Sintra, with its historic palaces, mystical forests, and captivating culture, offers a magical escape just a stone’s throw from Lisbon, Portugal. Many travelers choose to explore this UNESCO World Heritage site as a day trip, and it’s no wonder why. This Sintra day trip itinerary will guide you through the town’s must-see attractions, ensuring you make the most of every moment in this enchanting Portuguese gem.
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Planning a Sintra day trip itinerary can be both exhilarating and daunting, given the town’s many hilltop castles and fairy tale palaces. Located less than an hour from Lisbon, Sintra is a favorite for travelers seeking a brief yet unforgettable escape.
With this guide, you’ll navigate through the town’s must-see attractions, ensuring every moment of your Sintra day trip is well-spent.
The history of Sintra
Many people mistake Sintra for a castle, but Sintra is actually a town with multiple castles and palaces. Sintra is located within the hills of Serra de Sintra, approximately 45 minutes from Lisbon.
Sintra’s cool climate and breathtaking landscapes made it a popular summer retreat for Portuguese royalty and nobility, which is the reason for its many castles and palaces. In the 19th century Sintra became the first center of European Romantic architecture. One of the most iconic landmarks of Sintra, Pena Palace, was restored by Ferdinand II in the 19th century, when he turned a ruined monastery into a castle for Queen Maria II.
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Sintra’s combination of natural beauty and historic significance led to its classification as a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Landscape in 1995.
➳ Read more: How to Travel Portugal by Campervan
Is Sintra worth visiting?
With its majestic palaces, lush gardens, and rich history that spans millennia, Sintra is undoubtedly worth the trip for anyone exploring Lisbon.
Even so, since Sintra is one of the most popular day trips from Lisbon, it can be crowded with tourists, especially during peak season. If you don’t like crowded places, Sintra is not for you. Just to set your expectations straight.
Best time to visit Sintra
With its mild climate and year-round attractions, Sintra can be enjoyed year-round. However, certain periods might offer a more pleasant experience depending on what you’re seeking:
Spring (April to June): Mild temperatures with blooming flowers and lush greenery. While tourist numbers start to increase in spring, it’s generally less crowded than the peak summer months.
Autumn (September to November): Cooler than summer but still pleasant. Post-summer months see a decrease in tourist numbers, especially towards late October and November.
Summer (July to August): Warmer, but due to its higher altitude Sintra is generally cooler and more refreshing than Lisbon. Summer is peak tourist season, so attractions will most likely be crowded.
Winter (December to February): Cooler with occasional rainfall. However, temperatures rarely drop to freezing. Much fewer tourists.
Planning your Sintra day trip itinerary
How to get to Sintra from Lisbon
There are guided tours you can book that will take you from Lisbon and around Sintra for the day (like this one), but I recommend traveling on your own. It’s not hard, and this way, you can explore the attractions at your own pace.
The easiest way to get to Sintra is by train from central Lisbon. Trains run frequently from Lisbon’s Rossio train station to Sintra. You can view the train time table here. Simply enter “Lisboa – Rossio” to “Sintra”.
Tickets are €2,30 (€4.60 return). If you have one, you can also use your Lisbon Card to get to Sintra, Portugal.
Note that the train ticket will take you to the Sintra train station, not to the castles as they are located further up the hill from the train station. More on that later.
You’ll want to catch an early train to Sintra, as both the trains and the town’s attractions tend to get crowded in the middle of the day. Aim to start your day by 9 am at the latest. Take the train all the way to Sintra station, and not Portela de Sintra.
Getting around Sintra
Private drivers: When you arrive at Sintra train station, many private drivers will approach you and offer their services. If you want the flexibility a private driver gives, go for this option. However, whatever tour they offer will likely be overpriced. There are more affordable (and almost as flexible) options.
Tourist bus: The most affordable way to get around is by taking the buses that run regularly to and from Sintra’s most popular attractions. Exit the station and turn right to find the bus stop.
There are two different bus lines, line 434 and 435, both included in the same ticket.
- Line 434 runs: Train Station – National Palace – Moorish Castle – Natural History Museum – Pena Palace
- Line 435 runs: Train Station – National Palace – Quinta Da Regaleira – Seteais Palace – Monserrate Palace
There are different types of bus tickets for these buses, but your best option will be the 24-hour hop-on hop-off ticket for €11.50. This way you can hop on and off whenever and wherever you want, for as many times you want in a day.
Bus tickets can be purchased from the ticket office opposite the train station or on boarding the bus at the train station. The buses run every 15 to 20 minutes starting at 9:15 am to 7:50 pm.
Walking: By now you might wonder why you can’t just walk between all the attractions in Sintra. Walking is of course technically possible, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The distances between the train station and the different castles may not look that far on a map, but walking would mean hiking very steep hills for at least 45 minutes. If you’re only visiting Sintra on a day trip, you don’t want to spend your day hiking.
How to buy tickets to the castles and palaces in Sintra
Each castle in Sintra requires its own ticket. Think about which castles you would like to see and, preferably, buy the tickets in advance as the ticket booths will get busy.
➳ Read more: See full Sintra castle guide
The most popular castle in Sintra, Pena Palace, uses timed tickets for anyone wishing to visit the palace. This means you select the date and time you wish to visit the monument. I highly recommend buying tickets to Pena Palace in advance as they sell out quickly.
