If you’re visiting Lisbon, you may be considering a day trip to Sintra from Lisbon. Here’s everything you need to know to plan your day trip to Sintra from Lisbon.
- Why is Sintra so famous?
- Is Sintra worth visiting?
- Is Sintra worth visiting in the summer?
- Should I visit Sintra or Cascais?
- What to do in Sintra in half a day?
- What to do in Sintra in one day?
- Do you need to plan your day in Sintra?
- Do you need to book tickets for Pena Palace in advance?
- How far is Sintra from Lisbon?
- How to get around Sintra?
- Can you walk around in Sintra?
- What do you need to know about visiting Sintra?
Why is Sintra so famous?
In the 19th Century, Sintra became somewhat of an epicenter for Romantic European Architecture. Sintra was the home to royalty, King Ferdinand II developed a monastery into what is now Pena Palace and Park. There are grand Quintas, Castles and Palaces dotted around this small town in the mountains above Lisbon. In days gone by, the residencies were visited by the great and good, from royalty to famous writers like Lord Byron.
The entire area was designated as a UNSECO heritage site. And today, the residencies have become popular tourist attractions. There are four main tourist attractions in the area (see info graphic below), but there are also others and the historic centre of Sintra is popular too.
Is it worth taking a day trip to Lisbon from Sintra?
If you love history, culture and architecture, we would definitely recommend visiting Sintra. An easy hop from Lisbon, makes it the perfect day trip too. A small town in the mountains of Portugal, Sintra is packed full of palaces, castles and pretty estates. It is a great place to learn about Portuguese history and get lost in mesmerizing surroundings.
Is Sintra worth visiting in for a day in the summer?
Sintra is worth visiting any time of the year. It’s like traveling to architectural Disney Land. But, in the summer, as with everything in Lisbon, it does get very busy. This is true even if you avoid visiting on the weekend.
In our view, Sintra is worth visiting in the summer. But do keep in mind that parts of it will be crowded. Pena Palace is the busiest attraction, entry into which is allocated by a time slot. However, even then you will be queuing throughout the palace to look around. Personally, if I visited in the peak summer again, I would give Pena Palace a swerve and visit Monserrate Palace or one of the other attractions.
Should I visit Cascias or Sintra?
Sintra and Cascais are very different and offer totally disparate experiences for tourists. Both can be reached from Lisbon easily on the train. You can also get to Sintra from Cascais on the bus, but we wouldn’t recommend trying to see both in the same day.
Cascais is predominately a beach town, with a few different bays to enjoy. There are museums you can visit in Cascais, such as the Condes de Castro Guimares museum. There is also an historic centre with restaurants and bars. In the summer, Cascais is busy and the train from Lisbon to Cascais is especially packed. But most people are on the beach, so you can find some space in museums.
Sintra, is more of a cultural and historical place to visit than Cascais. The main things do to in Sintra, are visit the historical monuments, such as Pena Palace. In the summer and at peak times, Sintra can be particularly busy. Do note, it can also a little cooler than Lisbon and the coast.
Beach lovers looking for a little culture should visit Cascais, wheres anyone looking for a historical site visit should head up the hills to Sintra.
What to on a day trip to Sintra from Lisbon if you only have half a day?
If you only have half a day in Sintra, we recommend that you pick one large attraction to visit or two smaller ones. Pena Palace and Park is the main attraction in Sintra and you could spend half a day visiting that, especially the gardens. As an alternative, you could visit Monserrate Palace, but keep in mind that this is around 6km out of town so you will need transport.
What to do on a day trip to Sintra if you have a full day?
If you have one full day in Sintra, you could visit Pena Palace and Park and one other attraction.
The Moorish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros), is the nearest to Pena Palace. Although we enjoyed the castle, particularly the views, we were a little underwhelmed and only spent around one hour there. There are walls to explore, but no actual castle remains.
Quinta da Regaleira is another great option, a castle and gardens where you can expect to spend around two hours. Or, Monserrate Palace, a romantic palace with botanical gardens. Both attractions can be reached on the 435 bus (not the expensive hop on hop off bus that goes to Pena Palace).
However, if you visit in peak summer, we would suggest combining two of the less popular attractions and not visiting Pena Palace (controversial I know!) Pena Palace has simply become too popular to enjoy properly in the summer.
If you want a more leisurely day, pick one attraction to visit and head down to the historical centre of Sintra for a long lunch!
Do you need to plan your day trip to Sintra from Lisbon?
We recommend making a plan for your day in Sintra before you arrive. There are a number of attractions and it can be overwhelming if you don’t decide your plan before you arrive. Additionally, you will need to carefully consider transport, especially if you find walking up hills challenging. Pena Palace tickets are best booked in advance if you plan to visit in peak season too.
