If you find yourself in the capital of Portugal, the day-trip from Lisbon to Sintra is certainly one for the bucket list! Less than an hour away, convenient transportation and fairy-tale castles, make the little town of Sintra one of the biggest tourist attraction in the country.
If you’re like me and you don’t fancy organized tours with their fixed schedules and steep prices, you’ve come to the right place.
I did all the research and paid a visit to the most popular places to compose this awesome Lisbon to Sintra DIY day-trip guide and help you save some money, avoid the crowds, have a great time, and even snatch a new kick-ass profile picture.
What is Sintra and why you should visit it
A historical city, tucked between high hills and dense forest that used to be a favorite resting place to many nobles, and wealthy people through the ages. A symbol of the romanticism period in Europe, the cultural landscape of Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a major tourist hub.
Is it too much of a cliche if I tell you that strolling around the picturesque cobbled alleys of Sintra feels like stepping back in time? I guess it is, but damn me if it’s not true. The area has more than 3000 years of history, and just a quick look at its Wikipedia page can give you a headache.
So much history left its mark and nowadays, the town is a vibrant mishmash of cultures from different time periods.
See Also: The Ultimate Portugal Travel Itinerary
So why should you make the trip from Lisbon to Sintra?
To get a selfie with the yellow Pena castle of course!
Jokes aside, escaping the big city for a day, getting a breath of fresh mountain air while exploring awe-inspiring castles, royal palaces, and extravagant mansions is an experience rare to find anywhere else in the world. Combine that with the cheap and easy transportation from Lisbon to Sintra, and you get the recipe for a perfect day trip.
How to Get From Lisbon to Sintra
As mentioned before, getting from Lisbon to Sintra can’t be any easier. Located just 30km away from the Portuguese capital, all you need to do is to take the urban train from Lisbon. 40mins later, you’re in Sintra.
See the timetable
Price – 2.30 EUR
I don’t recommend driving to Sintra. While the roads are in great condition, the parking spaces are very limited and you’ll waste a ton of time to find one.
See Also: How to Spend 3 Days in Lisbon
Skipping the buses around town and heading to the castles on your own may be your first thought, but I wouldn’t recommend it, especially on a day trip. The Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle are located on a steep hill while some of the other places like the Monserrate Palace are too far away from the center. Getting there on foot would waste too much time and effort.
With a starting point just outside the train station, there are two Sintra tourist buses that cover all highlights of the city.
Bus 434 ( Pena Line)
With only three stops, the Pena line would take you to the historical center first, followed by the Moorish Castle and the Pena Palace.
There are two types of tickets:
The standard one-way ticket -3.90 EUR (same price for going back)
The Hop-on Hop-off ticket – 11.50 EUR (On the way up you can go on and off the bus on every stop until you reach the Pena Palace.
On the way down, you can go off the bus at the stop where you intend to exit.)
Bus 434 schedule
Bus 435 (4 Palaces Line)
If you want to include the beautiful but far located Monserrate Palace on your day trip, 435 is your bus. If you’ve set your sight on some of the other stops on the route, the bus won’t be needed since they are easily accessible on foot.
Only one type of ticket for this line:
The Hop-on Hop-off ticket – 11.50 EUR( On your way to Monserrate can go on and off the bus on every stop. On the way back, you go off the bus only once – at the stop where you intend to exit.)
Bus 435 schedule
Cabo da Roca Bus (403)
If you really really want to see the most-western part in Europe, take the 403 bus for a 40 minute trip to Cabo da Roca.
Standard ticket price – 4.15 EUR
Bus 403 schedule
What to See in Sintra
Pena National Palace (Palacio Nacional da Pena)
Symbol of Sintra and prime example of the 19th century Romanticism style, Pena Palace is the most famous attraction in town (and country). Colored in bright yellow and red, the palace is one of the most visually striking buildings in the world!
The quirky castle was built between 1842 and 1854 for King Ferdinand to serve as his summer residence. The reason behind it extravagant looks and mixture of colors and styles is because the King and Queen (who were famous for their opulent taste) wanted to be closely involved in the building process and kept on intervening in the process.
The amazing park around the Palace is a masterpiece on its own. Created by King Ferdinand as well, Pena Park reflects the exotic taste of the King offering the dendrophiles trees, and plants from all over the world.
