Packed with colourful fairy tale palaces, rambling hilltop castles and exotic flora, our one-day Sintra itinerary makes an excellent excursion from Lisbon. Here’s all you need to know for a magical Lisbon to Sintra day trip.
A Lisbon to Sintra day trip is a magical voyage into the birthplace of Romanticism.
Once a simple monastery on a hill outside Lisbon, Sintra was converted into a flamboyant and decorative summer palace by King Ferdinand II. His mix of Gothic, Moorish and Renaissance influences created a mishmash of decorative styles.
Ferdinand set his palace in a landscaped park introducing a vast array of exotic species of trees. The result is a truly unique place combining respect for the past with the beauty of nature. More whimsical palaces and gardens would follow and in 1995 the uniqueness of Sintra was recognised by UNESCO who gave it a world heritage listing.
There are lots of palaces, parks and castles to see in Sintra, and unfortunately, it’s not possible to see them all in a single day. But our one-day Sintra itinerary captures all the main highlights, in the right order, so you can see the best while saving your legs from Sintra’s hilly climbs.
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LISBON TO SINTRA DAY TRIP – A ONE-DAY SINTRA ITINERARY
Although there are many great things to do in Lisbon, and it can be tempting not to leave, it’s worth taking the time to spend one day in Sintra. You can’t possibly hope to pack everything in, but we’ve put the main sights that you wouldn’t want to miss, in the right order so you don’t waste any time collecting the area’s star attractions.
We’ve also made some suggestions for how to get around Sintra; allowing you to walk this beautiful area, without doing too much uphill climbing.
HOW TO GET TO SINTRA FROM LISBON
Sintra is located 29 kilometres northwest of Lisbon in the beautiful Parque Natural Sintra-Cascais. While there are stunning castles spread all over the 145 square kilometres of the natural park, the most popular are centred around Sintra and are easily accessible on a day trip from Lisbon, or as part of a wider Portugal itinerary.
LISBON TO SINTRA BY TRAIN
The easiest and most cost-effective way to get from Lisbon to Sintra is by train. The public transport system in Portugal is excellent and trains run regularly. There are two train lines operating from Lisbon to Sintra. The first is from Rossio Station, located in the historic centre of Lisbon. The second is from Oriente Train Station, located northeast of Lisbon, 2.5 kilometres from the airport.
FROM ROSSIO STATION
As Rossio Station is located in Baixa in the heart of Lisbon, most tourists will use this station to travel to Sintra. It’s also a beautiful building and a tourist attraction in its own right. There are few facilities in the station but plenty of cafes just outside for an early coffee and pastel de nata.
FROM ORIENTE TRAIN STATION
Orient Train station is the main intercity station in Lisbon, connecting other cities throughout the country via train, bus and metro. It’s located 2.5 kilometres from the airport so it’s the route you will take if you are travelling directly from the airport to Sintra.
BUYING TRAIN TICKETS TO SINTRA
Train tickets are easily available at the self-service machines or staffed kiosks at the stations. Tickets cost €2.25 per adult one way (€4.50 return). Tickets can be charged to the Viva Viagem card – Lisbon’s public transport payment card.
One of the best options for transport is to purchase a Lisbon Card which provides unlimited travel for 24, 48 or 72 hours.
LISBON TO SINTRA BY CAR
To explore a bit more of the area at your own pace, you can hire a car and do a road trip from Lisbon to Sintra, collecting some of the beautiful Portuguese coast on the way.
As traffic in Sintra has been a problem for some time, the local government has taken drastic steps to reduce the number of vehicles in the centre of town. Only residents, city buses and taxis are allowed in.
If you are driving to Sintra, we’d recommend parking at Parque de Estacionamento P1 Sul (Av. Mário Firmino Miguel) and taking the bus into the centre of town.
HOW TO GET AROUND SINTRA
Sintra Train Station is the last stop on the line, and it’s located at the bottom of a hill, 1.5 kilometres from the historic town centre. You are likely to be pounced on by touts, tuk tuk drivers and other sales folk attempting an energetic hard-sell of their tours or services.
To help you maintain your composure on your Lisbon to Sintra day trip, there are 3 options for getting around.
From the train station, it’s possible to walk around Sintra and see all the sights, however, this could be a very long day. The hills over which the sights are spread are steep and the distance soon adds up.
If you were to walk this entire itinerary, as well as around the sights themselves, you could easily cover 10 kilometres and 300 metres of ascent and descent. Having said that, if you are up for the exercise the walking is great. The exotic species of plants add a fascinating backdrop to the castles and palaces.
The 434 tourist bus does a one-directional loop past the major attractions in Sintra, before returning back to the station. It costs €6.90 for a hop-on-hop-off service or €3.90 for a one-way trip.
