The Perfect Sintra Day Trip from Lisbon

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by Emily Marty

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The charming, historic resort town of Sintra is located just a short distance away from Lisbon. Boasting incredible landmarks, a quieter pace of life, and stunning views of the surrounding hills and forests, it’s no surprise that making a Sintra day trip from Lisbon is something so many visitors to the capital of Portugal a priority. 

Fortunately, spending one day in Sintra is easy, thanks to how well the town is served by public transit links and its robust tourist infrastructure. If you’re planning on visiting and are looking for inspiration to help you put the ideal itinerary for your day trip together, then read on!

Getting from Lisbon to Sintra

Being located just outside of Lisbon, there is a number of ways that you can easily travel to Sintra. 

By Organised Tour 

One way to make your trip as smooth and straightforward as possible is by heading there as part of an organised tour. 

Most tours such as this small group tour will include visits to the iconic Pena Palace and time to explore the historical centre of Sintra.

Other tours, like this full-day tour, incorporate a stop in the idyllic fishing village of Cascais, which is located a short drive away from Sintra, as part of their itinerary. It can be incredibly worth it to visit Sintra and Cascais in one day if you’re short on time. You can also visit on a private guided tour if you prefer.

Pena Palace in Sintra
Pena Palace in Sintra

By Train 

Probably the easiest and most convenient way for you to make your way to Sintra from Lisbon is by train. There are a number of different services that you can take to the resort town, with departures from both Rossio Station and Oriente Station in the heart of Lisbon’s Baixa district. 

There are trains leaving for Sintra from both of these stations roughly every half hour, with extra departures during the rush period.

Costing just a few euros one way, travelling by rail is an inexpensive and relatively quick means of making a day trip to Sintra from Lisbon; you can expect to arrive in Sintra in about 30-40 minutes. The train is included if you buy the Lisbon Card which can be worth it if you plan on visiting a lot of attractions.

Another major advantage of travelling to Sintra by train (or, rather, simply not getting there by car) is that it means you can avoid trying to find parking in the town, as well as having to drive there. Without trying to sound dramatic, driving in Sintra can honestly be a bit of a nightmare, especially if you don’t know the town all that well. 

The streets and roads in Sintra are narrow and steep in many places, and some of them also only run one way. What’s more, you’ll often find that roads are closed in the centre of the town without warning, which can make getting from point A to point B incredibly inconvenient and time-consuming, even if it’s only a short distance to cover as the crow flies. 

And, while free parking is available in central Sintra, it’s very limited and tends to be hard to come by, unless you arrive early in the morning.

Take the train and you don’t need to worry about any of this – National Palace of Sintra is about 20 minutes from the station and the Pena Palace is also located a 30-minute walk away from the Sintra train station, so getting the train from Lisbon to Sintra is more than viable.

However, you can also take bus 434 directly to the Pena Palace to avoid the strenuous uphill walk – it leaves from the Sintra train station. Of course, taxis are widely available in Sintra if you’d prefer not to spend the entire day walking. 

One thing to keep in mind is that, if you take the train to Sintra, you’ll want to get off at Sintra station, rather than Portela de Sintra, as this station is much further out of the town centre. You can easily get your train tickets at the station you’ll be departing from in Lisbon from the kiosk machines you’ll find there; there’s really no need to purchase them in advance.

Rossio Train Station in Lisbon
Rossio Train Station in Lisbon

By Bus

Another option for getting to Sintra from Lisbon is by taking the bus. While still relatively affordable, travelling to the town by bus generally costs more than it does to get there via train, and the journey itself tends to be somewhat longer, too.

While probably a less practical option on a number of fronts than travelling by train, one advantage that getting to Sintra by bus shares with local rail services is that you won’t have to worry about driving around in the town once you’ve arrived or needing to find parking.

However, if you have the opportunity to take the train there, we’d generally recommend doing so over travelling by bus. 

