Sintra, once the preferred summer destination for royalty looking to escape the oppressive Lisbon heat, is a picturesque hilltop town just northwest of Lisbon.
In Sintra, you’ll find amazing views in all directions, some unique architectural styles that you aren’t likely to find anywhere else in Portugal, and expansive castles and palaces fit for royalty. Which makes sense given that’s who they were built for.
At just 45 minutes away from Lisbon by train from Rossio Station in Baixa, a day trip to Sintra is a great option if you’re looking to add a trip out of the city to your Lisbon itinerary.
But is it possible to squeeze the many delights of Sintra into just one day? We certainly think so. In fact, we did it for ourselves and had a fantastic time. Our number one tip is to get an early start – the crowds in Sintra build over the course of the day, and we found wandering the grounds of Pena Palace in solitude was much more preferable to wading through crowds in Sintra town later in the day.
In this guide, we’ll take you through exactly how to plan a Lisbon to Sintra day trip on your own, from how to get there, how to structure your time, and exactly what we think you should do and see based on our own experience.
You’ll start in Lisbon, hop on an early train, and make your way to the top of the hill to start with Pena Palace. From there, make your way downhill, stopping to admire the views from the site of an old hilltop castle, and indulging in Sintra’s famous pastries – the Travesseiro.
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A Brief and Incomplete History of Sintra
Sintra has been around throughout much of Portuguese history, from Paleolithic settlements to its Roman and Moorish occupations, right up until the Reconquista by Christian armies in the 9th century.
But the town had its real golden age during the 18th and 19th centuries when it became a popular vacation destination amongst Portuguese aristocracy and royalty, who chose the hilltop town of Sintra as a perfect getaway from the summer heat in the lowlands surrounding it.
It was during this period that many of the palaces and villas were regenerated in the Romantic architectural style the town is famed for today.
The unique mix of beautiful architectural styles and the number of impressive historical landmarks in the region even earned Sintra UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The town is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in Portugal, with millions of tourists making the journey annually.
Is a Day Trip to Sintra Enough Time?
We’d say yes and no.
Yes, you’ll definitely be able to see the main highlights of Sintra in a day. In one – albeit very busy – day, it’s possible to check off three or even four of Sintra’s top attractions, depending on how much time you spend in each spot.
No, because you won’t be able to see all of the sights. With one day in Sintra, you’ll have to focus on the bigger attractions or pick and choose what you want to see and do.
Below, we’ve outlined the main sites in Sintra that you won’t want to miss, with some extra stops if you happen to have more than a day.
Getting from Lisbon to Sintra
Sintra is located around 30km northwest of Lisbon and sits within the stunning Parque Natural Sintra-Cascais. The town is one of the most popular day trip destinations from Lisbon, mostly thanks to how easy it is to get to from the Portuguese capital.
Since we’re covering the “getting there” piece before we get into the itinerary itself, it’s worth pausing here to talk about how you should structure your day trip to Sintra from Lisbon.
In our opinion – and this is what we did – you should plan to start at Pena Palace at the crest of the hill above the town of Sintra, and work your way downhill from there. We walked down to the town from the Castelo do Mouros, and would definitely recommend it. There are, of course, other options for getting downhill, which we’ll cover below.
Doing it this way will allow you to tackle the most popular sight first, before the crowds descend on it later in the day, and it also means any walking you do will be downhill.
After the walk down to town, break for lunch and pastries, and then tackle some of the sights in and around town before heading home.
The implication here is that you’ll be making two journeys to get to your first stop of the day: the train from Lisbon to Sintra, and the leg from Sintra to Pena Palace at the top of the hill. We’ll cover them both in this section.
Taking the Train From Lisbon to Sintra
The best way to get to Sintra from Lisbon is by train.
You can catch the train to Sintra from Rossio Train Station (or Oriente, which is a slightly longer ride) in Baixa in the heart of Lisbon. Trains depart roughly every 30 minutes (more during weekday rush hours) and the journey takes just 40 minutes.
