Taking a day trip to Sintra from Lisbon is just one of the many highlights of your time spent in the Portuguese capital city.
Sintra is easy to reach in only 40 minutes by train, it’s home to some of the most unique and beautiful palaces you’ll ever see, and you’ll get to tick off another UNESCO site from your bucket list!
Whether you prefer to take a guided tour or you decide to travel there independently, this complete guide on how to spend one day in Sintra will help you to plan every detail of your Lisbon to Sintra day trip!
Table of Contents
Day Trip to Sintra from Lisbon: How to Spend One Day in Sintra
Sintra Facts and History
Sintra is a colourful little town nestled in the forested hills just outside of Lisbon. It became a popular summer destination for Portuguese royalty in the early 19th century when most of the mansions and palaces in the town were built.
Nowadays, it has become one of the most popular day trips from Lisbon attracting more than 3 million visitors per year! It’s easy to see why, this gorgeous collection of fairy tale palaces and their mystical gardens is truly like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
There are many beautiful palaces to visit in Sintra but unfortunately it’s not possible to visit all of them in one day. If you only have one day, follow this Lisbon to Sintra day trip guide to see the very best highlights.
If you have any extra time in Sintra, you’ll be able to visit the additional palaces that I’ve listed at the end of this guide.
This vibrant and colourful palace started out as a small monastery in the 15th century. The monastery was badly damaged by lightening and the great earthquake of Lisbon in the 18th century. It was sadly left it in ruins that were untouched for many decades.
When King Ferdinand II of Portugal found the ruins, he decided to turn them into a beautiful palace in 1838. It would later become a summer home for the Portuguese royalty.
The palace was designed by blending different styles of architecture (Gothic, Moorish, Romantic, Neo-Renaissance) which resulted in a unique and eccentric appearance.
I talk about fairy tale castles a lot in this blog, but there is no castle in the entire world more unique than Pena Palace! This is where I suggest you begin your day trip. Pena Palace is the most popular attraction of Sintra and along with that comes the crowds and the long queues, especially if you’re there during summer.
You should aim to be in Sintra nice and early, following the instructions below on how to get to Sintra from Lisbon by train. If you arrive at the Sintra train station around 9am, you can then get on the tourist bus 434 straight away which will put you at Pena Palace at the opening time of 9:30am.
It’s important to arrive at Pena Palace for opening time to beat the big crowds and avoid standing at the end of a giant line. Prepare to spend up to 2 hours exploring the castle and gardens.
Once you have finished seeing the castle itself, make your way into Pena Park, the beautiful and lush gardens that surround Pena Palace. There are a few well marked paths that you can take around the gardens that lead you to some awe inspiring panoramic viewpoints.
A popular vantage point is the “Cruz Alta”, a large stone cross marking the highest point in the Sintra hills. This cross can be accessed by following a trail from the palace, it will take roughly 20 minutes of steep uphill walking to get there. Find more info on what to see in Pena Park here.
Palace hours: 9:30am – 6:30pm
Park hours: 9am – 7pm
Tickets: €14 – For entrance to park and palace
*IMPORTANT TIP* Due to the huge crowds at this palace, it’s really important to buy your skip-the-line ticket before you go! The skip-the-line ticket allows you to skip the ticket line but you’ll still have to wait in the line to get into the palace! That’s why I recommend being there as early as possible.
Castle of the Moors
Not far from Pena Palace is the Castle of the Moors which is also called the Moorish Castle. It’s an impressive medieval fortress ruin that runs along the ridge of the Sintra hills.
The ruins can be easily reached by walking from Pena Palace, they are right next to each other. If you choose to take the bus 434 from the town, it also stops there.
The highlight of visiting the Castle of the Moors is the spectacular panoramic view that can be seen from its vantage point high above the town of Sintra. It is open for tourists to explore, and you can expect to climb a series of steep steps leading you along the fortress wall.
The Castle of the Moors may not be as lavish and striking as Pena Palace but its history is fascinating and it’s the oldest attraction in Sintra. The fortress dates back to Moorish invasions of the 10th century, it was built as a lookout to protect the town of Sintra below.