The first bus leaves Sintra station at 9:15am and runs every 15 minutes during peak tourist times. The last bus is at 7:50pm.
SINTRA 434 TOURIST BUS LOOP
Sintra Train Station
Historic Centre of Sintra (Palácio Nacional de Sintra)
Sintra Train Station
TAXIS / TUK TUK
Tuk tuk drivers operate from the train station and will run you up and down to Pena Palace. They charge around €5 per person, with the advantage that they will drop you wherever you want. It’s a good idea to negotiate with them upfront about what you want to see, and where you want them to take you.
OUR RECOMMENDED WAY TO GET AROUND ON YOUR LISBON TO SINTRA DAY TRIP
If you enjoy walking, but still want to have time to see the sights, we suggest you get a tuk-tuk to the lower entrance of the Pena Palace. Then walk up to the palace through the gardens, which are beautiful. After visiting the Pena Palace, walk down the hill to collect the other sights in the order we have listed them above.
This way you’ll be walking downhill most of the day.
If you are less keen on walking, buy a hop-on-hop-off ticket for the 434 tourist bus to make your way between the sights.
As Sintra can get very busy, especially during peak summer months, try to arrive at the lower entrance to Pena Palace when the gates open in the morning.
THINGS TO DO IN SINTRA / LISBON TO SINTRA DAY TRIP
1 – PALÁCIO NACIONAL DE PENA AND GARDENS
Pena Palace was originally a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary, then a monastery in the 15th century. It was devastated by the earthquake in the 18th century when it was purchased by King Ferdinand II who converted it into his summer palace.
The old monastery was rebuilt along with a new European grand house surrounded by the battlements, watchtowers, and drawbridge of a faux castle. Islamic and Medieval Christian influences are spread throughout the palace with tiles, vaulted arches and intricate carvings dominating the interior.
With a bright yellow monastery, a rustic red castle and ornate battlements the whole sight could easily feel gaudy, tacky and cheap. It’s all of those things, but also the perfect place to practise taking a selfie.
Ferdinand also meticulously landscaped most of the grounds which is a beautiful spot to stroll around.
HOW TO GET TO PENA PALACE
Take a tuk-tuk or a bus from Sintra Train Station to the lower entrance of Pena Palace, then walk up through the grounds to the palace. The queues are shorter at the lower entrance than at the main entrance and the walk up through the interesting flora and Moorish decorated architecture is open of the best things to do in Sintra. Allow around 1 hour and 30 minutes to explore the grounds and palace.
TICKETS FOR PENA PALACE & GARDENS
The garden are open from 9am to 7pm with last admission at 6pm. The palace is open from 9:30am to 6:30pm with last admission at 6pm.
Entrance tickets for both the palace and gardens are €14 for adults; €12.50 for kids (6-17 years) and seniors (over 65). Family tickets are €49.
Timed entrance tickets must be booked in advance (online discounts applies)
2 – CASTELO DOS MOUROS (CASTLE OF THE MOORS)
Castelo dos Mouros sits on another rocky peak of the hill just a few hundred meters away. It was built in the 8th and 9th centuries by the Moors (Muslims that occupied the Iberian Peninsula at the time). Its vantage point allowed it to control the Atlantic coast and the inlet to Lisbon. But it was not enough, and after Lisbon fell in 1147 the castle was captured to the Christian King Alfonso Henriques.
In 1755 an earthquake destroyed much of the castle leaving the tower in ruins. But just as he had renovated the monastery, in 1839 King Ferdinand II began restoring the castle as well. He rebuilt the chapel, repaired the walls and reforested the area.
The castle is now a sight to behold with its walls meandering up and down the contours of the hill. Each turret provides excellent views over the surrounding area. Inside a small exhibition explains the Moorish history with artefacts found during various digs.
HOW TO GET TO CASTELO DOS MOUROS
Exit the Pena Palace at the main entrance, turn left on the road and after a couple of minutes, you will arrive at the Moorish Castle ticket office. The castle is another 5-minute walk beyond the ticket office.
TICKETS FOR THE MOORISH CASTLE
The Moorish Castle is open between 9am and 6:30pm with last admission at 6pm.
Entrance tickets cost €8 for adults; €6.50 for children (6-17 years) and seniors; family tickets are €26.
Purchase tickets online to skip the ques and save 5%.
3 – HISTORIC CENTRE OF SINTRA
There is no denying that the centre of Sintra old town can be busy and the restaurants touristy. But it’s not as bad as it could be. Take a stroll along the pedestrianised cobblestone streets and narrow stairways admiring the cute shops, churches and townhouses.