Tickets between Lisbon and Sintra cost between €2-3 each way, and you can also grab a round trip ticket. You can easily purchase tickets at the kiosks or self-service machines at the station – there’s no need to book in advance.
Make sure you take the train to the end of the route – which is called “Sintra” – NOT “Portela de Sintra”, which is further away from all the sights.
When to Take the Train to Sintra?
We’d recommend getting on the first feasible train you can. For us, that was 8:11 am, but the schedule might vary slightly by year and season.
Taking the train around 8:00 am is ideal for making the most of your day. You’ll arrive in Sintra just before 9:00 am, which is just in time for most of the attractions to open at 9:30 am.
This gives you 30 minutes to get up the hill to Pena Palace to start your day and beat the rest of the visitors.
When to Take the Train Back from Sintra?
Return trains from Sintra to Lisbon also run roughly every thirty minutes throughout the day.
The last train usually departs Sintra around midnight (it’s still best to check the exact train schedule for the day you’re visiting). You probably won’t need this long in Sintra – 13 hours is a long day trip! – but it’s always good to know that you won’t have to rush back to the station before you’re done.
Should You Drive to Sintra?
Yes, it is possible to drive TO Sintra, but you should not, under any circumstances, try to drive IN Sintra! Trust us on this one.
The drive from Lisbon to Sintra takes as little as 25-30 minutes along highway A37. The road into Sintra can get pretty congested during peak times, so try to arrive early to avoid heavy traffic.
BUT while you can arrive in Sintra by car, the historic town center itself was not designed with cars in mind.
If you drive in Sintra, you’ll end up spending most of your day stuck in traffic, getting lost on tiny back roads, and hunting out limited parking. Trying to drive between the sights is much more hassle than it’s worth.
If you are planning on taking a day trip to Sintra from Lisbon by car, we’d highly recommend parking it somewhere on the outskirts of town for the day, then walking or using public transport for the rest of the itinerary below.
If you are driving to Sintra, some of the top parking options are:
- Sintra Parking: This central parking lot is completely free but fills up very early, especially on weekends and during the summer. Arrive early to avoid disappointment.
- Parque de Estacionamento Estação de Sintra: Conveniently located opposite the train station and on the 434 bus route, this parking lot has a maximum daily rate of €14.
- Parque Estacionamento P3 Portela Sintra: A little further away from the town center and main tourist sites, this parking lot can be found close to Portela de Sintra station. But at only €2 for the entire day, it’s one of the cheapest parking options in Sintra.
Getting Around Sintra
Sintra is located at the top of a gigantic hill. We’d recommend starting at the top – which means Pena Palace – and making your way downhill on foot.
It’s certainly possible to walk around once you’re in Sintra itself. And if you follow the itinerary as outlined below, you’ll mostly be walking downhill.
If walking long distances isn’t an option for you, we’d suggest going to Pena Palace and the Castelo dos Mouros first, then catching a taxi, bus, or tuk-tuk from there to get back down into town.
The 434 tourist bus runs on a loop around the main attractions and the town center and is the cheapest option for getting around Sintra. However, the buses can get extremely busy during peak times and you could end up waiting in line for up to an hour (peak times are around midday and early afternoon at Pena Palace).
Taxis and tuk-tuks are available everywhere in Sintra. Just be sure to negotiate a good price BEFORE you ride, and don’t get ripped off by tourist scams.
Getting from Sintra Train Station to Pena Palace
Like we covered above, your first stop is at the top of the hill looming over the town, so you’ll need to make your way there from the train station in town.
While it is possible to walk around the main sites and attractions in Sintra, walking from the train station to Pena Palace (the first stop on this itinerary) is a different story.
The walk from the train station to Pena Palace takes around 45 minutes and is a steep uphill climb the entire way. We’re all for walking, but even we didn’t feel like taking on this challenge first thing in the morning (we do, however, recommend walking down the hill back into town).
