the most western tip of Portugal for sunset. In the morning we started with the, in my opinion, most impressive palace on top of the hill, recommended to visit first or last, as it gets the most busy fast and is the hardest to reach:
We were lucky to be there before opening to get most spots around the palace still all to ourselves for some of those unspoiled Instagrammable shots!
This fairytale palace is one of the most photogenic places I know, and the perfect example of the 19th century Romanticism architectural style. With a flamboyant mix of colors, decorations and mythological statues, it's hysterical yet gorgeous, and has one of the best views upon the Sintra region.
Both Pena Palace’s interior, its terraces and the forested park lands are intricate and unique. With hidden pathways and stunning view points the Palace’s Park is a long, steep, but interesting walk up to the palace, which should not be missed either.
This striking decorative 20th century residence is situated just outside the town, and impresses with its gothic façade. But the gardens of the Quinta da Regaleira with their mystical history make it even more interesting.
The grounds cover 4 hectares and were inspired by the owner’s mystic ideologies, styled for ancient secret orders, with hidden tunnels, and concealed symbolism everywhere. And of course the renowned Initiation Well of 27 meters deep, used by the Free Masons for the Initiation ceremonies of the Knights Templar, can not be missed.
Even though I have been here before, I kept discovering new beauty and hidden pathways.
One of the most visually striking mansions of Sintra, but often overlooked as it is situated 3.5 kms from the historic center, therefore best visited last on your way out.
The intricate mix of Arabic, gothic and Indian architectural styles of the small palace is unique, as well as the beautiful gardens. All of this combined with the fact that this sight is much lesser known, super quiet without lines in front of the entrance, truly make it a hidden gem!
To finish off the day well we drove to Europe's most western tip of land, just a scenic 25 minutes’ drive away, where the sunsets are even more magical.
After watching the sun set into the vast ocean we went for dinner at the quaint family restaurant Réfugio da Roca.
One of Europe’s westernmost restaurants, run by a local family, serving seafood and several unique home-made dishes, lovingly prepared by the owners wife. Definitely one of the best choices when you want to experience real local cuisine, true Portuguese hospitality and delicious home-made pastries like these for dessert:
I hope you can combine all, or some of these palaces with your next visit to Lisbon as well, and use my custom map for your own perfect day trip!
Did you ever visit Sintra or one of these palaces already and if so, which was your favourite? Do let me know here or find me on social media via the icons at the bottom of this page, for more daily pics of these stunning Portuguese palaces.