Sintra, the fairytale UNESCO village, a stone’s throw away from Lisbon is, without any doubt, the most popular day trip from the sunny Portuguese capital. And there’s a good reason for this! Sintra enchants its visitors with jaw-droppingly pretty castles, idyllic mansions and exotic gardens. It’s also a great place for hiking and a picnic in the middle of lush forests. Almost incredible, all these gardens and misty dense forests can be found just outside the hustle and bustle of Lisbon.
Is a one day trip from Lisbon to Sintra enough?
Let’s set this straight from the beginning. You’ve probably already seen the picturesque pictures of Pena Palace on top of a hill and of the masonic well at Quinta da Regaleira. But this is just the top of the iceberg. There are tens of castles, villas and beautiful monasteries in Sintra. Some of them can be accessed by public transport, some not.
If you only have one day in Sintra, you’ll have to set off early, set priorities and decide from start on the attractions you want to visit. For most, these will be the two already mentioned. If you pack for a picnic from home and skip lunch, there will be enough time for one more palace. And trust me, there are enough of them to be worth this tiny effort. Planning ahead is the key to having a successful Sintra day trip from Lisbon.
However, if you think two or three castles are not enough and want to visit more or stay longer in the luxurious garden, a two-days trip is definitely worth it. This will also give you enough time to see the farther away castles, that are rarely visited, not because they are less picturesque, but because of the distance.
Tips for visiting Sintra on a day trip from Lisbon:
- Pack at least 1.5l of water per person and a small picnic for lunch.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes with slip-resistant soles.
- Depending on the season, pack sun cream and a summer-hat or a packable rain jacket.
- SET OFF EARLY!
- Buy the tickets for the castles you plan to visit in advance online, in order to avoid time loss and queues.
- Avoid weekends, if possible.
- Don’t forget your camera at home!
Can a Lisbon to Sintra day trip be combined with a visit to Cabo da Roca or Cascais?
It depends. For me, the answer is no. There are so many things to do in Sintra and the atmosphere is so pleasant that I found it hard to leave even after one full day. But if you’re keen on being beaten by the strong wind at Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in Europe, or walking along the beaches in Cascais, it might work in summer, as the days are longer and the castles get closed early. However, I wouldn’t skip a dinner in Sintra with a view for any of them.
What I would encourage is a separate day trip to Cascais with a visit to Cabo da Roca. There are also some guided trips that might be a better option for this kind of combinations like this one: Lisbon: Pena Palace, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, & Cascais Daytrip.
How to get from Lisbon to Sintra on a day trip?
Lisbon to Sintra day trip by train
The castles of Sintra are just a 40-minutes train ride away from Lisbon. Therefore, this is the easiest and quickest way to get from Lisbon to Sintra on a day trip. No motorway fees, no traffic congestions and no searching for rare parking spots. Hop on the train at the Rossio or Oriente train stations and get off at the last stop, Sintra Station. This is a line also used by locals for commuting between the two locations.
Current schedule can be found online, but they usually run all day long till midnight once or twice an hour. The train ticket only costs 2.25€ for a single ticket or 1.90€ if you have a Viva Viagem Transport card, which you would better get anyway if you’re visiting Lisbon. The rechargeable card only costs 0.5€. Only by traveling to Sintra and back you already recover its price. When traveling by bus/tram/ferry in Lisbon you also pay less than without it.
Tip: top the Viva Viagem Transport card at a machine the evening before leaving for Sintra to avoid long lines and be sure you catch the desired train. Tickets can’t be booked online and there is no reserved seating. You just tap on when entering the platform and off when you exit it.
Lisbon to Sintra day trip by guided tour
Guided tours are also a popular options, if you don’t like planning and want to leave it to somebody else. Here are some top-rated choices that mix some of the most beautiful castles:
From Lisbon: Sintra Highlights Full-Day Tour – includes visits to Pena Palaca, Quinta da Regaleira and Montserrate Palace
How to get around in Sintra on a day trip from Lisbon?
Sintra Bus Line 434
The 434 line is the most popular bus route in Sintra. It departs from the train station and makes a loop that includes stops at the Moorish Castle and Pena Palace. An one-trip ticket costs 3.90€, a loop ticket costs 6.90€. But there’s a catch. You can disembark and reboard at each stop, but only in the order: Sintra train station – historical center (Sintra National Palace) – Moorish Castle – Pena Palace – historical center – Sintra train station.
