Around 40 minutes away from Lisbon you find one of the most magical and beautiful places in Portugal: the town of Sintra. So beautiful and so close to Lisbon, there is no getting away from Sintra. And finding what to do in Sintra is easy. This is because the town is filled with palaces, castles, gardens, convents, and much more. So, if you are planning on visiting Portugal, I check out how to get from Lisbon to Sintra on a day trip or for a few days.
Situated on the banks of the Tagus River and stretching over several hills, Lisbon is a must-see on any Portugal itinerary. The Portuguese capital is a fantastic travel destination for those looking to immerse themselves in culture and history while visiting a modern city at the same time.
But a Lisbon trip can be quite hectic given how busy the city can be and you might want a break after two days in Lisbon.
So, what if you want to go on a day trip outside of town?
Well, Sintra is one of the best options you have! It is so easy to get there and explore the town, also for a solo traveler!
Sintra at a glance
The Sintra region tells the history of humanity itself. Sintra went through the Iron Age, Roman times, it was dominated by the Muslims and even Celts at some point until it finally became a summer retreat of the Portuguese royalty.
This mixture of influences explains the extravagant architecture of the town’s palaces, making everything very exotic.
In other words, to visit Sintra is to get to know a region with more than 1,000 years of history, with a past of kings and millionaires who used their artistic inspirations in gigantic constructions to demonstrate their power.
Besides all the history and architecture, Sintra is a city surrounded by dense forests and gardens, with high hills covered by a typical fog of higher altitudes. This mystical atmosphere gives the town an even more magical feeling!
It almost sounds like a fairy tale movie, doesn’t it? In a way, Sintra is an open-air movie set and all of its elements combined with the colorful little houses, handicraft stores, and restaurants on the sidewalk will make you fall in love with what is known as the most romantic corner of Portugal.
How to get from Lisbon to Sintra
The most popular ways to get to Sintra are by car and train. However, from my experience of driving there and back, I believe that train is the best option. But, let’s talk about the 3 best ways of how to get from Lisbon to Sintra.
Getting from Lisbon to Sintra by car
When traveling, renting a car is always the most flexible option, offering plenty of freedom. And with a car in Sintra, you can get from one point of interest to another without relying on uber or local buses.
You can also take the opportunity to visit Cascais and Cabo da Roca which are very close. So, this might be the best option if you are staying overnight in Sintra or if you are on your way to another destination on your Portugal road trip.
From Lisbon, you have two options to drive to Sintra. Leaving Lisbon on the A5 you can take the 3rd exit onto the N117 towards the IC19 (Sintra ring road). Or take the A9 and then A16. Both options involve a journey time of about 35 minutes.
- Pros: comfortable option, which allows you to make the trip in your own time.
- Cons: more expensive than the train, in some parts of town it is not very easy to park, there can be a lot of traffic and the Pena Castle area is restricted for private cars, so you will not be able to get there with the rental car. Also, the streets are very narrow and steep which can make your driving a little unconfortable if you are not used to these kinds of roads.
PRO-TIP – So, if you choose to go by car, I suggest you park it by the train station and go around Sintra with public transportation to avoid any stress.
Getting to Sintra from Lisbon by public transport
One of the most popular and cheapest options is to go from Lisbon to Sintra using public transport. You should take the train at either the Oriente or Rossio stations in Lisbon. The trains are operated by CP, Portugal’s national railway network.
You can buy the round-trip tickets at the automatic ticket machines in the stations, and if you have any questions the station staff will guide you through it.
You will see how easy it is, though. Just select the option “Sintra Round Trip” and pay the 5€, in cash. This price already includes the VIVA VIAGEM card which you can use again and again when exploring Lisbon itself.
The travel time is about 40 minutes, and the train seats are very comfortable. The train station in Sintra is close to the historic center and you can get a map of the town right there. The train runs, on average, every half hour.
- Pros: cheapest option and it makes you avoind road traffic and Limited traffic areas.
- Cons: The whole process of buying tickets and waiting for the train can waste your time. Also, in high season or on weekends, the train can be full and there is the possibility that you will be standing all the way.
Getting to Sintra on a day tour
For those who do not want to rent a car or go by train, a good option is to hire a tour leaving from Lisbon. These package tours usually include round-trip transportation to and from Sintra on a private bus and a guided tour of all the points of interest.
If you do not want to worry about planning anything, just arrive at the meeting point and know that the whole tour will already be prepared for you, then you will surely enjoy a tour more than going on your own.
- Pros: most comfortable option, they pick you up at your hotel. It usually includes entrance to 3 castles in a single day with a tour guide to explain everything and answer any questions you might have. This is also a great way to meet people if you are traveling alone.
- Cons: more expensive and less flexible option.
Top tours from Lisbon to Sintra
From Lisbon to Sintra – 1 day itinerary at a glance
So, how to organize a day trip to Sintra? This is a step-by-step guide to organizing your day in Sintra.
