Lisbon has a ton of great attractions, but if you have time to spare, a day trip to Sintra is a must. If you google the town right now, you’ll come across images of stunning palaces and historic sites that seem to be lifted right out of a fairytale. The area was actually a retreat for Portuguese nobles and is now one of the most popular spots in all of Portugal.
Sintra is easily the best day trip from Lisbon and takes just 40 minutes to get to. It’s impossible to see all of Sintra in a day, so some people choose to make multiple trips or to stay overnight. That being said, if you pick 3-4 sites, you can comfortably see them in a day. This Sintra day trip guide will give you all the practical information you need as well as a suggested itinerary.
Getting to Sintra from Lisbon
The easiest way to get to Sintra is to take the direct train from Rossio station which is located in the Baixa area of Lisbon. Trains depart from Rossio on a regular basis and it takes just 40 minutes to reach Sintra. For convenience purposes, get on the train that takes you directly to Sintra. When you arrive at Rossio, just look at the boards to see which one is going to Sintra; it’s impossible to miss.
Rides cost €2.15/€1.10 (adult/child) for a one-way trip, so a return trip would cost €4.30/€2.20 (adult/child) respectively. If you already have a Viva viagem card, you can use it for this train, but only if you currently have the “zapping” option set. Alternatively, you can just buy a ticket at the counter from one of the agents.
Trains depart from Rossio starting at 7 am with the last one taking off at 11 pm. Weekend service is limited so you’ll want to check the schedule on the CP website in advance.
Getting around Sintra with bus 434
The easiest way to get around Sintra is to take tourist bus 434. It makes a loop from Sintra station to Pena Palace which essentially takes you to all the major attractions in the city. The bus takes off every 15 minutes and follows this route:
- Sintra Station
- Sintra Historic Center
- Moorish Castle
- Pena Palace
- Moorish Castle
- Sintra Historic Center
- Sintra Station
A single ride ticket will cost you €5.50, but it’s good for a round trip ticket. Essentially this is a “hop on, hop off” ticket so keep your receipt. I should note that there is an actual hop on, hop off bus that follows the exact same route but costs much more. The bus stop for bus 434 is located near Sintra station so just look at the signs above the stops (It’s the second one) for where to get on.
I should also mention that you can buy a one-way ticket for €3 or a true “hop on, hop off” ticket for €12. The one-way ticket makes sense if you’re starting at Pena Palace and walking down, but I don’t see any value in the €12 ticket.
If you’re interested in other sites such as Monserrate Palace and Quinta da Regaleira you can take bus 435. Quinta da Regaleira is a 10-minute walk from the historic center so you can actually get away with just using bus 434.
Taxis and tuk-tuks are also available from Sintra Station. If you want to go to Pena Palace, you should be able to negotiate a flat rate of about €20. This is a good option if there are a ton of crowds or if you plan on hiking down from Pena Palace after.
Generally speaking, there are four main tourist attractions which I’ll highlight below that people come for. If you arrive around 10 a.m. you probably won’t have an issue seeing all of them, but I personally suggest just choosing three out of the four. By picking just three, you won’t feel rushed at any of the sites and you’ll have plenty of time to stop for breaks. You can buy your tickets online in advance at a discount which will save you time since you won’t have to line up.
Moors Castle – This was my personal favourite spot in Sintra since I loved walking the walls. Constructed by the Moors during the 9th century to protect the lands, it actually fell during the Christian Crusades. The castle was eventually restored in the 18th century and is now in pretty good condition. Although there are a lot of steps, it’s rarely steep so you won’t have any problem hiking here.
Pena Palace – Pena Palace is located at the highest point of Sintra so many people start here before making their way down. The palace is most famous for its vivid exterior since it’s painted in many bright colours. The wall walk is very interesting since you straddle the exterior of the palace for some epic views, but don’t expect much from the interior rooms. The gardens and grounds are massive, but most people choose to just check out the palace. There are a restaurant and snack bar, and cafe here too making Pena Palace a great place to stop for a bite to eat. Note that you can buy a ticket that covers just the exteriors of the plaace which is a bit cheaper than the ticket that includes the interior rooms.
Quinta da Regaleira – Although formally a mansion, Quinta da Regaleira feels more like a labyrinth with its gardens, wells, and underground passageways. The drained well has a very gothic feel to it which makes you feel like you’re in a horror movie. I guess it’s appropriate since some believe the well was used for cult ceremonies. Quinta da Regaleira tends to get fewer crowds which compared to the other sites in Sintra which can feel packed at times. For some reason, Quinta da Regaleira doesn’t accept foreign credit cards, so make sure you have cash for your entry fee.
National Palace (Palácio Nacional de Sintra) – Due to its location right near the historic centre, the National Palace gets more attention than it really should. Don’t get me wrong, the structure itself is quite impressive and so are the interiors. But compared to the other attractions in Sintra, the National Palace lacks a “wow” factor if you know what I mean. This would easily be the attraction to drop if you’re short on time.
As mentioned, there are many other attractions in Sintra so you need to do some research and decide which ones you want to go to. If time is an issue, stick to the suggested attractions above. One other thing, the food in Sintra is a bit more expensive compared to Lisbon, but it’s not grossly overpriced.
Moon Hill Hostel – If you’re looking for cheap and convenient, then the Moon Hill Hostel should be on the top of your list since it’s located between the train station and the National Palace. The dorm rooms are modern and clean, but if you’re willing to spend a little more, you can get a private room that fits two with or without your own bathroom. There’s even a family room available that fits 4 comfortably.
Sintra Boutique Hotel – As far as location is concerned, the Sintra Boutique Hotel doesn’t get much better since it’s just off an old street in the historic centre and steps from the National Palace. Prices are reasonable and the rooms have modern designs.
The Romantic Suites and Garden Guesthouse – If you want to feel like you’ve stepped back in time, then head to the Romantic Suites and Garden Guesthouse where many original features from this 19th-century building still remain. Location wise, it’s close to the train station, so you’ll have to take the bus or go for a long walk to get to the historic centre
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This Sintra day trip guide covers all the basics so you shouldn’t have any problems getting there and exploring. Remember, Sintra is the most popular day trip from Lisbon and sees massive crowds during the summer and on weekends. Try to go during the week and arrive as early as you can. A trip to Sintra is well worth your time. For more details on Portugal, read my post about how much does it cost to go to Portugal?