By Car 

If you’ve decided to rent a car for your trip to Lisbon, then you’ll likely be considering driving from the Portuguese capital to the idyllic town of Sintra.

Making the journey by car certainly has plenty of advantages; not only do you not need to worry about sticking to public transit timing or timetables, but you can leave directly from your accommodation, rather than needing to make it to one of Lisbon’s train stations or bus terminals. 

What’s more, the drive to Sintra from Lisbon is generally very quick, with the trip taking as little as 25-30 minutes if the traffic isn’t too bad. You can simply follow the A37 highway for the bulk of the trip. With that being said, we’d strongly encourage you to try to find parking as soon as you arrive and explore the town on foot or via taxi if you’d like to avoid walking. 

This is because, as mentioned earlier, driving in Sintra can be something of a challenge, especially if you aren’t especially familiar with the layout of the town.

The roads are narrow and steep in places, and you’ll likely find yourself getting lost more times than you can count. You’ll find parking in the centre of the town, near the train station, and towards the outskirts. 

If you need to rent a car for your trip to Portugal, you can browse which compares prices across several car rental companies.

Castelo de los Mouros
Castelo de los Mouros in Sintra

1-Day Sintra Itinerary 

Below, we’ve compiled a list of the landmarks and sites that we suggest you try to see if you visit Sintra as a day trip.

It’s worth pointing out that this Sintra itinerary is a bit ambitious – you’ll likely want to choose a handful of the attractions in Sintra on the list to check out, rather than trying to see them all. 

While it’s certainly possible to visit all of the following attractions in a single day, you’re probably less likely to enjoy your trip to Sintra doing so than if you were to pick a select few, especially given that most of them are palaces and castles and offer visitors fairly similar experiences. 

The Pena Palace and Castelo dos Mouros are both located to the south of Sintra, while the remainder of the attractions on this list are north of the town.

So, we suggest that if you’re planning on visiting both of these sites, that you do so one after the other, before heading back into Sintra town to explore everything to the north. You can also take a walking tour in the town to explore with a tour guide and learn more about the history of Sintra.

Pena Palace 

The outlandish and bizarre Pena Palace is regarded as one of the best-preserved and most impressive palaces in all of Europe, so it’s not surprising that it attracts so many visitors each year.

While it has been in use in some capacity since the 1400s, the palace as we see it today wasn’t built until it was commissioned in the 19th century by King Consort Ferdinand II. 

Today, the palace is renowned for representing an almost chaotic mishmash of different architectural styles and approaches all juxtaposed with one another. It’s also a fantastic place to take in some truly beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. You can pre-book tickets here.

Palacio da Pena
Palacio da Pena

Castelo dos Mouros

Found near the Pena Palace, the older Castelo dos Mouros was built back in the 8th and 9th centuries by Islamic forces who were present in Portugal at the time.

This mysterious military outpost has largely been reclaimed by nature since then, making it the perfect place to take in and truly marvel at the relationship between mankind and the natural world. 

And, much like Pena Palace, the Castelo dos Mouros offers incredible views of the landscape below. You can pre-book tickets here.

Quinta da Regaleira (Initiation Well)

Another of the remarkable palaces that can be found in Sintra is the Quinta da Regaleira, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located just outside the centre of the town. This old estate features some absolutely jaw-dropping architecture, and is also famed for its beguiling Initiation Well. 

At the time that the Quinta da Regaleira was being built, Sintra was at the forefront of Romantic architecture in Europe, and the style and outlook of the estate both reflect that.

Interestingly, many of the design choices made when constructing the estate are purported to have had symbolic meaning behind them; the nine flights of stairs that run alongside the larger of the two Initiation Wells is thought to represent the Knights Templar, which had nine original founders, or the nine circles of Hell in Dante’s ‘Inferno.’

The Initiation Wells are said to have been used in initiation rituals and are flanked by tunnels and caves, making visiting them, as well as the Quinta da Regaleira as a whole, a unique and somewhat spooky experience. You can pre-book tickets here.

