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Convent of the Capuchos

The hidden gem in Sintra; Discover the ancient Convent of the Capuchos

When you think of Sintra, do you think about palaces, castles and beautiful gardens? Then meet its counterpart: Convent of the Capuchos. This hidden gem in the Sintra Mountains has a very different history but is just as fascinating! Let’s check it out!

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Visit the lesser-known Sintra sight; Convent of the Capuchos

A quick overview

What to see? An old convent made from natural materials, mostly cork.

Costs? € 7,00 per person.

Where? In the Sintra Mountains, approximately 16 kilometres west of Sintra town and 45 kilometres from Lisbon.

Worth it? Absolutely! Compared to other Sintra sights, it’s quiet, and the convent has an intriguing past.

What is Convent of the Capuchos? A little bit of history!

The Convent of the Capuchos, also known as the Convento da Santa Cruz da Serra da Sintra and the Convent of Cork, is a unique and historic monastery located in the municipality of Sintra. It’s situated within the dense forests of the Sintra Mountains, and it was founded in 1560 by Dom Álvaro de Castro. He was a nobleman and advisor to King Sebastian of Portugal. The convent was established as a monastic retreat for Franciscan friars who sought a life of extreme austerity, simplicity, and solitude. So the absolute opposite of the fancy palaces you may have seen in Sintra!

The friars who inhabited the convent were known as the “Friars of the Cork” due to the extensive use of cork in the monastery’s construction. Friar Honório de Santa Maria was one of the most notable friars of the convent. Legend says he lived off water and bread in a small cave in complete isolation. And that for 15 years! He died in 1596 when he was well in his 90’s! He is buried on the grounds of the Convent of the Capuchos.

Convent of the Capuchos today

The Capuchos Convent significantly influenced Portugal’s cultural and religious history. Over the years, it served as a refuge for monks seeking solitude and contemplation. Many important figures from Portuguese history, including King Dom João III and King Dom Afonso VI, visited the convent and sought spiritual solace within its walls. In 1834 the convent had to close due to the abolition of Religious Orders in Portugal. Today, the Convent of the Capuchos is open to the public and serves as a historical and cultural attraction in Sintra. It was classified by UNESCO as World Heritage in 1995, and it’s currently under the management of Parques de Sintra.

What will you see at Convent of the Capuchos?

What makes the Convent of the Capuchos genuinely unique is its small size and humble appearance. It was intentionally built to blend in with the surrounding natural environment, and its architecture reflects the Franciscan ideals of poverty and simplicity. The convent is primarily constructed from cork, stone, and wood, with tiny cells and narrow passageways. The small rooms, corridors and chapels are a bit claustrophobic to walk through. Inside the monastery, you´ll discover a small chapel, a refectory, washrooms, a library and a dormitory, all of which are incredibly modest in scale. So if you’re tall: be aware! Can you imagine what it was like to live here?

The convent’s design and construction reflect a solid connection to nature. Moss-covered walls, tree roots integrated into the structure, and natural rock formations are some of the striking features that create a harmonious blend between manufactured and natural elements. The use of cork, in particular, serves as insulation, providing a peaceful and quiet atmosphere within the monastery. After your visit inside, you can explore the grounds surrounding the convent.

Opening times of the Convent of the Capuchos

Convent of the Capuchos is open daily from 9 AM until 6 PM. The last ticket and admission are at 5 PM. You will need around 1 to 1,5 hours to visit the monastery.

Ticket prices for Convent of the Capuchos

Tickets for adults cost € 7,00, and kids under six can visit the convent for free. You can book these tickets online and make your reservation below. If you travel with children between the ages of 6 and 17, or over 65, a ticket costs € 5,50 and can be bought at the convent only. Family tickets (two adults, two children) are available for € 22,00.

How to get to Convent of the Capuchos by public transport?

There is currently no bus service to the Convent of the Capuchos. The easiest way to get there is by car. At the moment of writing, no tours visit the monastery, but some private tour companies will probably accommodate a visit. Feel fit and energetic? You can rent a bike! It’s perfect for those who like a challenging climb in the hills.

