Sintra is considered a must on any Portugal itinerary, and it’s easy to see why. It’s the home to many gorgeous and unique castles, which make it one of the most interesting places to visit in Portugal.
Being only a 45-minute journey away from Lisbon, most travellers visit Sintra on a day trip from Lisbon.
Whilst a day trip might not be enough time to see everything Sintra has to offer, it will be enough to see the highlights and get a taste for this incredible Portuguese city.
If you’re planning a Lisbon to Sintra day trip, this is the guide for you! In this article I have outlined everything you need to know about doing a day trip to Sintra.
After my own personal experience day tripping to Sintra, I have included information on the best ways to get there, the most important sights you must see, where to stay and some local insider tips.
So without further ado, let’s dive in and discover everything you need to know to plan your own Sintra itinerary and day trip.
- 1 About Sintra & its castles
- 2 How to get from Lisbon to Sintra
- 3 One thing you MUST do before your Sintra day trip
- 4 Sintra 1-day itinerary – Best things to see
- 5 Estimated cost for a Lisbon to Sintra day trip
- 6 Is doing a day trip to Sintra worth it?
- 7 Where to stay for a day trip to Sintra from Lisbon
- 8 What to pack for one day in Sintra
About Sintra & its castles
Sintra is both a town and municipality in the Greater Lisbon region of Portugal. The town of Sintra is located close to the Sintra Mountains, and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Portugal.
With its Romanticist architecture, royal palaces, historic villas and castles, it’s easy to see why. The whole town is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which only makes it even more popular.
Sintra has lived through a long and tortuous history, which to this day is reflected in the castles and streets of the town.
From the Moorish Castle, which dates back to the 9th – 6th centuries BC, to Pena National Palace being the seat of Portuguese monarchy, there is a rich history in Sintra, just waiting to be discovered.
How to get from Lisbon to Sintra
There are multiple ways to get to Sintra from Lisbon, each with its own pros and cons.
Especially if you’re doing a longer Portugal road trip, you might be tempted to simply drive to Sintra. Having done this myself, it’s actually the option I recommend the least.
You won’t be able to drive to the actual castles, as traffic in the area is limited to local residents, plus even if you were able to there is very limited parking, which makes it very hard to accommodate for the huge numbers of tourists that visit Sintra every day.
It can be very hard also to find parking in Sintra city centre. Your best bet is to head for this huge parking area, where you can leave your car all day for free, although it won’t be monitored.
From there it’s a 5-10 minute walk to Sintra train station, where you can get the tourist bus number 434. It’s like a hop-on hop-off bus tour, where for 10 EUR per day you can get on and off as many buses you want.
The bus number 434 touches all the main stops like Pena National Palace, Castle of the Moors and Sintra Old Town. If you want to head to other parts of Sintra you can use the same ticket for the other tourist bus routes.
So even if you drive to Sintra and have your own car, you will still have to pay for the tourist bus to visit the castles.
By public transport
Given that you will have to take the tourist bus anyway if you want to visit the castles independently, this is actually a great option.
There are trains more or less every 30 minutes from Lisbon, which take approximately 40 minutes to arrive in Sintra. Simply hop on a train to Sintra, and once there jump on bus number 434 to visit all that Sintra has to offer.
The tourist bus runs very regularly throughout the day (every 5-10 minutes) and only takes around 15 minutes to reach Pena National Palace from Sintra train station.
With a Lisbon to Sintra tour
If you’ve read my blog before you know I’m not a huge fan of organised tours. I’m more of a “let’s get there and figure it out” sort of person.
Which is exactly what we did in Sintra, and although it was still a great day, it was a bit more stressful than it needed to be.
Sintra might be one of the few tourist destinations where doing an organised tour will save you time, effort and even money.
Guided tours from Lisbon will usually include pick-up and drop-off, eliminating the hassle of driving, finding parking, paying for parking or train travel.
They usually also include entrance to the castles, so you don’t have to pay for them separately.
Some tours even have skip-the-queue privileges, which will save you loads of time, especially in high season. Having seen how busy Sintra was in mid-August, I would recommend doing an organised Sintra day trip tour.
Here are some Sintra tours with excellent reviews:
From Lisbon: Sintra Highlights Full-Day Tour – As the name suggests, this Lisbon to Sintra day trip covers all the main highlights; Quinta da Regaleira, Monserrate Palace, Sintra town, Pena Palace and the Sintra mountains!
Lisbon: Pena Palace, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, & Cascais Daytrip – This day trip doesn’t do as many stops in Sintra, but it will take you to explore Cabo da Roca and Cascais, two other beautiful destinations!