Palace & park – adult/ youth/ senior- 14 EUR /12.5 EUR /12.5 EUR
Park only – adult/ youth/ senior- 7.5 EUR /6.5 EUR /6.5 EUR
Online Skip the Line Ticket
Summer: 09:30 AM – 8:00 PM
Winter: 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM
How to get there:
By foot or via bus 434
If you go there early in the morning, get the palace&park ticket. The line is not that big in the morning, but if you go to Pena later, the queue to get inside the palace would be at least an hour long.
The palace ticket is for going literally inside and see the 19th century styled royal rooms. You can visit the walls and terraces of Pena with the cheaper park ticket too.
See Also: Fun Facts About Portugal
Quinta de Regaleira
‘The “newest” attraction in town, the Quinta was built in the early 20th century and is one of Sintra’s principal attractions. The gothic facade of the mansion makes the house looks like it was taken straight out of the Adamas Family cartoon.
But the house is not the biggest star of Quinta de Regaleira. The park is.
Quinta de Regaleira’s gardens combine mystical elements and symbols from various ages and merge them into a glorious labyrinth of tunnels, alleys, and lakes.
The main attractions of the park are the initiation wells. Wells that were never used, nor intended for water collection but instead built with the idea to resemble the ‘Free Masons’ ritual of initiation. At the bottom, there are “secret” tunnels going behind a waterfall before eventually ending outside.
Quinta de Regaleira is one of the most curious properties on the continent and if you made the journey from Lisbon to Sintra you definitely shouldn’t miss it!
adult /youth /senior- 11 EUR / 6 EUR / 6 EUR
From 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM
How to get there:
By foot or via bus 435
The Castle of The Moors (Castelo dos Mouros)
One of the most famous Sintra castles, the Castle of the Moors is a medieval hilltop castle built by the Berbers (Moors) between the 8th and 9th centuries. A crucial strategic point during the Reconquista, the castle (and the whole area) was taken back by the Christians after the fall of Lisbon in 1147.
Surrounded by thick forest, this castle is entirely different than the other ones in Sintra. Even though it was restored in the 19th century, it is mostly in ruins with only the outside fortification walls standing tall.
And while the walls of the castle are nothing spectacular, its position on the top of the Serra De Sintra gives the best panoramic views of the area.
Adult/youth/senior- 8 EUR / 6.5 EUR / 6.5 EUR
Online Skip the Line Ticket
Summer: 09:30 AM – 8:00 PM
Winter: 9:30 AM – 6:30 PM
How to get there:
By foot or via bus 434
Sintra National Palace (Palacio National)
Located in the heart of the city, Sintra’s National Palace is a historic house-museum that used to be a royal residence from the early 15th century to the late 19th century. Don’t be fooled by the minimalistic gothic exterior of the palace, five decades of Portuguese kings made sure the palace has one of the most heavily decorated interiors in Portugal.
A walk around the palace would lead you through The Swan Room, The Ship Room, The Magpie Room, and the most impressive one – The Coats of Arms Room.
A leisure walk around the National Palace is a great way to end your visit to Sintra.
Adult /youth/senior- 10 EUR / 8.5 EUR / 8.5 EUR
All year: 09:30 AM – 6:30 PM
How to get there:
By foot – it’s in the center of town
See Also: The Best Porto Itinerary
Monserrate Palace (Palacio de Monserrate)
Monserrate Palace is one of the most beautiful and picturesque mansions in Sintra.
The legend says that once upon a time (11th century) the Monserrate Palace used to be a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. After the great Lisbon earthquake left it in ruins, an English merchant bought the property and built a neo-gothic house on it. In 1809, the famous writer, Lord Byron, visited the home and was left in awe of its majestic appearance and mention its beauty in one of his works – Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.
This 19th-century shoutout brought a lot of popularity to the Monserrate Palace leading to its acquisition by one of the richest men in Britain – Sir Francis Cook.
Pff, that’s a long legend, but please bear with me a little bit more.
So what did one of the richest men on the planet do with the beautiful Monserrate Palace? He made it even more gorgeous!
By blending Indian, Moorish and Gothic styles, Sir Francis Cook created one of the most visually striking buildings in the country. A romantic-styled park with a lake, several springs and fountains, caves and even a waterfall, compliments the mansion making the detour to the Monserrate Mansion really worth it!