Instead, to get to the top of the hill, you have a few different options.
- Bus: The 434 tourist bus runs roughly every 15 minutes between Sintra train station and Pena Palace. The buses aren’t too busy first thing in the morning, but you can expect long lines later in the day. A single ticket costs €3.90, while a hop-on-hop-off ticket is €6.90 for the day. Jumping on the bus is the cheapest option for a single person or even a couple. But if you have a bigger group, it’s more economical to grab a taxi or tuk-tuk instead. Here’s a guide to the 434 for more information.
- Rideshare (Uber): An affordable and convenient option if you’re a regular Uber user. The journey should cost around €7-10. However, cell service in Sintra can be spotty, which can make it a little hard to call a ride. There are also not that many drivers around later in the day, which means you may not be able to get one at all.
- Local Taxi: Local taxis are abundant in Sintra, especially around the main tourist attractions. Just be careful not to get ripped off by drivers overcharging naive tourists. You shouldn’t be paying more than €15-20 for the journey (MAX!), depending on the time of day and group size.
- Tuk-Tuks: We opted to take a tuk-tuk because we had a group of four and saw the long lines for the bus. The standard fare between the station to the entrance of Pena Palace is roughly €5 per person (we paid €20 for a group of four).
Other Tips for Visiting Sintra
Here are some odds and ends to know before your trip.
- Get there early! Trust us, it makes a difference. The crowds at 3:00 pm are infinitely less manageable than those at 9:00 am. We essentially had the grounds up at Pena Palace to ourselves when we arrived at 9:30 am.
- Buy your tickets for attractions ahead of time. Book attraction tickets online in advance to save yourself time and hassle on the day. Lines for the ticket machines aren’t bad at 9:30 am, but later in the day they can be a nightmare. Buy tickets for Pena Palace here, Castelo dos Mouros here, and Quinta da Regaleira here.
- Be prepared for it to be foggy and cold at Pena Palace in the morning. Multiple locals in Lisbon and Sintra told us that this is a common occurrence, and it’ll burn off by 11:00 am or so. And that’s exactly what happened for us. Make sure to pack a jacket for the morning.
- Wear practical walking shoes. If you do plan on walking around Sintra, you’ll be walking a decent amount, so remember to wear good shoes. Even if it’s a hot day, you’ll definitely regret wearing flip-flops or uncomfortable sandals by the end of the day.
- Bring water and snacks. While there are a few pastry shops and restaurants in Sintra town center for lunch, there’s not much else to eat around the wider region or at the attractions. If you think you’ll need some extra sustenance throughout the day, make sure to pack a few snacks and drinks to take with you so you don’t get hangry.
A Lisbon to Sintra Day Trip: Exactly What to Do with One Day in Sintra
Before getting to the exact itinerary, let’s talk about organizing your time in Sintra.
We’d recommend starting at the top of the hill and making your way back down, breaking for lunch in the town of Sintra itself. This is the most convenient and logical way to explore as much of the area as possible in a day.
Here’s a rough map of the morning, which will have you exploring Pena Palace and Castelo dos Mouros, before walking down into town.
9:00 am: Arrive at Sintra Train Station
Jump on the train from Libson nice and early so that you’ll arrive in Sintra around 9:00 am.
On arrival, head straight for Pena Palace. Either jump on the 434 bus or take an Uber, taxi, or Tuk-Tuk to the palace entrance.
9:30 am: Start Your Day at Pena Palace
The Palacio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace) is undoubtedly the most famous landmark in Sintra and the reason most visitors are so drawn to the area.
The brightly colored palace is one of the greatest examples of 19th century Romanticism, combining Moorish and Manueline architectural styles. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 and is one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
There are two main ticket options for visiting Pena Palace:
- The exterior and grounds: €7.50/€6.50 (adult/youth and senior)
- The exterior, grounds, and interior: €14/€12.50 (adult/youth and senior)
You can pre-book your tickets online in advance. Advanced tickets come with a scheduled time slot. Pena Palace is open daily from 09:30 am (grounds open at 09:00 am) to 6:30 pm (grounds shut at 7:00 pm) , with the last entry at 6:00 pm.