The Christian crusades of the 12th century left the fortress destroyed and in ruins. Over the centuries that followed it was further damaged by lightening strikes, fires, and the great Lisbon earthquake.
It wasn’t until King Ferdinand II came along and built the beautiful Pena Palace in the 19th century that the fortress was brought back to life. He decided to restore the Castle of the Moors so that he would be able to see it from his palace.
9:30am – 6:30pm daily
Tickets: €18 entry to the castle with audio guide
Sintra Town Center
Once you finish up at the Castle of the Moors, make your way back to the bus 434 and return to Sintra’s Old Town. The bus will drop you off in town and from there you can take some time to explore the town and stop for lunch.
The entire town center of Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has a very charming vibe to it. Take some time strolling the picturesque streets, admiring the historic buildings and browsing some shops.
Spending some time in town is the perfect way to break up the day of sightseeing at the palaces. Once you’ve had a break, continue on with your Sintra day trip to the palace and gardens of Quinta da Regaleira.
Quinta da Regaleira
This beautiful estate is easy to reach from Sintra’s old town in just 10 minutes by foot. From the center of town, click here to follow these Google maps directions that will guide you to Quinta da Regaleira.
The property was acquired by a wealthy Portuguese businessman in the late 19th century. He had envisioned a mystical garden full of hidden secrets and extravagant features. That is exactly what Quinta de Regaleira resulted in when construction was completed in 1910.
The design of the palace features Gothic influence with gargoyles, turrets and stunning detailing. The estate was listed as a UNESCO site in 1995 along with the rest of the town and it’s palaces.
It was purchased by the Sintra Town Council in 1998 when significant restoration work took place and then opened up to the public shortly after.
The palace itself is absolutely gorgeous, but the real highlight of visiting Quinta da Regaleira is the enchanting gardens that surround it. These amazing gardens are probably some of the best I’ve ever seen.
Allow yourself to get lost in the maze of paths that lead you through moss covered tunnels and underground wells, discovering lakes, fountains, grottos and little ponds but don’t forget to take a map!
There is a mysterious and other worldly vibe to this place, I mean where else have you seen a well that was never intended to be used for water? To this day, no one really knows what the actual purpose of the ‘Initiation Well’ was, but either way it’s awesome to explore and makes for the coolest photos!
The Quinta da Regaleira is a magical, fairy tale palace that photos truly cannot do justice! You really just need to experience this place for yourself and let your imagination run wild. Be prepared to spend around 1-2 hours there, it’s easy to spend longer though, trust me!
04/1 to 09/30: 10am – 7:30pm
10/1 to 03/31: 10am – 6:30pm
Tickets: €23 entry to palace and gardens with audio guide
Getting to Sintra from Lisbon
Trains from Lisbon to Sintra depart every half hour from Rossio Train Station which is located in Lisbon’s historic center. The travel time is 40 minutes and there is no need to buy your ticket in advance, you can buy them when you get to the station.
A single fare ticket from Lisbon to Sintra will cost €2.30, you can also purchase a round-trip ticket for €4.60. There is no discount for round-trip tickets.
To make the most of your day trip to Sintra from Lisbon, I would advise catching the train as early as possible. If you aim to be at the station by 8am, this will give you enough time in Sintra to see all of the recommended palaces.
When it comes time to return to Lisbon at the end of your day trip, trains depart from Sintra regularly (every half hour) until midnight. This means that you don’t have to be in a rush to make it back by a certain time.
You can take your time and perhaps even have dinner in Sintra before catching the train back to Lisbon.
Is it easier to drive to Sintra by car? You might be wondering why I recommend taking the train. Traffic in Sintra is often chaotic, especially around the palaces.
It’s simply not worth wasting time from your day trip by spending hours in traffic and searching for parking spaces which are very limited. If you’re traveling to Sintra from Lisbon during summer, save yourself the stress of driving through busy narrow streets and just take the train.