Adult/youth/senior – 8 EUR / 6.5 EUR / 6.5 EUR
All year: 9:00 AM– 7:00 PM
How to get there:
Cabo da Roca
Not exactly in the town of Sintra but but still in the Sintra area and often included in the organized day-trips.
Located 14 Km west of Sintra, the cape is famous for being the westernmost extent of mainland Portugal and Europe.
There is not much to see there, though. There’s a lighthouse, a gift shop, and a beautiful ocean view, but that’s pretty much it. If Cabo Da Roca is a must-see for you, i suggest getting one of the organized tours to reach it. Would save you a lot of time.
How to get there: Bus 403
I think I managed to convince you that Sintra is is worth the hassle, and now you wonder, what are downsides of this Lisbon to Sintra day-trip?
The answer is that Sintra is too beautiful and too easy to reach thus being too popular and overcrowded. Everyone who visits Lisbon saves a day for a trip to Sintra. And Lisbon averages 4.5 million tourists per year!
There is a way though, to escape the annoying crowds, and while you won’t have the places just to yourself, I can guarantee that if you follow my Sintra itinerary you won’t have to spend your day waiting on line, you’d have some perfect photo ops and you’ll see the best Sintra has to offer.
Did I get your attention? Good!
To create the best Sintra itinerary, we need to analyze the path of the tourist groups.
Most of them come from Lisbon to Sintra in the morning, explore the historical center and the Sintra Palace, check out Quinta de Regaleira, and it’s gardens, then go up to the Moorish Castle and leave the Pena Palace for last before going back to Lisbon.
What we will do is completely the opposite, by starting with the biggest highlight – the Pena Palace.
The Pena Park is open from 09:30 AM during the summer (10:00 winter) and you need to be there just as the gates open. To make that happen, you need to catch one of the Lisbon to Sintra trains that leave around 8 AM.
At 8:45-9:00 AM you’d arrive at the Sintra station where you get the first 434 bus of the day (9:15 AM in the summer, 9:30 AM in the winter).
Enjoy the Pena Palace free of crowds, get yourself a new profile photo and explore the interior of the castle without having to wait on the 1hr+ line. Once you’re done, have a walk around the gardens.
The highlight in the Pena Park is the Cruz Alta hill which not only has a giant cross on top of it but also gives a lovely panoramic view of the area and the Pena Palace.
After you’re done with Pena, go down to the nearby Moorish Castle. It’s just 350 meters away, so no need to wait for the bus.
The Moorish Castle is quite different from the Pena Palace. Since it was built a several hundred years earlier, and its prime function was to be a military fortress, the only thing left by the Moorish Castle today is its outside walls.
The top attraction of the place, however, is not the design but its panoramic views of the area, including the nearby Pena Palace.
Since you’ll explore the Moorish Castle around noon and there’s hardly any shade there, make sure you have a hat or an umbrella with you. The Portuguese sun is merciless!
Next on the list is Quinta de Regaleira. To reach it, you may go down the hill on foot (that’s what I did) or take the 434 bus. Getting down by foot was harder than expected and, in combination with the intense sun, squeezed every bit of energy I had left in me.
Quinta de Regaleira, thankfully, offers a lot of cool and shady spots plus a nice cafe you can chill for a bit and get your strength back. The group tours should’ve left already, so exploring the mystical gardens of the mansion would be a fantastic experience.
See Also: The biggest Landmarks in Portugal
Last on our Sintra itinerary is the Palace of Sintra. In the afternoon, the mansion is pretty empty, and you can have a lot of its unique rooms all for yourself. There are no gardens to explore there, and the old cool building is a welcomed retreat from the Portuguese heat.
All it’s left from your itinerary is a short walk back through the historical center to the train station.
Between the Sintra’s Palace and the train station, there is a lovely Moorish fountain that makes a great photo op
google maps coordinates – 38.796458, -9.387606
Sintra Itinerary Map
Have in mind!
This itinerary is very challenging. My fitness levels are above average, but by the time I reached Quinta de Regaleira, I was already gassed up. If I had to do it again, I would skip the Moorish Castle and take the bus from Pena Palace to the Quinta.
That’s all from me, I hope you enjoy your Lisbon to Sintra day-trip!
If you haven’t planned your trip there yet, find out how I plan my trips!
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