31 Best Sights in Sintra, the Estoril Coast, and the Setúbal Peninsula, Portugal

Boca do Inferno

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The most visited attraction in the area around Cascais is the forbiddingly named Mouth of Hell, one of several natural grottoes in the rugged coastline. Located just 2 km (1.2 miles) west of town, it is best appreciated at high tide or in stormy weather, when the waves crash high onto the surrounding cliffs. You can walk along the fenced paths to the viewing platforms above the grotto and peer into the abyss. A path leads down to secluded spots on the rocks below, where fishermen cast their lines. The bleakly beautiful spot is where English occultist and magician Aleister Crowley faked his own suicide in 1930, shocking onlookers when he appeared at a Berlin art gallery three weeks later. A white plaque at the site marks the intriguing occasion, together with the text of the "suicide note" he left behind.

Cabo Espichel

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This salt-encrusted headland—crowned by a whitewashed convent surrounded by 18th-century pilgrim rest houses—is the southwestern point of the Setúbal Peninsula, marked by a red-and-white lighthouse. It's a ruggedly beautiful spot, where the cliffs rise hundreds of feet out of the stormy Atlantic. To the north, unsullied beaches extend as far as Caparica, with only local roads and footpaths connecting them. It's a good spot for hiking, with marked trails leading down to some clearly visible dinosaur footprints.

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Casa das Histórias Paula Rego

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Portugal’s best known contemporary artist, Paula Rego died in 2022 but her legacy lives on in her incredible body of thought-provoking work, much of which is showcased at this modern building in the Cascais Museum Quarter. Designed by the renowned architect Eduardo Souto de Moura, the eye-catching pyramid-like building houses a permanent display of many of Rego’s works, along with visiting exhibitions from other celebrated modern artists.

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Castelo de Sesimbra

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Sitting high above the city is the Castelo de Sesimbra, which was conquered in 1165 by Dom Afonso Henriques but fell back into the hands of the Moors until 1200. The castle lost importance and fell into disrepair during the next several hundred years until Dom João IV ordered that it be adapted for the use of artillery in 1648. Classified as a National Monument, reconstruction was done to restore it to its previous glory after the great earthquake of 1755. From Sesimbra, a steep marked walking trail leads up the side of the pine-covered hill to the castle grounds. Aside from the incredible views of the ocean and the city below, there is a chapel, a small museum, and a café with an outdoor patio where you can enjoy a gin and tonic or a bagaço (a clear Portuguese liquor) as the sun goes down.

Convento da Arrábida

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A dramatic sight against the greenery of the forest, this sprawling 16th-century monastery is built into the hills of the Serra da Arrábida. The glorious views take in the white sandy beaches and turquoise waters of the coast. Tours, which must be booked in advance, take place on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Estoril Casino

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Thought to have inspired the James Bond novel (and subsequent movie) Casino Royale, the glitzy Estoril Casino retains a glamorous allure. It's one of the largest casinos in Europe, with a nightclub, art gallery, bars, and restaurants alongside the gambling salons. You can make an evening of it here, with dinner and dancing to live music or DJs, but it's a pricey night out. 

José Maria da Fonseca Company

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For a close look at the wine business, visit the manor house and cellars of the José Maria da Fonseca Company. The intriguing tours talk about the long history of the winery and allow you to see all stages of production, including a peek into its dark and mysterious prized Moscatel cellars, where 200-plus-year-old bottles are still aging gracefully. The tour takes 20 to 40 minutes and ends in a shop where select products can be tasted and purchased.

Rua José Augusto Coelho 11–13, Vila Nogueira de Azeitão, Setúbal, 2925-942, Portugal
212 198 940
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Rate Includes: Tours €5, Reservations recommended for tours

Museu do Mar

Fodor's choice

For an understanding of the maritime history of Cascais, head to this modern museum. Here, the town's role as a fishing village is traced through model boats and fishing gear, period clothing, old photographs, and exhibits of curious sea creatures.


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Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth II have been among the famous faces peering from the windows of this modern museum dedicated to the workings of the mass media. Inside a handsome building with wrought-iron balconies, it combines interactive exhibits such as a giant touch-screen tablet highlighting world-changing events with thought-provoking examinations of how the media has covered various topics, including Portuguese soccer luminary Cristiano Ronaldo. The bright exhibits and interactive devices should keep younger visitors occupied for an hour or so.