Should You Visit the Interior of Pena Palace?
This depends on what you’re into.
We didn’t go inside – we’ve seen plenty of rich people’s palaces over the years, and generally find them underwhelming unless there’s something special or unique about them. We found that the exterior and gardens had plenty to keep us busy.
But, for what it’s worth, my older brother did go inside and really enjoyed it.
What to Do at Pena Palace
In terms of visiting the Palace, you have three main options which we’d recommend tackling in the order listed below (if you choose to do the interior).
As we mentioned previously, it’s often foggy in Sintra first thing in the morning. So head inside first, then come back out to admire the famous exterior of the Palace when the fog starts to burn off.
- The interior – Untouched since the last royals left in 1910, visiting the Palace’s interior will give you a glimpse into the life of its past royal residents. The Palace is filled with rich stucco decoration and beautiful art and furnishings.
- The grounds – Wander around the vast gardens and endless walking trails. It’ll likely be foggy when you get to Sintra, so spend the first bit of your time in the grounds waiting for it to clear up. Head up to Cruz Alta (here on Google Maps) – the highest point in the grounds with a fantastic viewpoint – if you’re up for a bit of a walk (it was foggy when we were up there, unfortunately).
- The exterior – Saving the best for last, the exterior of Pena Palace is really what most visitors come to see and photograph. The bright yellow and red castle exterior is truly a unique site to behold. There’s a nice path that takes you along the outside of the base of the palace, which has some pretty incredible views of the surrounding landscapes too.
When you’re done, walk down towards the Vale dos Lagos e Pateira (here on Google Maps) and exit from there.
There’s a path at the end of the parking lot across the street that will take you up to the Castelo dos Mouros (it starts here).
12:00 pm: Castelo dos Mouros
A lot of people opt to skip this, and we think that’s a mistake. The reconstructed castle walls are really cool and the views out towards the ocean are spectacular.
We were hesitant about it at first. Alysha even said that my brother and I could go on, and she’d wait outside. But she ultimately decided to go for it. For what it’s worth, she was very, very glad she went!
Castelo dos Mouros sits close to Pena Palace on the hill’s summit. The historic castle was built in the 8th and 9th centuries by the Moors (Muslims that occupied the Iberian Peninsula at the time). It was then restored by King Ferdinand in the 19th Century.
The castle blends beautifully with the surrounding forest and grounds in which it sits. The structure is home to a small exhibition about Moorish history and has numerous artifacts found during archaeological excavations of the area.
The main draw of visiting has to be the fantastic viewpoints from the castle turrets over the surrounding region and out to the Atlantic coastline.
Tickets for the castle cost €8/€6.50 (adult/youth and senior). You’ll get a small discount by buying your tickets online in advance. The castle is open from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm, with the last entry at 5:30pm.
A visit to Castle dos Mouros only really takes an hour or so. It’s located just a short walk from Pena Palace at the hill’s summit, so makes for an easy addition to your day in Sintra.
1:00 pm: Walk Down to Sintra for Lunch
At this point, you’re probably going to be pretty hungry from a busy morning walking around the huge palace and castle grounds. This means it’s time to head into Sintra itself to grab some lunch.
Follow this walking route, which is downhill all the way. It should take you around 20–30 minutes to walk to the historic center.
If walking isn’t an option for you, you’ll either need to find a taxi or tuk-tuk, or take the 434 bus down into town. If you choose the latter, be prepared for long lines at this time of day. It’ll save you time and hassle to just grab one of the other forms of transportation instead – unless you’re traveling on a tight budget.
Heads up: You’ll need to walk back out to the main road (Estrada de Pena) to catch the bus, a taxi, or a tuk-tuk.