Do you need to book tickets for Pena Palace in advance?
In theory, it is possible to get your tickets on the door at Pena Palace. In reality, we don’t advise doing this. The queues can be very long, especially in summer. Pena Palace also offers an entry time slot, which is very strict. If you left things to the last minute, you may not get the time slot you hope for. Therefore we recommend booking in advance.
We booked with Get Your Guide and found the experience easy and straightforward.
How far is Sintra from Lisbon?
Sintra is 32km from Lisbon and it takes around 35 minutes to drive there, if the traffic is clear. Most people will either drive, get transport with an organized tour or get the train. The train leaves from Lisbon Rossio every 30 minutes and it takes 40 minutes. Just be careful on your return to Lisbon to take the correct train from Sintra, there are a few that go to suburban stations in Lisbon rather than the centre. Look out for signs for “Rossio”.
The train is inexpensive at around 3 Euros each way. You do not need to book ahead, but get to Rossio station for an early train if you want to avoid the peak busy period. The trains run late back into Lisbon, so you don’t need to rush back!
Can you book a tour to do a day trip Sintra from Lisbon?
You can book a tour to Sintra from Lisbon. We wouldn’t normally go for this option, but for visiting Sintra, I think there are considerable advantages to choosing a tour.
For around 65 Euros, you can secure your tickets to Pena Palace, visit the village of Sintra and Quinta da Regaleira. This includes transport to and from Lisbon, a guide and transport in Sintra. It can be complex to coordinate and plan your visit to Sintra, so if you’d rather have everything taken care of for you, we recommend this option.
How to get around Sintra?
You have a few options when it comes to walking around Sintra.
Firstly, you can walk, even to Pena Palace. See detail on this below.
Secondly, you can take the bus from the train station. The 434 bus, although described as a “public bus” is actually a tourist hop on and hop off bus. It costs 12.50 Euros to do this. This seems very expensive and we chose to walk, but do keep in mind that if you are short of time, the bus is the best option.
You can book tickets for the bus in advance, you don’t need to, but this means that you can pay in your home currency rather than Euros.
If you’re going to Quinta da Regaleira or Monserrate Palace, take the 435 bus (not the hop on and hop off one.) This should cost around 3.50 Euros each way.
Finally, there are taxis and tuk tuks everywhere offering rides. This may be the quickest mode of transport, but expect to pay more than the bus.
Can you walk around in Sintra?
You can walk around Sintra. But, do note that the attractions are very spread out and they are all at least 1.5km away from the train station. Monserrate Palace is around 6km from Pena Palace for example. But Pena Palace and Castelo dos Mouros are fairly close to one another (around 10-15 minutes walk.)
If you plan to walk around Sintra, wear comfortable clothing and footwear and expect to climb some hills! There are some footpaths and some cobbled streets to walk along.
What do you need to know about taking a day trip to Sintra from Lisbon
Firstly, we recommend packing food and refreshments for your trip to Sintra. The palace’s and castle do have cafes, but they are overpriced and do not offer much selection. Especially if you are walking a lot around Sintra, you will want to ensure you have enough water.
Secondly, wear comfortable footwear and clothing. In Sintra, even if you take the public transport or taxis, you will still be walking around a fair bit. We recommend wearing comfortable shoes with a good grip that you can walk in. The same goes for clothing, especially if you plan to explore Pena Palace Park or visit the Moorish Castle, practical clothing is better.
Find out more about the best footwear for Lisbon here.
Thirdly, you do need to book tickets ahead during peak season if you want to visit Pena Palace. Although you can queue, you are not guaranteed entry. We recommend booking tickets in advance (see above.)
Finally, do be aware that there are a lot of sellers trying to offer you taxis and other transport outside the attractions and when you arrive to Sintra train station. This can be a little overwhelming when you first get off the train. Don’t feel pressured into accepting transport if you don’t want it.
Where to stay in Sintra?
If you decide to make a few days of your visit to Sintra, where are the best places to stay overnight?
BUDGET: Chalet Saudade is a low key elegant hotel in the heart of the historic centre of Sintra. A perfect place for budget conscious travelers to rest up after a day of sightseeing.
MID RANGE: For mid-range, there are some fab options in Sintra. Sintra Marmoris Palace is an understated but chic hotel a short walk from the historic city centre. A converted 19th century palace with a swimming pool to enjoy. Villa Bela Vista is another hotel, with a slightly cheaper price tag. Also located near to the historic centre.
LUXURY: Although there are some fantastic mid-range properties, there is really only one choice in Sintra if you want a luxury hotel. This is Tivoli Palace, which is part of the leading hotels of the world brand. This is an elegant 5 star property, set in the mountains of Sintra with unique views of both the Moorish Castle and Pena Palace.
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