Taking a day trip from Lisbon to Sintra 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, has 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!
We stopped in Sintra for a few days while on our epic Portugal road trip, but because most people visit on a day trip from Lisbon, that’s how I’ve structured this Sintra itinerary.
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!
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Lisbon to Sintra Day Trip: How to Spend One Day in Sintra
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 epic 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.
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 it’s unique and eccentric appearance.
Not only is Pena Palace striking, its setting is like no other. It’s perched on mountain top towering over the forest and surrounding countryside below. The views from the palace itself are simply breathtaking! It became listed as a UNESCO site in 1995 along with the entire town of Sintra.
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. It’s by far the most popular attraction of Sintra and along with that comes the crowds and the long queues, it doesn’t seem to matter what time of year you visit.
I highly recommend you aim to arrive in Sintra nice and early, following the instructions below on how to get to Sintra from Lisbon by train. Once you arrive at the Sintra train station, you’ll want to get on the tourist bus 434 that runs in a loop starting from the train station and stopping at all major attractions.
Try and get to Pena Palace for the opening time at 9:30am to avoid the hordes. So that means you will stay on the bus and don’t get off until you reach Pena Palace which is at the top of a huge hill. 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 30 minutes of steep uphill walking to get there. Find more info on what to see in Pena Park here.
03/28 to 10/30: 9:30am – 7pm
10/31 to 03/27: 10am – 6pm
Tickets: €14 – For entrance to park and palace
*Tip* 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.
National Palace of Sintra
Once you finish up at Pena Palace, make your way back to the bus 434 and return to Sintra town center. The bus will drop you off in town and from there you can walk to have some lunch or continue straight to the National Palace.
The National Palace in the town center of Sintra is the oldest and best preserved medieval palace in all of Portugal. It was originally built in the 14th century on a site where a Moorish castle once stood. From the 15th to 19th centuries, the National Palace of Sintra was the primary home to 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 you’re coming straight from 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.
*Tip* Don’t forget to stop for lunch in the town center either before or after visiting the National Palace. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes around the town which are easy to find by having a wander up the main street.
Keep in mind that there are very limited and expensive food options at the palaces so you should avoid having to buy food when you’re out sightseeing.
03/28 to 10/30: 9:30am – 7pm
10/31 to 03/27: 10am – 6pm
Quinta da Regaleira
This beautiful estate is easy to reach from Sintra’s town center in just 10 minutes by foot. From the National Palace, click here to follow these Google maps directions that will take 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 incredible 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 a minimum of 2 hours there, it’s easy to spend longer though, trust me!
04/1 to 09/30: 9:30am -8pm
10/1 to 03/31: 9am-6pm
Tickets: €10 entry to palace and gardens
Tickets to Quinta da Regaleira are available for purchase at the palace entrance and cannot be bought online prior to visiting.
Getting from Lisbon to Sintra
When you get to 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 massive 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. Taking the bus is a much easier way to go, not to mention it saves you a ton of time.
When you buy your hop-on hop-off ticket from the bus driver, it includes one complete loop which means you can’t continue around the loop more than once. Tickets cost €6.90 and the bus runs frequently, up to 4 times per hour during the busy months.
Sintra Tours from Lisbon
If you would prefer your Lisbon to Sintra day trip to be fully planned out, organized and led by an experienced guide then taking a tour is the perfect option for you. Below are some highly rated Sintra day tours 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 Pena Palace and gardens. The tour includes entry to the Pena Palace as well as a fully guided tour of the palace 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 gorgeous Quinta da Regaleira. 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.
Private Lisbon to Sintra Day Trip
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, Roca cape cliffs.
There will also be stops at the pretty towns of Estoril and Cascais before returning to Lisbon. Entrance to palaces are not included in this tour ticket.
Spending More Time In Sintra?
If you do have the extra time, I would highly recommend spending more than just one day in Sintra. If you have at least two days here, then you’ll easily be able to see the attractions listed below in addition to the Sintra day trip itinerary above.
Or you might like the look of the ones below and opt to see some of them on your day trip instead. No matter what you choose to do, there is no wrong choice here! These palaces are all so unique and beautiful in their own way.
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 to!
Monserrate Palace is yet another architectural masterpiece of Sintra, featuring a mixture of Moorish, Gothic, and Indian influences. This lovely summer home 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. It’s easy to lose track of time in these lush 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 there but this won’t be as cost effective.
03/28 until 10/30: 9:30am – 8pm
10/31 to 03/27: 10am – 6pm
Castle of the Moors
Not too far away from Pena Palace is the Castle of the Moors also called the Moorish Castle, 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 literally 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 views 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.
03/28 until 10/30: 9:30am – 8pm
10/31 to 03/27: 10am – 6pm
In case you do decide to spend a night or two in Sintra, I can recommend staying at the Casa da Villa IC. We stayed there when we stopped in Sintra on our 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. Book a room at the Casa da Villa IC.
Best Time to Visit Sintra
Sintra is busy with tourists year round but it gets particularly crowded in the spring and summer months. Yes, the weather is warmer and sunnier which makes for a more enjoyable sightseeing time but you should consider visiting Sintra in off season or shoulder season instead.
Bear in mind that the Sintra is prone to foggy weather due to its location on a big hill. Be prepared by bringing extra layers in case the weather takes an unexpected turn. We experienced some fog and a bit of rain while visiting Sintra, but then we also had some sun and warm weather too. The weather can change quickly in Sintra, even if the forecast calls for only sun.
We road tripped through Portugal in October and while we did have some rain, most of the time was actually sunny and perfect sightseeing weather with fewer crowds than high season. Having said that, there was still a queue and crowds at Pena Palace when we arrived at opening time, but that’s to be expected given how impressive it is!
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