A guide to visiting magical Sintra from Lisbon!
Only about an hour outside of Lisbon lies the beautiful and mystical town of Sintra. Once the summer playground of the Portuguese royals and nobility, it is a must-see destination and a top day trip from Lisbon, for anyone visiting the city.
Many travellers prefer to simply embark on a Lisbon to Sintra day trip, but in reality, you could quite easily spend a night here. Especially if you want to really get stuck in and visit as many Sintra sights as possible.
If you are wondering exactly how to get to Sintra from Lisbon, then this guide is for you!
In this essential Lisbon to Sintra travel guide, I will outline all the pertinent information you need to know in order to perfectly plan out a day in Sintra!
I remember my very first visit to Sintra, and I can only sum it up with one word: Magical!
From the quaint town centre through to the grand and opulent royal residences that lay scattered along the hills and mountains that surround Sintra. It honestly took my breath away.
It’s a place I love taking family and friends to, for a day trip out of Lisbon. and I feel that no trip to Lisbon is complete without at least paying a visit to this enchanting town.
Sintra is one of those truly romantic destinations, allowing you to escape reality and making you feel as if you’ve just stepped into some lavish bygone era. Wedged on the side of a mountain and surrounded by lush forests, this is a very special place.
The various palaces, castles and estates bear testament to the days that Sintra served as the summer residence of the Portuguese royals. And as a result, today it is classified as a UNESCO heritage site for it’s cultural significance.
With Sintra being situated only about 30 – 40 km’s outside of central Lisbon and easily accessible by a 40 min train ride, it’s a perfect day out of the city!
What to see and do in a day trip to Sintra:
There is an abundance of places to see and things to do in and around Sintra. So much so that you could consider staying over a night or two to really make the best of your visit. With so much on offer, I am only going to focus on, and highlight some of the key attractions that you may want to go see.
Pena Palace is undoubtedly the jewel in Sintra’s crown. Set at the very top of a hill above the main town, this palace is a mixture of different architectural styles and seems like something straight out of a fairy tale.
By far the most famous landmark in Sintra, it has undergone extensive restorations to help restore it to it’s former glory and is worth a visit.
Wandering from room to room, there is so much to look at and admire and the ornate detail is so astonishing. There is also opportunity to enjoy breathtaking views from the several viewing platforms situated around the palace. And to forget to explore and wander through the gardens surrounding the palace.
The Moorish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros) sits atop the same hill as Pena Palace, in fact it’s just round the corner. It was built by the Moors around the 10th century and offers dramatic 360 degree views out over Sintra.
Today though, not much of the castle remains, so it’s a tad misleading to call it a castle as such. But what does remain are the outer walls upon which you can walk along.
And it’s exactly on top of these walls that you can get incredible views over Sintra that even stretch out to the Atlantic Ocean.
If you’re planning to head up to visit both the Castle as well as Pena Palace, then get there early and start with the castle, thereafter take the short walk to the Palace and explore further.
Back in the historic town centre, you will find the National Palace (or Palácio Nacional). You cannot miss it as it has two giant chimneys jutting out from the palace.
It is regarded as one of the most well-preserved former royal residences in Portugal, having been inhabited for many centuries.
It’s absolutely worth checking out. A highlight being some of the tiles and ceiling work which is just stunning!
Quinta da Regaleira:
This has to be one of my personal favourite sites in Sintra.
It’s located just outside the town centre (about a 15 min moderate walk) and is considered one of the top sights to visit. Whilst the palace on the property isn’t the biggest one in the area, it’s very well preserved and worth a visit.
But the real showstopper is definitely the palace grounds & gardens. It is a sprawling estate that features different gardens, hidden walkways, towers, lakes and the most notable attraction being the by-now famous Masonic Initiation Well.
The estate really came to life and was developed into what it is today after being sold to the very wealthy and eccentric António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro in 1904. It is also often known by it’s nickname “The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire”.
I would highly recommend that you visit this estate when planning a trip to Sintra.
Lastly, one of the most beautiful and often overlooked Sintra attractions is the Monserrate Palace. It is a bit further out of the town centre but is well worth the trek!
Set in a botanical garden, it’s the building itself that is visually striking. A mixture of Arabic and Indian architecture makes this palace stand out from the rest. It is pure romance and it’s no wonder that many chose this palace as a wedding venue for their special day!
Definitely go check out Monserrate Palace, I promise you will not be disappointed.
Booking Sintra Tickets:
Sintra gets busy! Pre-book your tickets
Sintra definitely sees a lot of visitors passing through annually, and this often does result in long queues at the various sites.