Grab lunch at Tascantiga. They do excellent tapas dishes with a decent wine list on the southern edge of town. If you score a table out the front, it’s a great spot for people-watching. Stop off at Piriquita II for either their excellent pastel de nata or their signature pastry, chocolate salami – a slice of chocolate goodness packed with nuts and biscuits.
After you’ve taken in the old town and energised yourself with some calories, head towards Quinta da Regaleira.
HOW TO GET TO THE HISTORIC CENTRE OF SINTRA
Exit the Moorish castle and head into Sintra old town. Follow the path signed to Sintra which runs down the east side of the hill, then turn left on the main road into Sintra old town. This should take around 20 minutes.
Alternatively, head back to the ticket office at the Moorish Castle and get the 434 hop-on-hop-off bus into town.
4 – QUINTA DA REGALEIRA
What Ferdinand began; others would follow. Quinta da Regaleira, completed in 1910, is one of the more flamboyant decorative houses and gardens built in the area. The property consists of an ornate palace, a small chapel and an expansive park. The palace is impressive enough with gothic turrets rising into the air and ornate features carved into the façade. But the real attraction is the remarkable gardens.
Inspired by the mythological beliefs of the owner, every corner of the park has a hidden gem. Disney-like turrets and castellated walls poke through the trees. Grottos, fountains, ponds and benches lurk in the undergrowth.
The star attraction of Quinta da Regaleira is the deep well that tunnels into the ground with steps spiralling down to the bottom. It’s worth waiting behind the hordes of people trying desperately to snap selfies in very poor light. A secret tunnel takes you over a cute bridge to exit the well.
HOW TO GET TO QUINTA DA REGALEIRA
Quinta de Regaleira is a short 12-minute walk along the main road from the centre of Sintra old town. Allow at least 1 hour and 30 minutes to explore the house and grounds.
TICKETS FOR QUINTA DA REGALERIA
Quinta da Regaleira is open from 10am to 6:30pm with last entry at 5:30pm.
Entrance costs €5 per person, however children under 5 and seniors over 80 have free entry, although a ticket is still required.
Purchase skip-the-line tickets online.
5 – PALÁCIO NACIONAL DE SINTRA
To finish your one-day in Sentra itinerary, you may just have enough time to look around the inside of the National Palace of Sintra. The National Palace was originally one of two Moorish castles in Sintra (the other Castelo do Mouros at the top of the hill). But nothing built during Moorish time has survived.
Instead, what stands here now was constructed by Christian kings in the 15th and 16th centuries. It still contains significant Gothic, Renaissance and Moorish influences. It has been inhabited for much of the last 500 years, and it’s currently the best-preserved medieval royal residence in Portugal.
HOW TO GET TO PALÁCIO NACIONAL DE SINTRA
Exit the grounds of Quinta da Regaleira and make the 12-minute return walk back into Sintra town to Palácio Nacional de Sintra.
When you are finished looking around the National Palace either take the 10-minute walk back to Sintra Train Station or hop on the tourist bus one last time.
TICKETS FOR THE NATIONAL PALACE OF SINTRA
The Palácio Nacional De Sintra and the gardens are open from 9:30am to 6:30pm with last admission at 6pm.
Entrance tickets cost €10 for adults; €8.50 for children (6-17 years) and seniors; a family ticket costs €33. Entrance to the gardens is free.
Book your tickets online in advance to skip the queue and save 5%.
WHERE TO STAY IN SINTRA
If you decide to turn your day trip to Sintra into an overnight stay, there are several great places in the centre of town allowing for a late-night stroll back from a local wine bar. Alternatively, a rural escape in the mountains is a great way to explore the stunning scenery of the area.
If you decide to head back to Lisbon, our accommodation suggestions are in our 3-day Lisbon itinerary.
ORGANISED SINTRA DAY TRIP FROM LISBON
If you’ve enjoyed too much of the excellent Lisbon nightlife, you might like to have things taken care of for you. This tour includes all the best things to do in Sintra, plus a few stops along the Portuguese coast. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy a Sintra day trip while having all the logistics taken care of for you.
SINTRA TOUR / BOOK HERE
ENTRANCE TICKETS FOR THE SINTRA CASTLES
Queues at Sintra can be long, so we recommend buy your tickets in advance online to skip the queues. Use our links below (which will also include a 5% discount) to save the tickets to your smartphone.
Please note, time might be tight to complete our one-day Sintra itinerary, so consider buying tickets for the Sintra National Palace when you get there, in case you run out of time.
Here are some more of our guides from this sun-soaked corner of Europe
Our 3-day Lisbon itinerary
The very best things to do in Lisbon
Our favourite things to do in Seville
The best things to do in Cádiz
The best things to do in Córdoba
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