Getting Around Sintra
When you arrive at the Sintra train station, you will look for the tourist bus 434 which departs just outside of the train station. This bus runs in a loop and brings you up the steep hill to Pena Palace and Castle of the Moors and then back into town.
When you look at the map, it looks as though you could easily walk to Pena Palace from the train station, I wouldn’t recommend that. It’s an extremely steep and challenging hike that will leave you drenched in sweat by the time you arrive.
It will also take up a lot of valuable time from your day trip which would be better spent seeing the palaces.
Sintra Bus 434 – Taking the bus is a much easier and more convenient way to go, not to mention it saves you a ton of time. Tickets for a single loop cost €7.60 and the bus runs frequently, up to 4 times per hour during the busy months.
This single loop ticket includes one complete loop which means you can’t continue around the loop more than once, which is ideal for day trippers. This can be purchased directly from the bus driver or from the ticket office near the train station.
During peak season, be prepared to stand in a line to get on the bus 434. Even if you have to wait, this is still the most convenient option for getting around Sintra.
In the event that wait times are longer than usual, you will also have the option of taking an Uber or a local taxi for a higher price than the bus.
The bus 434 stops at:
- Moorish Castle
- Pena Palace
- Sintra Town Palace
- Quinta da Regaleira Palace
- Monserrate Palace (only included on the 24 hr ticket)
The Best Sintra Day Tours from Lisbon
If you would prefer your day trip to Sintra from Lisbon to be fully planned out, organized and led by an experienced guide then taking a tour is the perfect option for you.
Taking a tour is also a great way to avoid the hassle of navigating public transportation. Another bonus about being on a tour is that you’ll learn plenty of historic facts about each palace from your fun and friendly local guide.
Below are some highly rated Sintra tours from Lisbon that cover the main highlights. Some of them even include other stops like Cascais and Cabo da Roca.
Sintra Highlights Tour from Lisbon
This 8 hour Sintra day tour from Lisbon departs in the morning taking you to Sintra by mini-bus with a small group and a tour guide. The tour stops at three of the town’s major highlights: Quinta da Regaleira and gardens, Monserrate Palace and Pena Palace.
It includes guided tours of each palace as well as free time to spend exploring at your own pace. You’ll also get some free time in the town center to grab some lunch and have a look around the shops.
Sintra and Cascais Full Day Tour
This highly rated Lisbon to Sintra day trip picks you up from the city center of Lisbon and takes you straight to Pena Palace where you’ll enjoy a fully guided tour of the park and palace. Your guide will show you all the best viewpoints and tell you stories of the palace’s fascinating history.
The tour continues to the town center of Sintra where you’ll taste some traditional pastries and stop for lunch before visiting Quinta da Regaleira on a fully guided tour. In the afternoon, your driver will take you out to the westernmost point of Europe, the Roca Cape cliffs.
The day trip will finish up in the picturesque seaside town of Cascais where you’ll have time to take a walk along the beach or explore the town before returning back to Lisbon in the evening.
Pena Palace and Regaleira Tour from Lisbon
This small group tour departs from Lisbon in a van taking you first to Quinta da Regaleira and its mystical gardens. The tour includes entry to the palace and gardens as well as a fully guided tour of the mansion and surrounding park.
The day trip is broken up with a stop in Sintra town center for lunch and some free time to explore the shops. Your guide will also take you to try some traditional Portuguese treats.
The afternoon will be spent at the jaw-dropping Pena Palace. A fully guided tour will take you through the palace and gardens and also allow some time to explore the estate on your own before heading back to Lisbon.
Note that entry to Pena Palace is not included in the price of this ticket. There is an option to include hotel pick up/drop off for an extra cost.
Private Day Trip to Sintra from Lisbon
If you’d prefer a more intimate tour setting, then a private tour might suit you better. This private Sintra day trip includes hotel pick up and drop off and a private driver/tour guide.
The stops include: the Palace of Queluz (King Pedro III’s residence), Pena Palace, Castle of the Moors, Cabo da Roca cliffs.