You can take a taxi from Lisbon, Cascais or Sintra town. Uber is usually cheaper than a regular taxi, and Bolt is often cheaper than Uber.

How to get to Convent of the Capuchos by car?

You can rent a car through Discover Cars, so you can drive to the Convent of the Capuchos. From the town of Sintra, head west on the N247 road towards Colares. Follow the signs to the Convento dos Capuchos on the N375, and you will reach the parking area near the convent’s entrance. Parking is free. Please note that the road leading to the convent can be narrow and winding. The journey takes approximately 25 minutes from Sintra town, and it’s just over 16 kilometres to drive. It’s a 30-minute drive from Cascais, and from Lisbon, it takes around 50 minutes via the A5 or A16.

A car in Sintra town is optional, but if you’d like to visit the Convent of the Capuchos, it’s the easiest way to get there. Plus, with a car, you can discover many more places in the area! Visit Azenhas do Mar, for example, or go hiking around Praia da Ursa, a spectacular beach on the Portuguese coast. Other beautiful and easier accessible beaches in the area are Praia da Adraga, Praia Grande, and Praia das Maçãs. There are some stunning places to stay overnight, such as Villa Maçã and Casal Santa Virginia! By car, you’ll discover a part of Sintra that many tourists won’t see.

Other things to do in Sintra

Sintra is most and foremost famous for its stunning palaces. And if you haven’t been to Pena Palace, the Moorish Castle, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra National Palace, or Biester Palace, then it’s time to visit! Sintra is one of the most visited areas outside of Lisbon, and it can get jam-packed here. Whether you want to see a palace independently or with a tour, prebooking your tickets is a must in the high season. You’ll receive an assigned time slot, so everyone gets to enjoy Sintra’s highlights. For Lisbon’s best Sintra day trips, click here to read more!

Staying overnight in Sintra

Many people visit Sintra for a day, but staying a night or two in this area is lovely! You can stay in the Sintra Mountains and enjoy the stunning landscape and beaches or in Sintra Town. Tivoli Palacio de Seteais, Pestana Sintra Golf Resort, Villa Estefânia and Vila Gale Sintra are perfect for a luxury stay. To check all prices and availability, please click on the map below and reserve your spot.

Booking.com

Conclusion

The Convent of the Capuchos might not be as famous as the glamorous palaces in Sintra, but the monastery is perfect if you like to visit a peaceful place in nature! Head to quaint places like Azenhas do Mar or drive along the coast towards Peniche. There are plenty of beaches to stop and have a great time! You’ll enjoy the heart of the Sintra Mountains and discover a very different side of the area.

Written by Marga

Written by Marga

Content creator, travel writer and photographer

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I’m Marga, the blogger and photographer behind this site! I live in Lisbon, and I’m a cat-mum to 13-year-old Savage. I love coffee, cheese, a good book and exploring this beautiful country. I write about Lisbon and the rest of Portugal, and I hope this website will help as an inspiration for your holiday.

11 Responses

  1. Wow the architecture is unreal, I love how the materials are all natural! Really interesting history too, I’ll be adding this to my Portugal bucket list! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. I have to say that having just visited South America and discovering Capuchin monkeys for the first time, I wondered if this was a monkey shrine. But reading your post I quickly found this was an interesting sight we missed when we visited Sintra. We were fascinated with all the cork we found so it would have been great to learn more about the “Friars of the Cork”.

  3. Convent of the Capuchos looks fascinating. I will be in Sintra in June and would love to see it but it does seem difficult to get to without a car. Too bad – I will have to see if I can manage a visit somehow.

    1. Yes, it´s a little hard to get to without a car. A private tour might work best for you. Feel free to message me; maybe we can find the right solution!

  4. The Convent of the Capuchos is such an interesting place. It doesn’t come to mind when thinking of Sintra. A convent made up of cork that still stands today is fascinating.

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