A trip to Sintra is a must if you’re visiting nearby Lisbon and have time to spare. Throughout Sintra’s long history, kings, conquerors and millionaires have built magnificent castles, palaces and estates that today are some of the country’s most popular tourist attractions.
It’s easy to understand why Sintra has appealed to so many over the years, not just for its strategic location only a short distance from Lisbon, but for its cool climate and lush forests. The palaces and estates are like something out of a fairytale: sumptuous, extravagant, and romantic, and the old town is an attraction in itself.
Planning a trip to Sintra from Lisbon is simple and incredibly worthwhile, so keep reading to find out everything you need to know.
Is a Trip to Sintra Worthwhile?
People often wonder if Sintra is worth visiting, especially if they are only spending a few days in Lisbon. There are so many things to do in Lisbon that we wouldn’t recommend making the trip to Sintra unless you have a bit more time to spare. Sintra is a full-day trip and is located around 30km west of the capital, so you’ll want plenty of time to enjoy it. Plus, it can be kind of exhausting!
That being said, a trip to Sintra is well worth it. There is so much to see and do there, and if you have lots of time, you could explore the wider municipality and even head to the beaches! In fact, we would highly recommend staying the night in Sintra and splitting your itinerary over two days.
Getting to Sintra from Lisbon
The easiest way to get to Sintra from Lisbon is taking the train from Lisbon’s Rossio station (warning: it doesn’t look like a station, hence the photo below). A return ticket will cost €5 plus €0.50 if you don’t already have a Viagem card. Trains run every half hour and take either 40 minutes or 54 minutes depending on the service. The train terminates at Sintra.
Check the latest train times and fares here.
You can also drive to Sintra, but parking is expensive and the local government is discouraging private cars around the historic centre. Tuk tuk and taxi drivers aren’t too keen on private drivers either and may tell you not to drive or park in certain areas. The road up to Castelo dos Mouros and Pena Palace is long and winding, so we would ultimately recommend taking public transport instead of a private car.
Things To Do In Sintra
There’s so much to see in Sintra! The whole area is home to numerous castles, palaces and extravagant buildings built over centuries, each offering a unique insight into various epochs of Portugal’s history.
Palácio da Pena, or Pena Palace, is the most famous tourist attraction in Sintra. Famed for its brightly coloured facades and perched impossibly high up in Sintra’s hills, Pena Palace was acquired by Ferdinand II (consort to Portugal’s Queen Maria II) in 1838 and transformed from a ruined monastery into what it is today: a whimsical, romantic fairytale palace.
Tickets cost €14 and will get you access to the palace and its beautiful surrounding park. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time (or energy) to explore the park, but it could be a wonderful way to spend a few hours if you’re a nature lover. A ticket to the park on its own costs just €7.50.
Castle of the Moors
The Castelo dos Mouros, or the Castle of the Moors, was founded during the Moorish occupation in the 10th Century and conquered by Christian forces in 1147. It really is a spectacular sight with its granite walls snaking up and down across impossible heights. You’ll see the ruins as the train pulls into Sintra station – a real ‘wow’ moment.
This was our favourite attraction in Sintra as it was much quieter than the other sites and we enjoyed the incredible views.
A ticket costs €8.
National Palace of Sintra
You’ll find Palácio Nacional de Sintra in the heart of Sintra’s old town, and you can see its towering white walls from miles away. It looks quite unassuming from the outside – more like a large estate than a palace – but it’s really quite magnificent inside.
The palace was occupied for many centuries, first by Moorish rulers then by various members of Portugal’s ruling family until it was claimed by the First Republic in 1910. It’s quite large, so leave yourself a few hours to wander around the beautiful rooms, chapels and gardens.
A ticket costs €10.
Quinta da Regaleira
This estate may be one of the most bizarre places we’ve ever been. Set amongst grand, historic palaces in Sintra’s sprawling hills, Quinta da Regaleira looks like a haunted gothic mansion – something straight out of Wuthering Heights or Dracula – except that it’s not centuries old. This strange place was actually built from 1904–1910, the brain child of Brazilian-Portuguese businessman Carvalho Monteiro and was designed by Luigi Manini.
The estate features many buildings and structures that reportedly represent various pieces of symbolic imagery. It’s really, really strange, and all we can say is you wouldn’t want to be there at night.
Quinta da Regaleira sort of gave us the creeps, so we didn’t stay for long – but you might love it as so many visitors do! Let us know what you think.
A ticket costs €8.
Wander Around Sintra’s Old Town
With its winding streets and quaint shop fronts, exploring Sintra’s old town is the perfect way to round out your day trip to Sintra – or, if you’re staying overnight, you can spend the evening roaming the streets when they’re tourist-free! There are lots of restaurants, cafes, bakeries and fascinating shops, so make sure you leave some time to explore before hopping on the train back to Lisbon.
Try a Travesseiro at Piriquita
While you’re wandering around the old town, stop by Piriquita for a travesseiro. These are Sintra’s very own pillow-shaped puff pastry treats filled with almond cream (and yes the word ‘travesseiro’ means pillow in Portuguese).
Hollie (Nick couldn’t think of anything worse than eating almond-anything) heard good things about Piriquita – it was founded in 1862 so they must have their recipe pretty refined! Of course, there are tons of other bakeries around town, so be sure to check them out too.
Getting Around Sintra
When you leave the train station, you’ll be greeted by lots of tuk tuk and taxi drivers wanting to sell you tours and transport around Sintra. This might be a good idea if you have limited time or want to personalise your tour, but we’d recommend sticking to public transport.
Turn right out of the station and walk down the road to the bus stop where you can hop on the 434 bus (€6.90 for a round ticket) which will take you from the station to the old town where you’ll find Quinta da Regaleira and the National Palace of Sintra, then up the winding roads to Castelo dos Mouros and Palácio da Pena.
Bear in mind that once you get up the hill, you can walk between Castelo dos Mouros and Palácio da Pena. We made the mistake of getting off the bus at the castle first, which was lovely and quiet, then walking up to Pena Palace which was packed. You’re best to do it the other way around if you get to Sintra early enough.
Staying in Sintra
Every time we visited Sintra, we told ourselves that we’d stay overnight on our next trip. Not only is Sintra a wonderful town to spend quality time exploring, but it must be great to experience the town in the evening when all the tourists have disappeared back to Lisbon.
There is a range of hostels, guesthouses and hotels in or very near the old town, which is close to the station and where all the restaurants are. As ever, we’d recommend searching for a deal on Booking.com.
A Trip to Sintra from Lisbon
We hope this article provides everything you need to know about planning a trip to Sintra from Lisbon. This unique, historic town will have you wanting to return again and again, and that’s hardly surprising when there’s so much to see, do, photograph and learn. If you have any questions, pop them below!
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