Palácio e Parque de Monserrate

Fodor's choice

This estate, 4 km (2½ miles) west of Sintra, was laid out by English gardeners in the mid-19th century at the behest of a wealthy Englishman, Sir Francis Cook. The centerpiece is the Romantic-style, three-dome Palácio de Monserrate, which combines Gothic and Indian architectural influences with Moorish touches. The gardens, with their trickling streams and waterfalls, are famed for an array of tree and plant species, with notable species clearly marked and identified. 

Palácio Nacional de Queluz

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Built in a similar style to the celebrated palace at Versailles and now restored from pink to its original blue, Queluz National Palace was ordered as a royal summer residence by Dom Pedro III in 1747. Architect Mateus Vicente de Oliveira took five years to make the place habitable; Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Robillon spent 40 more executing a detailed baroque plan that also comprised imported trees and statues, and azulejo-lined canals and fountains. You can tour the apartments and elegant staterooms, including the frescoed Music Salon, the Hall of Ambassadors, and the mirrored Throne Room with its crystal chandeliers and gilt trim. 

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Palácio Nacional de Sintra

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The enormous twin chimneys rising out of Sintra Palace are among the town's most iconic landmarks. There has probably been a palace here since Moorish times, although the current structure dates from the late 14th century. It is the only surviving royal palace in Portugal from the Middle Ages and displays a combination of Moorish, Gothic, and Manueline architecture. The chapel has Mudéjar (Moorish-influenced) azulejos from the 15th and 16th centuries. The ceiling of the Sala das Armas is painted with the coats of arms of 72 noble families, and the grand Sala dos Cisnes has a remarkable ceiling of painted swans. The Sala das Pegas (magpies) figures in a well-known tale about Dom João I (1385–1433) and his dalliance with a lady-in-waiting. The king had the room painted with as many magpies as there were chattering court ladies, thus satirizing the gossips as loose-tongued birds. Bilingual descriptions in each room let you enjoy them at your own pace.

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Parque e Palácio Nacional da Pena

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The biggest draw in Sintra, this Disney-like castle is a glorious conglomeration of turrets and domes awash in pastels. In 1503 the Monastery of Nossa Senhora da Pena was constructed here, but it was badly damaged by the devastating earthquake that struck Lisbon in 1755. The monastery remained active in the ruined building, but it was abandoned when religious orders were expelled from Portugal in 1834. In 1836, the ruins were purchased by Maria II's consort, Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Inspired by the Bavarian castles of his homeland, Ferdinand commissioned a German mineralist and mining engineer, Baron Eschwege, to build the castle of his fantasies, in styles that range from Arabian to Portuguese Gothic. Work was finished around 1860, by which time he was Fernando II. The surrounding park is filled with trees and flowers, as well as hidden temples, grottoes, and the Valley of the Lakes, where black swans sit regally. Portugal's last monarchs used the Pena Palace as a summer home, the last of whom—Queen Amélia—went into exile in England after the Republic was proclaimed on October 5, 1910. Inside is an ostentatious and often bizarre collection of European furniture, ornaments, and paintings. Placards explain each room. Visitors can walk along high castle walls, peek into turrets, and finally reward themselves with a drink and a snack at one of two on-site cafés. A path beyond an enormous statue (thought to be Ferdinand II himself, forever guarding the park and the palace) on a nearby crag leads to the Cruz Alta, a 16th-century stone cross 1,782 feet above sea level, with stupendous views.

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Parque Natural da Arrábida

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Occupying the entire southern coast of the Setúbal Peninsula is the Parque Natural da Arrábida, dominated by the Serra da Arrábida—a 5,000-foot-high mountain range whose wild crags fall steeply to the sea. There's profuse plant life at these heights, particularly in spring, when the rocks are carpeted with colorful wildflowers. The park is distinguished by a rich geological heritage and numerous species of butterflies, birds, and mammals (you might spot foxes and mongoose, and even wild boar). The park is a favorite destination for bikers, hikers, horseback riders, and adventure-sports enthusiasts. There are also some lovely hidden beaches for those prepared to put in the footwork.