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Sintra top attractions
Top attractions in Sintra:
- Pena Palace (Palácio de Pena)
- Monserrate Palace (Palácio de Monserrate)
- National Palace of Sintra (Palácio Nacional de Sintra)
- Quinta da Regaleira (Quinta da Regaleira)
- The Moorish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros)
Lesser-known attractions in Sintra:
- Chalet and Garden of the Countess of Edla
- Convent of the Capuchos
- The Gardens and National Palace of Queluz
- Villa Sassetti
- Portuguese School of Equestrian Art
- Cabo da Roca Lighthouse
- Sanctuary of Peninha
Things to do in Sintra – the ultimate Sintra day trip itinerary
Once you’ve arrived at Sintra train station and got your bus ticket, it’s time to start exploring the castles and palaces!
If you’re in Sintra for 1 day, you won’t have time to visit all the attractions. This Sintra day trip itinerary covers the top attractions – I’d recommend visiting 3 or 4 of them in a day.
1. Pena Palace (Palácio de Pena)
Pena Palace is the most popular attraction in Sintra – and a must-visit!
You’ve probably seen photos of this astonishing red and yellow fairytale castle. It’s located at the highest point in Sintra from where you have a view of the entire region.
Pena Palace was once built in 1854 by the king Ferdinand II, and used as a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family. The castle itself is a beautiful mix of architectural styles, with parts in yellow, red and traditional blue azulejo tiles.
Once you enter the gates you’ll have to walk up a steep path through the castle gardens to reach the castle itself. There’s also an option to buy a ticket for the Pena Palace bus that will take you right to the front door.
Tickets: Pena Palace uses timed tickets, which means you select the date and time you wish to visit the monument. You can purchase tickets at the ticket booths just outside the gate to Pena Palace, but there’s a risk that all time slots will be booked. Therefore, I highly recommend buying tickets to Pena Palace in advance here. When purchasing tickets in advance you also get a 5% discount.
How to get to Pena Palace: 434 bus
Opening hours: 09:00 am – 07:00 pm (the castle 09:30 am – 06:30 pm)
Price for ticket: 14€
2. Monserrate Palace
Another gem of Sintra is Monserrate Palace. Distinct from other Sintran palaces, Monserrate incorporates Gothic, Indian, and Moorish designs, creating a harmonious blend that captivates every visitor.
What’s special about Monserrate Palace is its exotic garden, featuring a rich variety of plants from all around the world.
How to get to Monserrate Palace: 435 bus
Opening hours: 09:00 am – 07:00 pm (the castle 09:30 am – 06:00 pm)
Price for ticket: 8€
3. Quinta da Regaleira
Even though I loved Pena Palace, my favorite spot in Sintra was actually Quinta da Regaleira. This Beauty-and-the-Beast-like palace is a fusion of eccentric and gothic architecture, but what’s so special about this palace is its garden.
Quinta da Regaleira is famous for its labyrinthine gardens riddled with tunnels, caves, and symbolic monuments. Perhaps the most captivating of these is the Initiation Well, a spiral staircase that descends into the earth, echoing the journey of initiation rites in certain ancient traditions.
A quinta is a private estate, and it’s exactly what Quinta da Regaleira is. It’s not owned by Parques de Sintra, the organization that manages all the other sights in Sintra.
Purchase your ticket in advance via Get Your Guide (including audio guide) or at the entrance.
How to get to Quinta da Regaleira: 435 bus, but it’s within walking distance (15 min) from Sintra town
Opening hours: 10:00 am – 06:30 pm (last entrance at 05:30 pm)
Price for ticket: 11€
4. The Moorish Castle
Isolated on one of the peaks in the Sintra Hills, the Moorish Castle is actually not a castle but a fort founded in the 10th century during the period the Moors occupied the area.
Take the stairs up and walk along the walls while enjoying the impressive view.
How to get to the Moorish Castle: 434 bus
Opening hours: 09:30 am – 06:00 pm (last entrance at 05:30 pm)
Price for ticket: 8€
5. National Palace of Sintra (Palacio Nacional de Sintra)
Sintra National Palace, in Portuguese Palacio Nacional de Sintra, stands prominently in the heart of Sintra with its two grand iconic conical chimneys, easily making it one of the town’s most recognizable landmarks.
Dating back to the early days of Moorish rule, the palace has seen a succession of Portuguese monarchs, each contributing to its architectural tapestry. Over the centuries, it has morphed into a beautiful blend of Moorish, Gothic, Manueline, and Renaissance styles. As the oldest royal palace in Portugal, it carries a legacy that spans more than a thousand years.
How to get to the Sintra National Palace: A short walk from the train station
Opening hours: 09:30 am – 06:30 pm (last entrance at 06:00 pm)
Price for ticket: 10€
Sintra day tours
That’s a wrap for things to do in Sintra on a day trip! As mentioned, this blog post focuses on how you can plan a day trip to Sintra independently. If you feel like juggling train tickets and bus timetables isn’t something for you, here are a couple of day tours that would also be a good option:
Sintra day tours
Where to stay in Lisbon?
As I’ve mentioned before I recommend visiting Sintra on a day trip and having your base in Lisbon. See all your hotel options in Lisbon here, or see specific hotel recommendations below.
Hotel recommendations in Lisbon:
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