As such, I would highly recommend that you pre-book your tickets online in order to skip the queues.
Visit the Parques de Sintra official website and purchase your Sintra attractions entrance tickets ahead of time.
Attractions opening times
When planning a visit to Sintra from Lisbon, it’s a good idea to note down the opening times of the various major attractions.
This way, you can plan your travel times in order to get to the various sights just before opening, allowing you to beat the crowds.
The opening times for the major sights are as follows:
Pena Palace: 10:00 am to 18:00 pm (with last ticket sale at 17:00 and last entrance at 17:30)
Moorish Castle: 10:00 am to 18:00 pm (with last ticket sale and entry at 17:00)
Sintra National Palace: 09:30 am to 18:00 pm (with last ticket sale and entry at 17:30)
Monserrate Palace: 10:00 am to 18:00 pm (with last ticket sale at 17:00 and last entrance at 17:30)
Quinta da Regaleira:
Quinta da Regaleira has a seperate website altogether.
Their opening times are also based on seasonality as follows:
1st April to 30th September – 09:30 am to 20:00 pm (with last entrance at 19:00)
1st October to 1st March – 09:30 am to 18:00 pm (with last entry at 17:00).
These times are based on the current 2019/2020 schedules.
Also, note that sights may be closed on certain public holidays (such as 24th & 25th of December as well as 1st January). As such, be sure to consult the different websites to confirm schedules, should your travel dates fall on a holiday.
Buy a combo ticket to take advantage of reduced prices
If you are planning on visiting several of the sites around Sintra, then book a combo ticket that will end up costing you less.
For example, if you were to visit 3 sites you could save 6% off the total combined price. So have a look at the website and compare, as the more sites you include the higher the discount.
Another advantage of booking online is that you may also qualify for an upfront discount for doing so too.
Don’t be overambitious – you may not realistically be able to visit all sights in one day
Sintra’s sites and attractions are dotted in and around the town and surrounds.
Getting to and from the different palaces and estates may take up to 30 mins with traffic to contend with. Then, taking into account the time needed for exploring each attraction, it becomes unrealistic to think that you will see everything if spending a day in Sintra.
If you really only have one day at your disposal, then plan ahead and focus on the main sights you absolutely are interested.
In my personal opinion, two sights I adore and believe you have to see, would be the star attraction, Pena Palace as well as the Quinta da Regaleira estate.
Lisbon to Sintra by Train:
Getting to Sintra from Lisbon is actually fairly easy and quick. It only takes about 40 mins by train that departs directly from Lisbon’s Rossio train station (on the green metro line) and ends in Sintra.
Trains usually run every 20 mins throughout the day, 7 days a week. Which is why it’s a perfect day trip from Lisbon!
You can download the Comboios de Portugal’s mobile app, (Portugal’s national train operator), and book your tickets as well as consult train schedules directly through the app.
A ticket costs only €2.25 one-way – that’s under €5.00 return!
If you happen to have the Viva Viagem travel card and you loaded a Zapping amount (enough to cover the return price), then you can also use this card instead of buying separate tickets.
Top Tip: If you do plan on travelling on the Lisbon Sintra train service, then don’t wait till you get to the Rossio station to book your tickets. Queues at the ticket machines can get insane! Rather book ahead by buying a zapping ticket at any other metro station. This will save you a ton of time.
As already mentioned, the Lisbon to Sintra train departs from Lisbon’s Rossio train station which is situated in downtown Lisbon and connected to the metro too.
The Sintra train station is situated under a kilometre from the Sintra town centre. You may opt to walk from the station into the historic town centre, which should take around 15 minutes. We’ve often walked ourselves and this particular route is fairly flat and easy.
Bus from Lisbon to Sintra:
Travelling from Lisbon to Sintra by bus is an alternate option, however, with the convenient and cheap train connection, making use of a bus service is not very popular to be honest.
Operated by Vimeca, the Lisbon Sintra bus, known as the Sintra Express, takes just under 30 minutes and departs from the bottom of Parque Eduardo and adjacent to the Marques de Pombal Roundabout (in the parking lot where the hop on hop off city sightseeing buses leave from).
A one-way fare will set you back €10, compared to a return ticket costing €15.
They also have an offer of a round-trip ticket that includes the 434 Scotturb bus that you will use to get around in Sintra. This combo costs €20.
Visit the Sintra Express site to view schedules, pricing and other associated info.
Driving from Lisbon to Sintra
With the distance from Lisbon to Sintra being roughly 30 kilometres, driving by car is of course also an option and should take roughly 30 minutes.