Portinho da Arrábida

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This small fishing village is a popular destination for Lisboetas, who appreciate the beautiful beaches, whose wonderfully clear blue-green waters and white sands create a dramatic contrast with the green, pine-covered hills. A handful of good fish and seafood restaurants offer terraces with views out to sea. Due to the high number of visitors, cars are banned mid-June to mid-September, but free buses run here from Setúbal to Portinho da Arrábida and other picturesque beaches. Parking can be difficult even outside peak season.

Praia da Comporta

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A favorite destination for celebrities, Comporta's snow-white sands are dotted with colorful sun loungers and straw-roofed beach huts selling cocktails as well as fresh seafood, and the clear, bright blue invites you to take a cooling dip. Although one of the busier beaches in the Alentejo, this is still quieter than the beaches of the Algarve, and there’s plenty of elbow room even during the summer high season. Amenities: parking (no fee); toilets; food and drink; water sports. Best for: swimming; walking.

Praia da Cova do Vapor

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Still under the radar even among Lisboetas, Cova do Vapor is a fishing hamlet perched at the point where the river Tagus meets the Atlantic Ocean. The soft-sand beach is Caparica's closest point to Lisbon, and there are glorious views over the city's domes and towers, but its rustic beach shacks and hand-constructed wooden playground make Cova do Vapor Beach feel like another world. While crowds of surfers pack most of the Costa da Caparica, there are still vast swaths of space on the sands and gentle dunes here. Amenities: food and drink; parking (no fee). Best for: solitude; swimming; walking.

Praia do Guincho

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Cars often line either side of the road behind Guincho Beach on weekends, and surfers can always be seen braving its waves regardless of the season or prevailing weather conditions. The undertow can be dangerous, and even accomplished swimmers have had to summon lifeguards. If you prefer something more sedate, this beach—with the Serra da Sintra serving as a backdrop—is an ideal spot to watch the sunset. Amenities: food and drink; parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: sunset; surfing; windsurfing.

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Quinta da Regaleira

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A five-minute walk along the main road past the tourist office takes you to one of Sintra's most intriguing privately owned mansions. Quinta da Regaleira was built in the early 20th century for a Brazilian mining magnate with a keen interest in Freemasonry and the Knights Templar (who made their 11th-century headquarters on this site). The estate includes gardens where almost everything—statues, water features, grottoes, lookout towers—is linked to one or the other of his pet subjects. Spookiest of all is the 100-foot-deep Poço do Iniciático (Initiation Well)—an inverted underground "tower." Audio guides in English are available at reception.

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Quinta de Alcube

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Wine-loving locals flock to this scenic family estate to stock up on its wonderful red and white table wines. It’s hidden down a long dusty track, but well worth the trip: you can take a seat at one of the outdoor tables and enjoy those excellent wines by the bottle or glass, along with the Quinta’s equally delicious homemade cheeses and preserves. Friendly goats, piglets, and ponies keep younger visitors entertained while the adults enjoy the food, wine, and beautiful views of the surrounding vineyards and the Arrábida hills.

Castelo dos Mouros

The battlemented ruins of this 10th-century castle still give a fine impression of the fortress that finally fell to Christian forces led by Dom Afonso Henriques in 1147. Panoramic views from the serrated walls explain why the Moors chose the site. It's visible from various points in Sintra itself, but for a closer look follow the steps that lead up to the ruins from the back of the town center (40 minutes going up, about half that coming down). No cars are allowed, but you can save your legs by catching SCOTTurb Bus 434 or taking a tuk tuk ride from town.

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Convento dos Capuchos

The entrance to this extraordinarily austere convent, 13 km (8 miles) southwest of Sintra, sets the tone for the severity of the ascetic living conditions within. From 1560 until 1834, when it was abandoned, eight friars—never any more, never any less—prayed in the tiny chapel hewn out of the rock and inhabited the bare cells, which were lined with cork in attempt to maintain a modicum of warmth. Impure thoughts meant a spell in the Penitents' Cell, an excruciatingly dark space.