There will also be stops at the pretty towns of Estoril, Cascais and the dunes of Guincho Beach before returning to Lisbon. Entrance to palaces are not included in this tour ticket.
This tour is perfect if you’d like a tailor made itinerary to suit your preferences, avoid a large group tour and have a personal guide to show you around each attraction.
Lisbon to Sintra Day Trip Check List
- Day pack – You’ll need a good day pack to fit all your belongings in for the day.
- Good walking shoes – This day trip will involve a lot of walking so having a pair of comfortable walking shoes is a must.
- Portable charger – It will be a long day and there will be many beautiful sites to capture so make sure your phone stays fully charged.
- Collapsible water bottle – Bring a water bottle to ensure you stay hydrated throughout the day.
- Sunglasses – You’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors so make sure to protect your eyes from the harsh sun.
- Sunscreen – As mentioned above, keep yourself protected from the sun if you’re day tripping to Sintra during summer!
- Umbrella – If you’re visiting during shoulder season, don’t forget to bring one!
- Rain jacket – The weather in Sintra can change pretty quickly, it’s always best to come prepared.
Spending More Time In Sintra?
If you have the time to spare, I would suggest spending more than just one day in Sintra. Although you can see the main highlights in a single day trip from Lisbon, two days will allow you to spread the attractions out for a more leisurely sightseeing pace.
While you may be able to include the National Palace on your Sintra day trip itinerary, most people will find that it results in a long and tiring day. With two days in Sintra, you can easily see the attractions below without feeling rushed.
Monserrate Palace is also gorgeous but it’s located out of town which means you won’t have time to include it on the Sintra itinerary above. If you spend a night there, you’ll be be able to visit this beautiful and less touristy palace.
National Palace of Sintra
The National Palace is located in the town center of Sintra and is the oldest and best preserved medieval palace in all of Portugal. It was originally built in the 14th century on a site where an old Moorish castle once stood.
From the 15th to 19th centuries, the National Palace of Sintra was the primary residence of the Portuguese royalty and nobility.
Although the palace suffered some damage in the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755, it was quickly restored to its original form. The two massive chimneys that you see coming up from the top of the palace gives it a very distinct look.
Don’t be fooled by the somewhat plain exterior of this palace (it’s a big contrast when compared to the likes of Pena Palace), it’s the intricate ceiling decorations and gorgeous Portuguese tile work on the inside that makes this palace worth a visit! You’ll need around 30-60 minutes to see the National Palace.
Opening Hours: 9:30am – 6:30pm
This stunning work of art is somewhat out of the way (4km from the town center) meaning that you won’t find the same volume of tourists at this palace as you would at Pena Palace or Quinta da Regaleira. Which is all the more reason to visit if you have the extra time!
Monserrate Palace is yet another architectural masterpiece of Sintra, featuring a mixture of Moorish, Gothic, and Indian influences. This lovely summer mansion was built in the year 1860 by a wealthy English businessman, Sir Francis Cook.
Before he took over and completely transformed the place, a deserted mansion had sat on the property for many years.
After the Cook family sold the estate in the 1940s, the palace was left empty for decades until it was taken over by Sintra Park in 2000. The palace and grounds were extensively renovated and then opened up to the public a few years later.
Just like Quinta da Regaleira, the elaborate gardens that surround Monserrate Palace are a highlight of most people’s visit. The entire property has a real other-worldly vibe to it and will have you feeling as through you’re walking through a fairy tale.
It’s easy to lose track of time in these lush botanical gardens that feature exotic plants from all over the world, ponds, waterfalls and even a chapel that was specifically built to look like a ruin!
There isn’t much furniture on the inside of the palace, but the intricate detailing of the rooms and halls makes the visit worthwhile. A visit to Monserrate Palace can take between 1-2 hours.
The best way to reach Monserrate Palace from Sintra town center is by taking the bus 435, see map for more details. Alternatively you can take a taxi or an Uber there, which will obviously cost more than the bus.