This doesn’t leave much space for flexibility and it leaves Pena Palace for the end, when you’re already tired. Besides, the Moorish castle and Pena Palace are only 350m away and it’s easier to walk than to catch the bus. As this is the most popular bus route, there will always be a line and there’s the risk of it being too full to take it on weekends and in summer.
Sintra Bus Line 435
Line 435 passes by 4 captivating palaces and villas: Sintra National Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, Seteais Palace and Montserrate Palace. The loop ticket costs 5€ and there’s the same rule, you can only visit the palaces in this order. This line offers access to more remote and less visited palaces in Sintra, as well as Colares Winery. I believe it would be a great choice for a second day trip from Lisbon to Sintra, after you have already seen the major sights.
Sintra bus combined ticket
Scotturb also provides a combined ticket that includes both routes, bus 403 to Cabo da Roca and some other local lines for 24 hours. But with so many places to see and so little time, I don’t think this is an adequate option for a day trip from Lisbon to Sintra.
Hop On Hop Off Sintra Bus
There’s a red double-deck bus providing access to the most popular attractions in Sintra on both routes stated before, as well as Cabo da Roca, a beach and Convento dos Cappuchos. It comes with a price tag of 20€. I still can’t see how you can make the best out of it in 24 hours. There are too many places requiring a lot of time to visit. But if you want to see the entire area and one or two main sights, it might be an option.
Sintra walking trails
Sintra is a natural park with many forested areas and trails. Visitors can go from one attraction to the other by walking. Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages. You don’t have to stay in line for the bus to come, but the walk uphill can be strenuous.
What’s the best way to get around Sintra?
There’s no right or wrong way to visit Sintra. Now that you know the options, you can take an adequate decision, that mostly depends on the tourist attractions you want to visit. Read further for more details about the most popular palaces.
We chose to visit Pena Palace, the Moorish Castle and Quinta da Regaleira. They were on two distinct bus routes and two of them were too close to wait for the bus. So it made sense for us to take the bus uphill to Pena Palace in the morning, walk downhill to the other two and spend the evening in the historical center. And this was what we had decided to do the evening before.
But the bill at the fair does not match that at home. Once we got to Sintra at around 8:40 in the morning, we headed right to the bus station to take the bus at 9:15. While waiting there, some minibuses driven by locals stopped and offered a lift up to Pena Palace for 5€. Yes, it’s a bit more than 3.90€. But we didn’t have to wait half an hour more, risk missing the bus, as there were already many people at the bus station and one more train to come and we got to Pena Palace before the crowds. For us, it was a bargain, as we only wanted to take the bus uphill anyway.
From Pena Palace, if you want to go to the Moorish Castle, you should use the exit by the lakes, cross and head forward on the short pedestrian path that leads to the entrance. After visiting the walls, there’s a trail marked with two lines, one red and one yellow that takes you to the crossroad to Quinta da Regaleira in about 20 minutes. From there, in 10-15 minutes you’ll be at Quinta da Regaleira, if this is one of the palaces you want to visit. If not, you can easily get to the town center and Sintra Palace from there.
Good to know:
Even if you get the bus, there’s still a lot of walking involved as the real attraction at Pena Palace, Quinta da Regaleira and Monserrate Palace are actually the gardens. The Moorish Castle is in fact a long wall along which you’ll have to walk and discover the best sights. Any method you choose, there will still be a lot of walking.
Top palaces and castles to visit in Sintra on a day trip from Lisbon
1. Pena Palace (Palacio Nacional da Pena)
Pena Palace, the eye-catching and colorful palace perched on top of the highest hill seems surreal. It’s easy to see from afar why it’s an UNESCO World Heritage site. The Neo-Romantic palace, as it is today, was built the 19th century by King Ferdinand II as a summer residence for the royal family. It was raised on top of the ruins of a previous monastery (Our Lady of Pena). Despite the vivid color, the fantastical castle reminded me of Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle.
There are two kinds of ticket, one gives you access to the gardens and the palace and the second one gives access only to the gardens. We bought the combined ticket and the inside of the palace is pretty impressive also, with all the luxuries you’d expect from an European Palace. Visits of the interior are done in a one-way manner, so it can get pretty crowded.
But if you’re on a budget or don’t have much time, the highlights are the exterior of the palace and the gorgeous gardens. Even if you only have a park only ticket, you can still get close to the palace and access the balconies. Note the main facades geometric details, the scarry Triton above the entrance to the west balcony and the Wall Walk. If you have a full ticket, don’t miss the chapel with a stained glass depicting Vasco da Gama before departing on his first voyage.