Costa da Caparica Beach

When young Lisboetas want to go to the beach, they'll often head to the Costa da Caparica, which is packed in summer and exudes a more youthful vibe than Cascais and Estoril. Formerly a fishing village, the town itself is rather lacking in charm these days, but the beachfront is lively with cafés and bars catering to a relaxed, surf-loving clientele. Avoid the crowds by heading south toward the less accessible dunes and coves at the end of the peninsula. Each beach is different: the areas nearest Caparica are family-oriented, whereas the more southerly ones tend to attract a younger crowd (there are some nudist beaches, too). Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (fee); showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: partiers; sunset; swimming; walking.

Igreja do Convento de Jesus

This 15th-century Church of Jesus, perhaps Portugal's earliest example of Manueline architecture, was built with local marble and later tiled with simple but affecting 17th-century azulejos. The architect was Diogo de Boitaca, whose work here predates his contribution to Lisbon's Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery). Six extraordinary twisted pillars support the vault; climb the narrow stairs to the balcony for a closer look at the details, which would soon become the very hallmark of Manueline style. Outside, you can still admire the original, although badly worn, main doorway and deplore the addition of a concrete expanse that makes the church square look like a roller-skating rink. The church's original monastic buildings and Gothic cloister—on Rua Balneário Paula Borba—house the Museu de Setúbal, a museum with a fascinating collection of 15th- and 16th-century Portuguese paintings, several by the so-called Master of Setúbal. Other attractions include azulejos, local archaeological finds, and a coin collection.

Mercado do Azeitão

Vila Nogueira de Azeitão's agricultural traditions are trumpeted on the first Sunday of every month, when a country market is held near the center of town. Apart from the locally produced wine, you can buy several kinds of local cheeses with an amanteigado (butterlike) texture.

Rua de Frederico Franco de Paiva 26, Vila Nogueira de Azeitão, Setúbal, 2925-585, Portugal

Museu dos Condes Castro Guimarães

Visitors to this grand mansion dating back more than a century can get a peek into how local aristocracy once lived while admiring an impressive display of 18th- and 19th-century paintings, ceramics, and furnishings. The canary-yellow building makes a dramatic backdrop to the small beach next door, which is open to the public and attracts groups of swimmers and sunbathers on hot days.

Parque do Marechal Carmona

Take respite from the crowds at this relaxing park next to the palacial Museu dos Condes. There's a tree-shaded spots for picnickers plus a large lawn for sunbathers (expect strolling ducks and peacocks for company). There's also a playground and a pleasant café. 

Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais and Cabo da Roca

A favorite destination for runners, hikers, cyclists, and triathletes, Sintra-Cascais Natural Park is renowned for its well-marked trails across the forest-covered slopes of the Serra da Sintra. It's also known for its wild beaches, towering sand dunes, and its abundant flora and fauna The bleakly beautiful Cabo da Roca and its lighthouse mark the continent's westernmost point and are the main reason that non-athletes make the journey to Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. The cliffs tumble to a frothing sea below, and on the cape a simple cross bears an inscription by Portuguese national poet Luís de Camões.

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Estrada do Cabo da Roca s/n, Azoia, Lisbon, 2705-001, Portugal

Praça da República

Facing the tourist information office, this pretty square is anchored by the 16th-century Palácio de Tavora (Tavora Palace), which is not open to the public but has an interesting history. In the 18th century, the Marquês de Pombal accused the Duke of Aveiro, who owned the palace, of collaborating in the assassination plot against the king. Subsequently the duke was executed by the marquês, and the Tavora coat of arms was erased from the Sala das Armas in Sintra's National Palace.

Praça da República, Vila Nogueira de Azeitão, Setúbal, 2925-585, Portugal

Praia do Ribeiro do Cavalo

The wild, hard-to-reach Ribeiro do Cavalo has dazzling white sands and crystal-clear water in several shades of turquoise. Curiously formed rocks jutting out of the water are encircled by all manner of colorful fish, so bring your snorkel gear. During the summer, regular boat services speed sunseekers to and from the beach and Praia do Ouro in Sesimbra (a 5--10-minute ride), but for the rest of the year it can only be reached by private boat, kayak, or by a half-hour walk along a very rough track. Look out for the purple markings on the rocks that indicate which way to go. Amenities: none. Best for: snorkeling; swimming.

Praia do Ribeiro do Cavalo, Sesimbra, Setúbal, Portugal