Opening Hours: 9am – 7pm
Where to Stay in Sintra
In case you decide to spend a night or two in Sintra, I can recommend staying at the Sintra 1012 Boutique Guesthouse. I stayed there when I stopped in Sintra on my road trip from Porto to Lisbon and had a great stay.
The location could not be any better! It is right in the middle of Sintra’s historic center making it super easy to access the main attractions, cafes and restaurants. There’s a great breakfast included in your stay and the rooms are quiet and comfortable. Book a room at the Sintra 1012 Boutique Guesthouse.
It’s worth mentioning that Sintra is not a very big town and has limited accommodation choices. If you’re planning your trip to Portugal during summer, you’ll want to book your room well in advance.
Where to Stay in Lisbon for your Sintra Day Trip
Booking your accommodation in the center of Lisbon will allow easy access to all of the city’s top highlights. If you’re planning to do your day trip to Sintra independently, it’s best to be near the buses and train stations.
If you decide to book an organized day trip to Sintra from Lisbon, you’ll want to be near the meeting point where the tour departs from.
Budget: Lisbon Destination Hostel – A popular hostel in a convenient location near the Rossio Train Station. This is ideal for the budget conscious traveller.
Mid-Range: Lisbon Downtown Inn – I had a very comfortable stay at this guesthouse during my 2 days in Lisbon. I really liked the central location near many restaurants, bars and cafes. Also, the host was super friendly and accommodating.
Luxury: Hotel Avenida Palace – A beautiful historic property in the heart of Lisbon with all the amenities you could wish for. If you feel like splashing out during your visit to Lisbon, then look no further!
The Best Travel Insurance for Europe
Are you travelling to Portugal from overseas? If you are, then you’ll need to get travel insurance before you go.
The last thing you want is to have an unexpected medical emergency occur while you’re in a different country with no insurance to cover the costs!
Even if you don’t end up using it, getting travel insurance is a small investment for having peace of mind. This allows you to focus on having a memorable, relaxing vacation instead of worrying about what could go wrong.
I always go with Heymondo. They’re one of the most reliable companies that will provide you with simple and flexible coverage. Whether you’d like to protect against medical emergencies, lost luggage, or trip cancellations, Heymondo has you covered!
As a reader of The Road Is Life, you get 5% off your Heymondo travel insurance by using the link below!
When is The Best Time to Visit Sintra?
Sintra is one of Portugal’s top tourist destinations which means it’s busy with tourism year round. It gets particularly crowded from June – August when the weather is hot and sunny.
For nice weather and fewer crowds you should consider visiting Sintra during off season or shoulder season instead. Aim for April/May or September/October when temperatures are still comfortable with a fraction of the crowds.
If you visit Sintra during the fall or winter, ensure you come prepared for cooler weather and rain. Due to its location in the hills, Sintra’s weather can be unpredictable with sun suddenly turning to rain and fog.
I experienced some fog and a bit of rain while visiting Sintra in October, but in the same day I also had some sunshine. The weather can change quickly in Sintra, even if the forecast calls for mostly sun.
Based on my own experience of road tripping through Portugal in October, I would highly recommend planning your trip during this time of year. While there is a higher chance of rainy days, it’s well worth it to visit Portugal during a much quieter period.
Overall, the weather did not impact any activities or sightseeing during my entire trip and most of the time it was actually perfect for sightseeing with significantly fewer crowds than high season.
One last thing, if you have the choice of day tripping to Sintra during the week instead of the weekend, this will also help you to avoid large crowds.
Explore more of Portugal with me!
- How to Spend 2 days in Lisbon – The Best 2 Day Itinerary
- The Perfect 2 Day Porto Itinerary
- Porto to Lisbon Road Trip – The Ultimate 10 Day Itinerary
- 13 Incredible Day Trips from Lisbon
- The top 20 most beautiful villages in Portugal for your bucket list!
Enjoy this Lisbon to Sintra Day Trip Guide? Pin it for later!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, I may receive a small commission on purchases made through these links. By making any purchase, you are directly supporting The Road Is Life Travel Blog which allows me to continue providing you with free high-quality travel guides. I only recommend products/services we have tried/love!