Initiation Well of Quinta da Regaleira
Initiation Well of Quinta da Regaleira

Palacio Nacional de Sintra (Sintra National Palace) 

If you’re eager to sample some authentic, Portuguese-style architecture and design while in Sintra, then the National Palace is a fantastic place to do just this. The charming, gothic facade of the palace complex conceals a lavish interior, much of which is lined by traditional Portuguese azulejo tiles. 

And, boasting heavy influence from the Islamic world, the architecture of the National Palace is truly emblematic of the different cultures and societies that have made Sintra their home at one time or another.

Described as one of the best-preserved Portuguese medieval royal residences, the National Palace is an absolute must-visit for fans of history and architecture in particular. You can pre-book tickets here.

Palacio Nacional de Sintra
Palacio Nacional de Sintra

Seteais Palace 

The neoclassical Seteais Palace was built at the end of the 1700s for the Dutch consul in Portugal at the time, Daniel Gildemeester. Since then, there have been a number of periods of work on the palace, resulting in different wings and sections being built at different times.

The Portuguese government acquired Seteais Palace officially in the 1940s, and, not long after that, it began operating as a luxury hotel, though great lengths have been taken to preserve the original character and design of the building. 

Something especially noteworthy about Seteais is its extensive grounds and gardens, which are well worth exploring during your visit. While not quite as famous as Pena Palace or Castelo dos Mouros, Seteais is certainly impressive in its own right; we’d especially recommend visiting if you’re a fan of newer styles of architecture. 

This is a great place to end your day trip and hop on the train back to Lisbon if you’re travelling via public transport.

Gardens of Seteais Palace
Gardens of Seteais Palace

Have 2 Days in Sintra?

If you have more than a day to devote to visiting Sintra, then consider heading to Monserrate.

As ostentatious as it is impressive, Monserrate is an attraction that you’re unlikely to forget anytime soon. It practically screams exotic; once the summer residence of the Portuguese royal family, Monserrate blends Romantic, neo-Gothic, and Moorish Revival design and features seamlessly. 

Home to its own farmyard, park, and library, there’s a lot more to Monserrate than just the pretty architecture.

You could probably spend a full day here exploring the grounds and taking in the atmosphere; it also tends to be considerably quieter than the more popular attractions of Pena Palace and Castelo dos Mouros.

This makes Monserrate perhaps a better option for travellers looking to beat the crowds or have a peaceful day outside of the hustle and bustle of the Portuguese capital of Lisbon. Monserrate is pretty much the perfect place to do just that. 

And if you want to head to the beach, then not far from Sintra on the coast is the gorgeous Cabo da Roca, an incredible seaside area that is very much worth a visit.

Palace of Monserrate
Palace of Monserrate

Where to Stay in Lisbon

Alegria A Lisbon Boutique Hotel – This mid-range hotel in the centre of Lisbon is a great base for exploring the city and heading out on day trips. They have a number of great rooms to choose from along with an excellent location.

Lisboa Carmo Hotel – Those after a luxury option while visiting Lisbon will love this 4-star hotel in the centre of the Portuguese capital. Perfectly located for exploring the city and going out on day trips, they have a number of great rooms to choose from along with other amenities.

Home Lisbon Hostel – If you’re visiting Lisbon on a budget or are after a lively social atmosphere, then this highly-rated hostel is an excellent choice. They have both private rooms and dorms along with good common areas and self-catering facilities.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Lisbon hotels!

As captivating as it is quaint, Sintra is, despite the fact that it’s so easily accessed from Lisbon, an authentically Portugues and richly characterful town with so much to offer visitors. We hope this guide helps you plan the perfect itinerary for your day trip there! 

Are you planning to visit Sintra? Have any questions about this day trip? Let us know in the comments!

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Emily Marty

Emily is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, she is currently based in the UK. She enjoys exploring Northern & Western Europe and Southeast Asia and has a bit of a thing for islands in particular.

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