Sintra – Cascais: 6-Hour Electric Bike Tour from Lisbon – Discover all the highlights of Sintra and Cascais, while also getting in your vacation workout!
One thing you MUST do before your Sintra day trip
If you’re visiting Sintra independently you will have to purchase your own entrance tickets to the palaces. I 100% recommend buying them online beforehand.
You don’t necessarily have to buy them loads of time beforehand (although this might be preferable in high season). You can also buy them on the day like we did, just make sure to have them before reaching the castles you want to visit.
At the entrance of most castles you will find three queues; one for the ticket office, one for the automated ticket kiosks, and one for online ticket holders. Guess what those queues looked like?
Almost non-existent for online ticket holders, versus the absolutely gigantic queues for both the ticket kiosks and ticket office. I’m not kidding when I say some people spend 1+ hours queuing just to get tickets (and that’s for every castle)!
Especially if you’re visiting Sintra on a day trip, to me that seems like a silly way to spend your time. Plus, if you purchase tickets online you get 5% off! You save time and money, seems like a no brainer to me!
You can purchase Sintra tickets online here:
Sintra 1-day itinerary – Best things to see
There are loads of castles in Sintra, and they are all simply gorgeous. However if you only have one day in Sintra, you have to be realistic about how much you can see.
Taking into account enough time to properly see each castle and travel time between places, you will probably have time to see three, maximum four castles.
I have listed below the most popular attractions in Sintra, which are also the ones we visited during our day trip and that I can recommend.
Palacio Nacional da Pena
With its bright yellow and red façade, Pena Palace is not only one of the most famous attractions in Sintra, but probably all of Portugal. It features on every Portugal bucket list, and it’s easy to see why.
Pena Palace is a Romanticist castle, which stands tall on top of a hill and above Sintra town.
It was one of the main residences of the Portuguese royal family during the 19th century, and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.
When you purchase the ticket online it will give you the option of purchasing entrance only or entrance with shuttle bus (for an extra 3 EUR). This is a little bus that will take you from the Pena Park gates up to the actual castle doors.
The road isn’t long, but it’s very steep. If you have mobility issues you might want to consider taking the shuttle bus, which runs constantly throughout the day.
Another important thing to know is that once you enter the park gates, as you get closer to the actual Pena Palace, you will likely find a huge queue leading up to the castle.
This is the queue to get inside the actual palace rooms, not just the palace! Given we had limited time we decided to skip the palace interior, and just explore the exterior instead.
Personally, I think it’s the more interesting part anyway. You can walk on the castle walls and through the courtyards, exploring the rooftops and battlements, taking in the gorgeous countryside views.
Getting up close to this unique and colourful architecture is what was special for me, and I’d rather do that than spend 1+ hour queuing to see palace rooms.
Castle of the Moors
Located 850 metres and a short 15-minute walk away from Pena Palace, you will find the Castle of the Moors. In my opinion, this castle doesn’t get anywhere near the credit that it deserves.
Built on top of a hill by the Moors in the 8th and 9th centuries, during the period of Muslim Iberia, and it was an important strategic point during medieval wars.
It was probably my favourite castle that we saw during our Sintra day trip. This because of the unique historical architecture, the gorgeous views, and the considerably smaller tourist crowds.
You can walk on the castle walls, relax in the courtyard and explore the gardens. From the castle walls you will be able to take in an epic 360° view over Sintra, Pena Palace and the surrounding countryside, all the way to the sea.
Many day trip visitors skip it, as it’s not amongst the most famous castles of Sintra, but in my opinion it’s a must-see.
Sintra Old Town
After visiting these two castles we hopped back onto the tourist bus, and let it take us to Sintra Old Town. Having heard so much about the castles but so little of Sintra, I wasn’t expecting to find such a cute town centre.
The Old Town centre is fairly small, and you can easily explore it on foot. Get lost in the quaint streets of Sintra, taste a delicious pastel de nata and take a quick break from all the castles of Sintra!
Quinta da Regaleira
From Sintra Old Town it’s a short 15-minute walk to Quinta da Regaleira, or you can take one of the other hop-on hop-off bus routes.
While the name of Quinta da Regaleira might not ring any bells for you, I’m sure this picture of the Initiation Well does.
Quinta da Regaleira isn’t officially part of the Parques de Sintra, but it’s still classified as a World Heritage Site within the “Cultural Landscape of Sintra”.
It’s composed by a Romantic palace and chapel, as well as a luxurious park with grottos, lakes and fountains, all designed by the Italian architect Luigi Manini.
I was surprised to discover how much Quinta da Regaleira had to offer. Like most people I had only seen photos of the Initiation Well online, and I had no idea there was such a beautiful park and other buildings connected to it.