1:30 pm: Lunch (and Pastries) in Sintra
There are several great places to grab lunch in Sintra town, depending on what type of food you want to eat.
Here are some options.
- Casa Piriquita – The most popular pastelarias (pastry shop) in Sintra, which makes the famous local Travesseiro pastry (a puff pastry filled with cream) that Alysha HAD to try… for science of course. The pastry shop dates back to 1862 and was a favorite of King Carlos I.
- Bacalhau na Vila – An authentic local restaurant where you can share tasty grilled cod and fish tapas dishes. There are gluten free options too.
- Tascantiga – A lovely casual spot serving delicious Portuguese tapas with a nice outdoor terrace! Also has a good kids’ menu for families.
- Alba Gelato – Serves some of the best ice cream in Sintra for those in need of a sugary pick-me-up on a hot day. The ice cream parlor is located near the train station, so it also makes for a great end-of-the-day treat before you head back to Lisbon.
3:00 pm: Quinta da Regaleira
After you’ve finished with lunch and have regained your energy, the next stop on this Sintra itinerary is Quinta da Regaleira.
To get to Quinta da Regaleira from the town center, you can either walk, get the 435 bus, or jump in a taxi or tuk-tuk. Walking is the easiest option – here’s the route. The walk takes 10-15 minutes.
Quinta da Regaleira is a large country estate in Sintra, made up of a grand villa, small chapel, and gardens. Dating back to the early 1900s, the villa was designed by Italian designer Luigi Manini, who was commissioned by an entrepreneur from Brazil who made his fortune in coffee, António Carvalho Monteiro (aka “Monteiro the Millionaire”).
The villa was built in a neo-Gothic/Romantic revivalist style and was heavily influenced by the mythological beliefs of its eccentric owner. Monteiro was fascinated by secretive religious orders such as the Knights Templar and Freemasons.
All across the estate, you’ll find unusual symbols, hidden passageways, secret caves, and curious little nooks and crannies. The unique estate has a fairytale-esque air of mystery and intrigue to it.
One of the highlights of the estate is The Initiation Well (“Poço Iniciático”), which features an imposing Gothic spiral staircase filled with mysterious symbolism. The staircase leads you down into an underground grotto that then takes you out to a hidden lake in the gardens.
Tickets to Quinta da Regaleira cost €10/€5 (adult/youth and senior). You can book online in advance to save time when you arrive. The estate is open daily for self-guided visits from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm, with the last entry at 5:30pm.
Guided tours of the estate are also available for €18/€9 (adult/youth and senior, including entry). Check the schedule for tour times as they vary each day.
Note: We didn’t actually end up visiting Quinta da Regaleira during our trip to Sintra. We headed back to Lisbon in the early afternoon to tackle a couple of things we wanted to do before we headed to Porto. But it was highly recommended by our tour guide for our walking tour in Lisbon (We Hate Tourism Tours). To be honest, we’re sad we missed it and have it on our list for our next trip to Portugal!
5:00 pm: Take the Train Back to Lisbon
Finally, finish your day trip to Sintra by heading back to the train station (here) and catching the train back to Libson.
Return trains from Sintra to Lisbon’s Rossio station run roughly every thirty minutes up until midnight. The journey takes about 40 minutes to get back to Lisbon.
By leaving around 5:00 pm, you’ll have time to grab dinner and enjoy a relaxing evening back in Lisbon.
Planning a trip to Portugal?
Here are our other Portugal travel guides to help you plan an incredible trip (even if you have to eat gluten free!).
If there’s no link below, it means we’re still working on it – long, in-depth guides take time! We’re working on it, though, we promise.