Depending on your interests you might want to change your way of transportation and even some of the attractions below. But, here is how I suggest you organize your Sintra trip:
- In Lisbon, go to Rossio or Oriente station and take the train to Sintra
- Arriving at Sintra train station take the bus 434. (You can buy the ticket with the driver when boarding)
- Get off at the Moorish Castle
- Visit the Moorish Castle
- Walk to the Pena Palace ticket office (5 minutes walking)
- Visit the Pena Gardens on your way to the Pena Palace itself
- Take bus 434 at the Pena Palace bus stop
- Get off at the Sintra Historic Centre bus stop
- Explore Palacio Nacional de Sintra
- Look for a place to have lunch in the center
- Walk to Quinta da Regaleira (10 minutes walking)
- Visit Quinta da Regaleira
- Walk back to Sintra Historical Center
- Try the Travesseiro de Sintra at Café Piriquita
- Take the bus 434 to the Sintra station and return to Lisbon
Sintra 1 Day itinerary explained
Most visitors start their Sintra tour in the historical center and then go up the hill to visit the Pena Palace and the Castle of the Moors. But if you want to visit the castles in tranquillity, without having to fight for space with other people, I would recommend you take the opposite route.
So, I suggest you leave the town center for the afternoon and go to the highest part of the city first. This way, when you make it down to the city it will be the perfect time for a delicious meal accompanied by a glass of Portuguese wine.
With so many Sintra castles to explore, I recommend you focus on the main sights if you have only one day to visit the city. These can be accessed through the 434 Bus Line, also known as Circuito da Pena.
You can buy the ticket with the driver when boarding and this bus functions like a hop-on hop-off bus: you get off at the point where you want, then you can take the bus again and continue your journey.
Visiting the Moorish Castle
A visit to the Moorish Castle gives you the pleasure of getting to know one of the most beautiful castles in Portugal. Besides having immense historical value, the castle also has one of the most beautiful views of the Sintra Mountain Range. You can even see the Atlantic Ocean!
And, although the castle is currently made up mostly of ruins, we can have a clear notion of how important this fortification was during the Moorish occupation.
Yes, in fact, Castelo dos Mouros was built in the 10th century as a military fortification and is still standing strong at the highest point in Sintra.
Everything there is fantastic. The silence, cut only by the wind when it passes through the openings in the walls; the small church built when King Afonso Henriques was already sovereign; the ‘tomb’ that holds the bones exhumed during the construction.
During your visit, open your mind, be curious, and explore the castle thoroughly. You can walk along the castle walls, climb the towers, and even get a close look at the archaeological sites.
Visiting the Pena Palace
Colorful and playful, Palácio Nacional da Pena is one of the most famous landmarks in Portugal. I’m sure you have seen photos of that red and yellow castle towering over Sintra.
Pena National Palace is the apotheosis of Sintra’s romanticism. Materializing the eccentric ideas of the king-artist D. Fernando II, neo-Arab, neo-Gothic and neo-Manueline traces coexist in its interior.
The cloister, dining room, royal quarters, and halls still display the furniture from back in the day.
Built between 1839 and 1885, the palace is surrounded by an 85-hectare park with gardens, greenhouses, chapels, lakes, and caves. On its lawns are flowers and plants from every continent.
The visit can be physically demanding even if you are not willing to wander around Pena Park. From the entrance, where the buses and cars stop, to the palace, you have to climb a steep hill. But if you want to go straight to the palace, there are minibusses making the round trip from the entrance for 3.50€.
Sintra National Palace
Located in the town’s central square, the pompous Palácio Nacional de Sintra is also known as Palácio da Vila and draws attention for its two conical white towers, which are nothing more than prosaic chimneys. There, you will find examples of various architectural styles, such as Gothic, medieval, Renaissance, Manueline, and Romanesque.
Interestingly, the palace has functioned since the 12th century as the Portuguese royal residence. The highlight of the collection is the largest collection of Spanish-Moorish tiles in Portugal.
Walking around Sintra Historic City Centre
Sintra is made up of more than just castles and palaces. Sintra’s very own historical center is one of the attractions that should not be missed on your Sintra itinerary.
Filled with narrow lanes, handicraft stores mingling with tourists, ice-cream parlors, and restaurants, this is the cutest part of town.
And if you are looking for traditional Portuguese food check the restaurants Incomum or A Raposa. Sintra’s city center is also a great place to buy the best souvenirs from Portugal.
Visiting the Quinta da Regaleira
Depending on what time you arrive in Sintra and how long you take to visit each of the previous attractions, there may not be enough time. But if you still have extra time and energy, try to include Quinta da Regaleira in your list.
While Pena Palace is the most apotheotic attraction in Sintra, Quinta da Regaleira is the most enigmatic. In fact, this attraction can be described as an enchanted forest.
