If you love castles, as I do, you must visit Sintra, Portugal. Sintra is a beautiful town less than an hour away from Lisbon where Portugal’s elite built exquisite palaces, extravagant residences, and decorative gardens. The “Landscape of Sintra” is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. I was surprised and a little overwhelmed when I learned just how much there was to see – I couldn’t even fit it all in one blog post! I wanted to share what I learned from my visit to help you plan your own Sintra tour from Lisbon.
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Check out these photos to inspire you to visit Sintra if you are on the fence about visiting!
First, I should re-iterate there is a lot to see in Sintra. You will not be able to see everything no matter how well you plan (unless you have a few days). If you don’t have time to plan your day trip to Sintra or want to have someone else handle the details, you may want to look into a guided tour – Click here to see Sintra tour options through Viator.
While I originally thought we would be able to see everything in one day, I have come to the conclusion that is not possible. I loved Sintra but I did not have time to see everything I wanted. Most people do a day trip from Lisbon to Sintra, but if you can, I would allocate at least two days to spend sightseeing in Sintra. During our trip to Sintra, we were able to visit the Moorish Castle, Pena Palace, and the National Palace. That was a pretty full day.
The Moorish Castle was probably my favorite of the Sintra attractions. It dates back to the 9th century and the views are stunning. Pena Palace looks like a castle from a fairy tale, I just loved the colors. The National Palace of Sintra is located in the historical center of town and was a favorite with the Portuguese nobility. You can see the best things to do in Sintra in my video about our Sintra day trip.
Other Things to Do in Sintra Portugal
Just one day in Sintra is not enough! If I could do it again, I would try to spend two days in Sintra. There were several Sintra points of interest, that we just didn’t have time to see. Well, hopefully, I can make it back to see the rest of my Sintra list:
Quinta de Regaleira
The Quinta de Regaleira is a decorative 20th-century residence situated in the town of Sintra. The grand house covers five floors and has an ornate gothic façade, but the real attraction is the enchanting gardens. The gardens were styled to represent ancient secret orders, with hidden tunnels, the Well of Initiation (perfect for Instagram), and concealed symbolism.
The Quinta da Regaleira is open 10 am – 8 pm during the summer and 10 am – 5:30 pm during the winter. The entrance fee is €6/3/18 (adult/child/family) and includes entrance to the house and the grounds.
Monserrate Palace Sintra
The Monserrate Palace is supposed to be one of the most beautiful mansions of Sintra, but since it is located 3.5km from the historic center many visitors don’t make it there. Sir Francis Cook combined Arabic, gothic and Indian architectural styles to create a wonderful summer house surrounded by beautiful gardens.
You will want to allocate around 2 hours to see the Monserrate Palace so that you have time to see the intricate details inside and explore the gardens around it. The gardens are full of hidden gems like the ruins of an ancient chapel.
The price to visit the Park and Palace of Monserrate for an adult is between €6.50 (low season) and €8.00 (high season). There are discounts for those under 18 and over 65. The opening hours are between 9:30 am -10 am and 5 pm -7 pm (for the palace) and 6 pm – 8 pm (for the park), depending on the season.
Chalet and Garden of the Countess of Edla
The Chalet and Garden of the Countess of Edla are located inside the grounds of Pena Palace. You can either walk or take a bus (for a few euros more) the 1.5 miles from the palace to the Chalet. The Chalet was originally built in the 19th Century by King Ferdinand II for his second wife the Countess d’Edla. It is modeled after the Alpine chalets popular at the time and was intended as a private recreational house for the Countess. From what I read, there is not much to see inside the Chalet but the Sintra gardens and exterior are lovely.
During the high season, the Chalet is open from 9:30 am to 7 pm and from 9:30 am to 5 pm during the low season. Tickets to the Chalet are €8/6/21 (adult/child/family) or you can save money by buying a combination ticket with Pena Palace.
Palace of Seteais
The Palace of Seteais was originally built in the 18th century for the then Dutch Consul. It later came into the hands of the 5th Marquis of Marialva who extended it significantly. The Seteais Palace occupies a prime position on the edge of the Serra de Sintra overlooking the countryside and town. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens with many fruit trees and meticulously landscaped areas.
In 1954, it became a hotel. It is still also open as a tourist attraction, but wouldn’t it be amazing to spend the night in this palace? I did not get the chance to stay there, but it looks beautiful and has some great reviews. For a special occasion, it looks like the perfect splurge. Check availability and rates here.
The Capuchos Convent is a Franciscan monastery that is located in the dense forests and giant boulders of the Serra da Sintra National Park. The monastery was constructed to have minimal impact on the natural surroundings and the simplistic design is so different from the opulence and grandeur of Sintra. Capuchos doesn’t make many tourist lists but those who know Sintra think it as one of the best historical monuments of the region.
The Convento dos Capuchos is open every day from 9:30 am until 8 pm (summer season) 10 am – 5 pm (winter). The entrance fee is €7/€5.50 (adult/child) and there are one hour guided tours for €10
Sintra Museum of Modern Art
Portugal’s first contemporary art museum is located in Sintra! Their collection features 20th-century artwork by Portuguese artists gathered together by financier José Berardo. The building and gardens are beautiful and the admission charge is only €1. This Sintra Museum is definitely on my list for my next Sintra trip.
Sintra with Kids?
You may be wondering if a Lisbon to Sintra day trip is a good idea if you are traveling with children. I think it depends on the age of the children. With all the hills, I think visiting Sintra might be difficult if you still need a stroller. In general, children will enjoy exploring the Sintra castles, doing the castle wall walks (be sure to hold hands of the little ones), and running around in the various parks/gardens.