- 25 Incredible Things to Do in Lisbon: A Complete Guide
- 3 Days in Lisbon: Planning the Perfect Lisbon Itinerary
- One Day in Lisbon: The Best of Lisbon in 24 Hours
- Where to Stay in Lisbon: Our Guide to 4 Amazing Places to Stay
- Gluten Free Lisbon: A Complete Guide to Lisbon’s Best Gluten Free Restaurants
- The Best Coffee in Lisbon: 9 Amazing Lisbon Coffee Shops to Add to Your List
- 3 Days in Porto: Planning the Perfect Porto Itinerary
- One Day in Porto: How to See the Best of Porto in a Day
- Where to Stay in Porto, Portugal: The 3 Best Places to Stay
What to Do with More Time in Sintra?
To be honest, you’ve covered the main highlights in this one day in Sintra itinerary. But if you do have more time to play with, you could either spread the above sights out over a longer timeframe (which will be less exhausting) or add in these two additional spots.
Palácio Nacional de Sintra
The Palácio Nacional de Sintra is another important palace located in the heart of Sintra’s historic town center.
The location was once the site of a Moorish castle, similar to nearby Castelo dos Mouros. The original castle was destroyed and reconstructed by Christian Kings during the 15th and 16th centuries. Its current gothic exterior is most noticeable for the two large cone-shaped chimneys that extend from the palace’s kitchens.
Palácio Nacional de Sintra was a favorite with Portuguese nobility and was used continuously as a royal residence for almost 500 years. Today, it is the best preserved royal residence in all of Portugal.
On a visit to the palace, you can explore its elegant and unique interior. Each room is designed in a different artistic style that’s representative of the King that lived there and is named accordingly. Some of the highlights include the Swan Room, the Coat of Arms Room, and the Magpie Room.
Inside the palace, you’ll also learn more about the history of Portugal and the development of the decorative azulejo tiles.
Tickets to Palácio Nacional de Sintra cost €10/€8.50 (adult/youth and senior). The palace is open daily from 9:30am to 6:30pm, with the last entry at 6:00pm. A visit will take around an hour.
The palace is located in the town’s historic center, just 10 minutes from the train station, so is easy to walk to. It’s best to visit after lunch or as the last stop on your Sintra day trip.
Palácio de Monserrate
Located a short distance from Sintra, deeper into the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, the Palácio de Monserrate is another amazing architectural wonder of Portugal.
Built by an English merchant in 1790, the grand palace is one of the best examples of European eclecticism, with a mix of Indian, Moorish, and Gothic influences, topped with a dome inspired by the Duomo in Florence.
The fairytale-esque villa is surrounded by one of the most extensive botanical gardens in Portugal, boasting beautiful exotic plants from all over the world. The entire estate has a magical atmosphere and is usually much quieter than most of Sintra’s other big attractions.
Tickets for Palácio de Monserrate cost €8/€6.50 (adult/youth and senior). The park is open daily from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm, with the last entry at 6:00 pm. A visit will take you around one to two hours.
The palace is not walkable from Sintra town center – unless you’re happy to walk over an hour down winding back roads. The best way to get there is to jump on the 435 bus or grab an uber or taxi. There is parking at the palace, but the one-way roads to get there from Sintra can be extremely confusing, so we wouldn’t recommend driving.
The Best Time to Visit Sintra
Sintra is a popular day trip destination from Lisbon all year round. Meaning that you’ll probably encounter crowds whenever you decide to go. But as with any popular tourist destination, some times are better to visit than others.
The peak summer months are the busiest time of year to visit Sintra. You can expect the town and attractions to be packed with other tourists and day-trippers. The ticket and bus lines will also be considerably longer. The weather can get particularly hot during these months too, making walking around the attractions all day a little uncomfortable.
The best time to visit Sintra is during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall. During these periods, the crowds will be slightly smaller and you’ll get to experience the beautiful colors of Sintra’s amazing fauna blooming into life.
Winter in Sintra doesn’t get too unbearably cold. But it can certainly be overcast and rainy. If you’re visiting Sintra during the winter months, don’t forget to bring lots of layers and an umbrella.
If you can visit Sintra on a weekday rather than a weekend, you’ll also avoid some of the heavier crowds and lines.
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