The park features statues, ponds, greenhouses, stables and viewpoint. In the expansive gardens, you’ll also find an alpine chalet built of the Countess of Edla. The exterior and the interior are amazing. We especially loved the cork covered walls in some of the rooms. Wandering the Valley of the Lakes in the gardens of Pena Palace is also one of the best things to do in Sintra.
Tips for visiting Pena Palace:
- To visit Pena Palace and gardens you should allow at least 2-3 hours.
- Avoid peak-times by visiting early in the morning. The park opens at 9, half an hour before the palace, which gives you enough time to take a look around, take some pictures and get to the entrance, which is 10-15 minutes uphill.
- As the day will include a lot of walking, you might want to take the Pena bus, that facilitates access from the entrance to the palace and to the main sights in the gardens.
- If the next attraction on your list is the Moorish Castle, exit via the Lakes Entrance then cross and walk up the pedestrian route for 5-10 minutes.
- Buy your Pena Palace and Park entrance ticket in advance here!
2. The Moorish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros)
The castle was built by the Moors in the 8th-10th centuries for defensive reasons. From up high, they were able to control the entire region and see at any time if there were any invaders coming. This is not a traditional castle as we’d usually expect, but more of a wall-castle style like the one in San Marino. It does incorporate the ruins of a cistern and some ancient chapels and tombs, but its main attraction are the unbeatable views of Sintra. The ticket gives access to the grounds, towers and walls. Walk along them and enjoy the best views over Sintra, Pena Palace and the Atlantic coastline.
Tips for visiting the Moorish Castle:
- Allow 1-2 hours.
- Wear good walking shoes as the wall path is rocky and uneven.
- Use sun cream and a hat, as there’s no shade on the walls.
- If your next stop is in the historical center of Quinta da Regaleira, go to the right onto the Pedestrian Path marked with two horizontal lines (red and yellow). It should take around 30-40 minutes to get either to the town center or Quinta da Regaleira. There’s a crossroad where you’ll have to decide.
- Buy your entrance ticket to the Moorish Castle in advance here!
3. Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira was named after Viscountess of Regaleira, its original owner. Built at the beginning of the 20th century, the complex encompasses a beautifully decorated chapel, a villa, greenhouses and extravagant gardens with fountains, ponds, mini-castles and an impressive network of tunnels that can be explored by visitors. The most known feature of the estate is an Initiation Well with a spiral staircase. But few know that there’s actually a second well that can only be accessed through the tunnels.
Tips for visiting Quinta da Regaleira:
- Allow 2-3 hours to discover the hidden caves, azulejos, waterfalls and a second well.
- Have a headlight on you, in case you’ll be tempted to explore the caves and tunnels.
- Use the map provided at the entrance as there are many hidden places you won’t be able to find without it.
- After exploring Quinta da Regaleira, there’s a 10-15 minutes walk along the street to the historical center and National Palace of Sintra.
- Buy your ticket in advance here! We didn’t find this option for Quinta da Regaleira before going there and stood half an hour in line.
4. National Palace of Sintra (Palacio Nacional de Sintra)
The National Palace of Sintra is the iconic building in the town center topped by two twin cone chimneys. In the 10th century, the first to build a palace in the area were the Moors. But the original building was destroyed and rebuilt over the years until it got to the aspect it has today. The Palace of Sintra was used as a royal residence from the 15th to the 19th century and displays all the luxury and comfort of those times.
Tips for visiting the National Palace of Sintra:
- Allow one-two hours.
- Being in the heart of the town center, it doesn’t have the lush gardens that make the other palaces so spectacular, but they can be visited for free until 6:30pm.
- Last admission in the castle or gardens is at 6pm.
- There’s a 15 minutes walk from the National Palace of Sintra to the train station.
- Buy your ticket for the National Palace of Sintra and Gardens here!
5. Montserrate Palace (Palacio de Monserrate)
Monserrate Palace is a hidden gem on the Sintra Palaces trail. Because it is remote, it attracts fewer crowds. If you are reluctant at the thought of all the people you’ll be piling up with to get the best views of Pena Palace and Quinta da Regaleira, maybe this is the right palace for you. The palace boasts gorgeous exotic gardens, a fascinating history and extravagant architecture and details. The palace itself was built on the site of an ancient chapel and combines Romantic, Islamic and Neo-Gothic features. While the gardens hide ponds, a rosarium and an incredible number of exotic plants.