In saying this, I would never recommend travelling from Lisbon to Sintra by car at all.
First and foremost, to get around Sintra you will encounter hilly, narrow roads and parking is definitely at a premium.
There is also a set flow of driving up to attractions such as Pena Palace, with traffic going up one direction and returning via a completely different route.
With having to navigate these narrow streets, finding parking and just dealing with the traffic in general (which in peak periods can be insane!), I really think you’re better off making use of other forms of public transport.
Getting around Sintra – transport options:
Once you arrive in Sintra, this is where the real issue of logistics come into play. Because of its locality and with various sites scattered around, it’s important for you to know how to get around Sintra, by making use of the various public transport options available to you.
In Sintra you have the option to make use of one of 2 different bus service depending on the sites you want to visit. This would be the Scotturb buses numbered 434 or 435.
The bus 434 Sintra route operates a circular loop that starts from the Sintra train station and heads to the Sintra town centre then the Moorish Castle, onward to the Pena Palace before heading back to the town centre and ending back at the train station.
If you chose to take the 434, then upon exiting the train station, turn right and walk about a 100 m to the bus stop. You can purchase tickets directly on the bus from the driver and if you chose the ‘Hop-On-Hop-Off’ ticket, then the price is around €6.90.
This ticket type will allow you to get on and off at the various stops.
The 435 bus on the other hand will cover a different route. It also starts at the train station and stops off at the town centre, Quinta da Regaleira, the Setais Palace and the Monserrate Palace. It then heads back to the station (note there are other local stops made along the way).
Note that the 435 has a different bus stop from the 434. So check the stops at the train station to ensure you are at the correct one (service info is usually displayed at the actual bus stop).
For the 435 bus you can expect to pay €5.00 for the Hop-On-Hop-Off ticket.
I’ve seen many blogs and articles which suggest that you may want to walk if you are fit enough. I am in no means ever endorsing that message! Sure, you can definitely walk from Sintra train station to the town, that’s fairly easy. And from town to Quinta da Regaleira – yes – go for it.
But, and this is a BIG BUT…do not attempt to walk up the hill to get to Pena Palace.
Firstly, it is insanely steep and secondly, the roads are super narrow and windy. Cars and busses fly up and down and on most sections of the road leading up, there aren’t clearly demarcated pedestrian walkways. You are basically hiking up the road. So both in terms of safety and difficulty, I would not recommend taking this route.
This of course is my personal recommendation, and it is completely up to you.
I have read up about several hiking options which may not take the road up, but I’ve never hiked using these trails myself. As such I cannot offer my recommendation on these.
Something to bear in mind when travelling to Sintra, is that it does attract a lot of visitors annually. As such, buses and queues can get overcrowded and long. So, a top tip is to consider catching an Uber to get around!
I recently did exactly this with a friend who was visiting, and it actually worked out to be much more economical in cost versus us both having to pay for bus tickets. With the added benefit that we didn’t have to contend with overcrowded and packed buses!
So, don’t rule a taxi out and think it will be more expensive. First compare to see what works out best!
Added bonus – go check out my article on ways to save money whilst travelling in Portugal – I provide several coupon codes for you to get discounts on cab hailing services. So you could end up saving more, if you haven’t already signed up to these providers.
If you happen to have a rental car whilst visiting Lisbon and plan on heading to Sintra for the day, then I’d recommend leaving the car in Lisbon and to rather take the train.
The main reason I say this is because having to contend with one-ways, winding and hilly roads and on top of that, finding parking (which can be limited) makes it tough to get around by car. Plenty of people do it. But I personally would not recommend this route.
Cascais to Sintra:
If you are staying over in Cascais instead of Lisbon, then you’d be happy to know that getting from Cascais to Sintra is just as easy, if not more so.
Currently, local bus company Scotturb operates two bus services between Cascais and Sintra, the 403 and the 417 buses.
The Cascais to Sintra bus will set you back around €1.15 for a one-way ticket, making it a pretty inexpensive way to get between these two destinations.
Alternatively, you may also want to book their Cascais – Sintra Hop on Hop off sightseeing bus, with a 48-hour pass costing €25.50. Visit the Scotturb site to pre-purchase your tickets.
What to do in Sintra:
Where to stay in Sintra:
I cannot stress enough how absolutely magical and mystical Sintra is. You just have to make the effort to visit.
I hope this guide to visiting Sintra from Lisbon has been of value and given you some food for thought on planning your trip to this special destination.
If you have any other thoughts, suggestions or tips that you feel I’ve missed, then feel free to comment and let me know. I’d love to hear your feedback!