How to Get to Sintra from Lisbon
The best way to get from Lisbon to Sintra is by train. When we rode the train there were plenty of seats, it was clean, and overall the ride was pleasant. The Sintra train runs every 30 minutes from the Rossio Train Station in Lisbon and the journey takes less than an hour.
From Sintra to Lisbon, you can either take the train back to Rossio or Oriente Stations. When we were ready to leave, the next train was for Oriente station so we went with that option. (Note: There are no direct trains from Oriente Station to Sintra).
You can buy your ticket at the train station just before you catch the Lisbon train to Sintra. The cost of a round-trip ticket is €4.30. The fare can be charged to the reusable “Viva Viagem” public transport ticket, which is also used for the Lisbon buses, metro, and trams. You must buy the card for €0.50.
Even though the distance from Lisbon to Sintra is less than 20 miles, I would not recommend driving. Sintra parking is very limited and the roads are narrow and steep. The traffic was bad when we were there especially considering the size of the city. There is also a bus from Lisbon to Sintra, but that will take almost twice as long as the train.
Getting Around Sintra
Sintra is not a big city so you could plan on walking everywhere. However, Sintra is in the mountains with a lot of steep climbs, so you will get a workout if that is what you decide to do. To reduce the amount of walking/hiking, I suggest taking the hop on hop off Sintra bus. Luckily, there is a bus stop right outside the train station and it goes to all of the Sintra main attractions.
We bought tickets for the 434 bus which does a loop to go to the main attractions. I had read that it costs €5 per person for the day, but we were charged €12. Not sure if prices went up or we were scammed, but still it’s reasonable for transportation for the day. There is also the 435 bus which goes to some of the other sites. You do need cash for the bus tickets.
I should also mention that even though the Sintra sightseeing bus supposedly comes every 15 minutes, it was packed! We had to stand from the bus station to the Moorish Castle. Also, we missed the stop for the National Palace because they just called it the Historic Center. So we ended up back at the Sintra railway station and they made us get off of that Sintra tourist bus and board the next one. We showed our tickets so we did not have to pay again.
We did still do some walking, actually a fair bit of walking. Sintra is not very friendly for those with mobility issues or strollers. It is very hilly and you will go on lots of stairs in the castles.
Best Day to Visit Sintra
Sintra is a popular destination because there is so much to see and it is easy to travel from Lisbon to Sintra. If you can, it’s best to plan to tour Sintra during the week instead of the weekends as it will be a bit less crowded. During the high season, all the attractions are open every day. Crowds are the worst on Sundays.
How to Plan Your Time in Sintra
It’s important to head out on your day trip to Sintra from Lisbon early! Try to beat the crowds if you can. I think a lot of people start a day in Sintra at the National Palace because it is the closest to the train station. We went to the Moorish Castle first and it was so nice and quiet. By the time we got to Pena Palace, the crowds had caught up to us. I would recommend putting either the Moorish Castle or the Pena Palace first on your Sintra one day itinerary. Then head to the National Palace and any other attractions you can fit in.
Buying Sintra Tickets
Instead of buying individual Sintra castle tickets, you can save money with a combined ticket for the attractions you plan on visiting online on the Parques de Sintra website. With the Sintra combined ticket, you can still visit the different attractions on different days.
I went ahead and bought a combined ticket for the Moorish Castle, Pena Palace, and the National Palace because I felt comfortable that we would be able to at least make it to those three. I figured if we had more time on our tour of Sintra I could buy additional tickets at the other attractions.
Now, you can purchase the Sintra Green Card. This Sintra tourist card includes admission to the national palaces of Sintra (Sintra, and Pena), one ticket for a Sintra museum, a 434 bus ticket, and a train ticket from Lisbon to Sintra. It does not include the Castle of the Moors, which was my favorite. There is also an option to add the Palace of Queluz, which is located about a 20-minute drive from the historical center of Sintra. You must buy the Sintra Card at the Lisbon Urbano train ticket office.
Sintra Tour Options
I know I put a lot of information in this Sintra guide and you may feel overwhelmed. So if you don’t feel comfortable exploring on your own, you can take a Sintra tour from Lisbon. Many tours will pick you up at your hotel. There are plenty of Sintra guided tour options available through Viator (click here to see all the options). If possible, do a full day tour. I think a Sintra half day tour would be too rushed and skip important highlights. If you want to splurge, try one of the Sintra private tours!
Another popular option is to combine your visit to Sintra with a stop in Cabo de Roca (like this tour), the westernmost point on continental Europe. There are also Sintra tours (like this one) that also include a stop in Cascais, a picturesque village on the coast.
I did also see some free walking tours of Sintra. If you only have one day in Sintra, I’m not sure that’s the best way to spend your time. These free Sintra tours do not go inside any of the palaces or castles, instead, they show you around the historical center. If you have more time, a Sintra walking tour could be a great way to learn more about the history.
Have you been to Sintra? Did you get to see everything you wanted to during your Sintra visit?
Expert Tips For A Day in Sintra
- Getting to Sintra is easy! If you are doing a Lisbon day trip to Sintra, take the train and get there early to try to beat the crowds. (Don’t drive – Sintra parking is limited and the traffic is bad!)
- One day will not be enough time in Sintra to do everything. If you only have one day prioritize, what you want to see. You could also consider doing a Sintra day tour.
- If you choose to do a Sintra self-guided tour, you can save money on the Sintra ticket prices, by getting the combined ticket on the Parques de Sintra website for the attractions you are confident you will be able to see. Alternatively, you may want to get a Sintra Pass.
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