Tips for visiting Montserrate Palace:
- Allow two hours for the eccentric palace and subtropical gardens.
- Monserrate Palace is 3.5km away from the center of Sintra. The best way to get there is by bus line 435. But remember the loop rule.
- Last admission is at 5pm.
- Buy your ticket for Montserrate Palace and Park online in advance here!
Other palaces, castles and monasteries in Sintra you can visit:
The castle and palaces above are ideal for first-time visitors who want to see the highlights of Sintra. However, there is much more to see in the area. If you have a car and stay longer in Sintra or plan on doing multiple day trips from Lisbon to Sintra, you might want to check this attractions:
- Seteais Palace
- Colares Winery
- Queluz National Palace and Gardens
- Convent of the Capuchos
- Villa Sassetti
Historical center of Sintra
In the evening, after seeing the castles and palaces you chose, take a much deserved break in the town center. The historical town has a beautiful architecture, with unique buildings and features. Right in front of the National Palace of Sintra, there’s a pretty square with pastel colored buildings. Take a look at the city hall, with its ornate clock tower and tiled roof. There’s also a lovely park with status and a pond right in the middle of the town.
Just across the street from Sintra Palace there’s the most famous pastry in Sintra, Casa Piriquita. Make sure to take a number before queueing. Once you get at the counter, order some queijadas and travesseiros. They are known as the best.
Raiz Restaurant and Terrace
We couldn’t decide for any of the restaurants in the city center. There were more or less the same offers and the plates looked blend and unappealing. We did find one terrace that looked nice, but apparently everyone had the same tastes, as it was overcrowded and no seats were available. It was just outside the main square, right next to the shop with white and black cow, on the sidewalk, in case you’re wondering. But I don’t remember its name.
On our way to the train station we got in front of Raiz restaurant and terrace, took a look at the menu and setting and decided to try it. And we’re glad we did. They offer traditional dishes with a modern touch, but you also find nachos or beef burgers. The view over Sintra Palace is also spectacular.
Tip: Try their sangrias. The red one is prepared with ginjinha and the white one with port wine.
How much does a day trip from Lisbon to Sintra cost?
Tickets are required to enter most of the palaces and castles in Sintra. Although they are not individually expensive, the costs add up quickly. There are some combined tickets that give access to several attractions for a discounted price, but they might not include the castles you are set to see.
Discounts for youths, seniors and families of four are provided at most attractions. If this is the case, check the official websites. Here is a list of undiscounted prices in 2022 for the most visited palaces and castles in Sintra:
Pena Park Only Tickets – 7.5€
Sintra Combined Ticket – only some of the sights are eligible for this kind of tickets. If you buy tickets for Pena Palace, Moorish Castle and Palace of Sintra at the same time, there’s a 6% discount. If you choose two out of three, there’s a 5% discount. However, I couldn’t find any site offering to buy this in advance. As time is limited and we didn’t want to look for tickets on site, I didn’t look further into it.
Cost of our day trip from Lisbon to Sintra for two persons:
- Lisbon to Sintra train and back: 7.6€
- Sintra train station to Pena Palace minibus: 10€
- Pena Palace and Park Ticket: 28€
- Moorish Castle: 16€
- Coffee at the Moorish Castle: 4€
- Quinta da Regaleira: 20€
- Piriquita pastries: 5€
- Dinner at Raiz: 26.5€
Total Spent on our day trip from Lisbon to Sintra = €117.1(58.5€ per person).
Cool and unusual hotel picks in Sintra
If you have longer time at your disposal and can remain overnight in Sintra, it would be ideal to stay in the historical city or close to the train station. There are bars, restaurants and bus stations to the main sights. However, there is one exception, in case you want to splurge and stay in one of the beautiful palaces in Sintra. It is possible, as Seteais Palace has been converted into a hotel:
- Casa Azul Hostel
- MouraLua Guesthouse
- Casas da Biquinha
- HappySintra GuestHouse by Casa do Preto
- Seteais Palace
Final thoughts on a day trip from Lisbon to Sintra
Sintra is less than an hour by train from Lisbon, but couldn’t feel more different. It seems out of a storybook or Disney movie. Forested hills hide fairytale royal retreats, misty gardens and centuries-old monasteries. Sintra’s beauty has enchanted generations of royals and nobles. It inspired Lord Byron to call it the most beautiful village in the world. And all this beauty is now accessible to all of us on an affordable day trip from Lisbon to Sintra.
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