Scattered (and mostly hidden) throughout the woods you will find Greek sculptures, a neo-gothic chapel, towers, gardens, fountains, caves, labyrinths, and underground passages.
More than in any other attraction in the city, the map offered at the ticket office is essential.
The highlight of the tour is the Initiation Well, an inverted tower, which sinks 88 ft below the ground, and was used in Masonic rituals.
The Regaleira Palace can also be visited from the inside, but the biggest attraction there is the attached cafe, which serves good snacks around a charming fountain.
Stop by Café Piriquita for the best pastries
We all know Portugal is popular for its pastries and delicacies, and if you enjoy sweets, Café Piriquita is the best place to go in Sintra to try some of the best flavors in Portugal!
For starters, the “Travesseiro de Sintra” was created in this very old bakery. This is a sweet pastry filled with smooth egg cream. There are also apple and chocolate filling options. The “Queijadinha” is yet another mouthwatering Sintra dessert.
Also filled with cheese and cinnamon, it is wrapped in a crispy pastry. Make sure to try them both! On cooler days, they pair nicely with a cup of tea or coffee before you head back to Lisbon.
Is it worth visiting Sintra in 1 day?
From my own experience, I can say: YES!
Sintra is a city that can be seen quickly in one day but can also be explored more leisurely if you have more time.
To make the most of a day trip in Sintra and not waste time and money it is important to plan ahead. Be sure you know how to get from Lisbon to Sintra on a day trip, purchase your train tickets in advance as well as the entrances to the attractions.
And, of course, if you happen to have more time be aware that there is plenty to do in Sintra to fill at least 2 full days of adventure!
Things to know before you visit Sintra
As I mentioned, before arriving in Sintra, it is important to plan how you will get around the main attractions. There are so many different sights there, you might get lost in your research of what to do in Sintra.
We hope that after reading this post you have a better idea of how to organize your day in Sintra.
Also, because the town is stuck in a mountainous area, and each palace is on a different peak of the mountain, you can only imagine how tough it can be to walk from one point to another.
So, you might have to take some transportation within the city. Unless you hire a private tour. In that case, you do not have to worry about this, as the bus will take you everywhere.
If you go from Lisbon to Sintra by public transport, then you will necessarily have to take other transport within the city. But you will find that there are many options including Uber, Tuktuk, and buses. Just choose whichever pleases you more.
Another important detail to know beforehand is that you can purchase combined tickets online. For example, visitors who purchase tickets for Pena Palace, Moorish Castle, National Palace of Sintra, and Monserrate Palace through the Parques de Sintra website save time at the box office and receive a 5% discount.
What to pack for a day trip to Sintra
Another very important aspect to plan is what to take with you to Sintra. Obviously, this will highly depend on the season and the time of the year you will be visiting the country, which will then determine what to pack for Portugal. But there are some essential items you should not forget to take to Sintra, even if just for a day trip.
For instance, given the very unpredictable climate in Sintra, be sure to take a rain jacket as well as sunglasses. You do not want to miss the opportunity of exploring the Pena gardens if it is raining or have your eyes closed on your photos if it is too sunny, right?!
Other than that, take with you a warmer jacket if you are traveling between September and February.
I also suggest taking a water bottle. A visit to Sintra involves a lot of walking, so stay hydrated!
Finally, be sure to carry your passport, cash, and a functioning phone with a valid SIM Card in Portugal.
And one of the most important items, a camera, or if you have a good phone, it might be just fine. Sintra is one of the most beautiful towns in Portugal and you might want to take some good memories with you.
When is the best time to visit Sintra?
Due to its location in the mountains, Sintra has a variable microclimate. This means that in a matter of minutes, the weather can change from foggy and cold to hot and sunny.
But, overall, Sintra’s climate is similar to that of Lisbon: it has a mild, dry summer season with clear skies and mild winter with no bitter cold.
The temperature ranges from 48 °F to 79 °F all year, rarely rising or falling more than that. However, the city does not require a beautiful day to be appreciated. On the contrary, it appears even more magical and mysterious when enveloped in the mists of the mountains.
You should also be aware that the magical town receives many visitors throughout the year. This tourist influx is at its peak between April and October. Avoid this period if you want your visit to Sintra to be memorable rather than an endless series of queues and waits.
We hope you had a good overview of how to get to Sintra from Lisbon! happy travels!
About the Author
I’m Camila, an Oceanographer from Brazil which is where my journey began. My studies have taken me to unique places around the world since I was a teenager. I found in my academic career the chance to come across different cultures and languages while working as a scientist. By having lived in several countries I have been able to share my experiences as a travel content writer for the last 4 years and I still have plenty more to tell. I have a great passion for the outdoors and animals, especially dogs and seals (which, let’s be honest, are basically sea dogs!).