We spent over an hour walking around the park, taking in the unique architecture, the peaceful gardens and famous sights. Be prepared to queue to enter the Initiation Well if you’re visiting in high season.
Overall Quinta da Regaleira surprised us, and it was amongst our favourite stops of our Sintra day trip.
Sintra National Palace
We didn’t personally visit Sintra National Palace as we were short on time and it didn’t massively interest us. However many travellers recommend it as one of the main Sintra highlights.
Since it’s located in the main square by Sintra Old Town, next to the bus stop that will take you back to the train station, you can decide whether to visit it depending on how you feel after the previous three castles.
Estimated cost for a Lisbon to Sintra day trip
Most Sintra day tours are priced around 60 EUR. Here is a breakdown of what I paid for one day in Sintra by doing it independently.
Entrance to Park and National Palace of Pena: 13.30 EUR
Entrance to Moorish Castle: 7.60 EUR
Entrance to Quinta da Regaleira: 10 EUR
Ticket for the 434 hop-on hop-off bus: 10 EUR
Total: 40.90 EUR
Add to that petrol for driving there, all day parking if you’re unable to find free parking, or a Lisbon return train ticket if you’re not driving and you can see that the prices are fairly similar.
Plus if you do a Sintra tour from Lisbon you’ll have someone driving you around all day and telling you about the history of the places you’re seeing, without having to worry about organising or where to go next.
Is doing a day trip to Sintra worth it?
Before visiting, I had heard mixed things about Sintra. It ranged from people saying it was the highlight of their Portugal trip to others saying it felt like a fake town built for tourists.
My thoughts on Sintra lie somewhere in between. While the castles of Sintra were undoubtedly very cool, and very different from anything else I’d ever seen, they did at times feel like purely tourist attractions.
This feeling was probably heightened by the fact I visited Portugal in peak high season, and Sintra was by far the busiest place we visited during our trip.
Pena Palace was our least favourite stop. Despite its unique architecture and colours, it was just a little too crowded and it felt too much like something built purely to attract tourists.
Quinta da Regaleira was a pleasant surprise. We went to see the Initiation Well, and found a whole palace and park surrounding it.
We were also amazed by Castle of the Moors. It has more history than Pena Palace, and it offered awesome 360° views.
Overall I would still recommend visiting Sintra, just make sure to go beyond Pena Palace. While it might be touristy, it’s one of the most famous cities in Portugal, and there’s a reason for it.
Where to stay for a day trip to Sintra from Lisbon
The best place to stay in Lisbon to visit Sintra will depend on whether you have to drive there or take a train. If you choose an organised tour it won’t matter, as they will usually pick you up at your hotel.
I have listed below some accommodation options in Lisbon for every budget.
Budget: Lisbon Destination Hostel – Located inside Rossio Train Station this hostel is perfect for those taking the train to Sintra. The hostel has a very cool interior common area, and offers both dorms and private rooms.
Mid-range: This Is Lisbon Hostel – This hostel is a little more expensive, as it has a gorgeous rooftop where you can eat breakfast while taking in the views over Lisbon.
Luxury: Lisboa Pessoa Hotel – If you want to treat yourself, this is the perfect place to do so. With their spacious rooms and gorgeous rooftop terrace, it’s the perfect place to relax after a Sintra day tour.
What to pack for one day in Sintra
Being a city and a fairly popular tourist destination, there isn’t really much you need to bring to Sintra. If you forget anything, you’ll likely be able to buy it there.
That said, beyond the usual travel essentials here are some things I recommend you don’t forget.
Camera – Given how beautiful these castles are, you want to make sure you capture them in all their beauty!
Reusable water bottle – Especially if you end up walking from one castle to the next, bring a bottle you can refill and ensure you stay hydrated.
Walking shoes – During our day in Sintra we ended up walking 13.4km and 20,349 steps. Make sure you have comfortable shoes!
Final thoughts on the best Sintra day trips from Lisbon
There you have it, the ultimate Sintra day trip guide! Have you been to Sintra before? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below!
In this guide I tried to include everything you need to know about doing a Lisbon to Sintra day trip. From the logistics on how to get there and estimated prices to my personal thoughts on what is worth seeing.
With my Sintra 1-day itinerary I tried to outline what you can realistically expect to see during one day in Sintra. Overall, despite the huge crowds, I still think Sintra is worthy of a visit.
The castles are truly stunning, as well as incredibly different one from the other. By spending even just one day in Sintra you will see so many diverse types of architecture, landscapes and history.
For a smoother experience, you can also do an organised Lisbon to Sintra day tour.
I hope you find my Sintra day trip guide useful in planning your day trip to Sintra! If you have any questions about visiting Sintra, just let me know in the comments below.
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