The Perfect Sintra Day Trip from Lisbon: Complete Guide, Itinerary & Insider Tips

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Your ultimate guide to planning a day trip from Lisbon to Sintra

Located in the lush hills west of Lisbon, Sintra is a day trip destination that feels like stepping into a fairytale. With its whimsical palaces, historic estates, and enchanting forests, this UNESCO World Heritage site offers a perfect escape from the bustling city.

Whether you’re exploring the vibrant colors of Pena Palace, wandering through the mystical gardens of Quinta da Regaleira, or savoring local pastries at a charming café, a day in Sintra promises a quirky blend of history and beauty.

Our Sintra day trip guide has all the information you need to plan the perfect trip. Join us as we uncover the magic of Sintra in a single, unforgettable day.

Sintra day trip from Lisbon

A Brief History of Sintra

Located at the base of Sintra Mountain, Sintra has a rich royal history dating back thousands of years. Sintra is most famous for its 19th century Romantic architectural style, however, there are elements of Gothic, Moorish, and Renaissance traits within the town. Some of the oldest structures within Sintra, including the Moorish Castle and the Palace of Ribafrias, date back to as early as the 9th century.

In 1995 Sintra was rightfully granted the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and today makes for one of the best day trips from Lisbon due to its world-famous attractions, close proximity, and easy transport links.

Millions of tourists visit this beautiful town and its unique attractions every year and whether you are visiting Lisbon for just a couple of days or a week, Sintra should definitely be part of your Lisbon itinerary.

TOP TIP: Manage your expectations! Sintra is the third most visited place in Portugal after Lisbon and Porto. They are big cities and Sintra is tiny in comparison, meaning it will be very, very busy. Read on for tips about how to avoid the crowds and when to visit for a quieter experience.

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woman standing in front of yellow and blue houses with a red phone box in the front

Is this your first time visiting Portugal? Get all the information you need in our Portugal Travel Guide, including what to pack, the best time of year to go, getting there, and practical tips to help you have the best trip!

How to Get to Sintra from Lisbon

Transport between Sintra and Lisbon is plentiful, with options to suit every budget and travel style. 

Train

One of the easiest and quickest ways to take a Sintra day trip from Lisbon is to catch the train. Located in the center of Lisbon’s old town, in a convenient location no matter where you’re staying, Lisbon’s Rossio train station runs multiple trains a day to Sintra train station. The journey only takes around 40 minutes. 

Trains leave almost every 30 minutes between 5:41am and 1:01am and the tickets cost a few euros each way. You cannot pre-purchase tickets so make sure to get to the station in advance as queues can be lengthy. It is worth noting, however, that this journey is included for free with the Lisbon Card.

TOP TIP: We would recommend catching the 8:11 train as most palaces don’t open until 9am. 

Car or Taxi

Whilst it is possible to drive or take a taxi to Sintra, this is not a method I would recommend. The roads from Lisbon to Sintra are narrow and winding and were not designed to withstand the large amounts of traffic they now receive.

If you choose to drive, be prepared to wait in lengthy queues and make sure you leave as early as possible to give yourself a chance of grabbing an elusive parking spot.

Organized Tour

If you want to lose all of the hassle associated with public transport and driving, then a guided tour is the perfect way to explore Sintra and all of its main attractions.

This can be a really convenient way to explore Sintra, with a dedicated itinerary in order to maximize your time. These are our top picks:

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Sintra Day Trip Itinerary

Pena Palace

For the first stop of the day, head to the beautiful Pena Palace. This is possibly one of the most famous palaces in Sintra and it can get incredibly busy, particularly during peak season, so make sure to head there just before opening time. 

To get from Sintra town to the Pena Palace, you can either catch a tuk-tuk or the hop-on hop-off 434 bus. It takes 20 minutes from the train station to reach the Pena Palace on the tourist bus so we would not recommend walking it – that would take around an hour of quite steep uphill walking.

Some tuk-tuks operate like a taxi service and others offer a private tour, often including the wild Cabo da Roca, the European continent’s most westerly point, and the beautiful seaside town of Cascais. If you choose this option, the tuk-tuk tour guide will wait for you at Pena Palace before taking you on to other attractions.

This option costs more than a tuk-tuk taxi but we felt it was worth it as the driver was knowledgeable and we stopped several times on the winding road up the hill to Pena Palace for the best photo opportunities.

As you drive up the hill towards the palace, you’ll quickly spot the bright yellow and red façade. It would be easy to think you’re setting foot onto a Disney set, not a historical palace. Yet there’s something so charming about the palace that you have to experience.

We highly recommend booking your Pena Palace timed skip-the-line entrance tickets in advance to avoid the inevitable waiting in line on the day of your visit. This way you can plan your Sintra itinerary in advance, which is exactly what you need to do to maximize your time and see as much as possible.

As you arrive, you’ll get a close-up look at the palace’s exterior, a dazzling mix of red, yellow, and purple hues combined with ornate Moorish and Manueline motifs. The palace’s terraces provide breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding Sintra mountains, the Atlantic Ocean, and the parklands that envelop the estate – as long as there is no mist!

Inside Pena Palace, the opulent interiors include richly decorated rooms adorned with period furniture, intricate tiles, and stucco ceilings. Highlights include the lavish King’s and Queen’s Apartments, the Grand Hall, the serene Chapel, and the fascinating kitchens, always our favorite place in any palace!

TOP TIP: After spending an hour or so exploring the outside of the palace, head down into the Parque da Pena, or the palace’s gardens. Very few tourists venture into the park but we would highly recommend you do. Plus, you can get some pretty incredible views of Pena Palace that most tourists miss completely!

With 200 hectares to explore, with winding paths through luscious green exotic foliage, trees, and past lakes and streams, the park is seriously underrated. Be sure to find the Valley of the Lakes, the Queen’s Fern Garden, and the pretty Fountain of the Little Birds.

How Long to Spend at Pena Palace?

Spend three hours exploring Pena Palace and its gardens before heading back into Sintra. This should give you plenty of time to see everything without being too rushed, though you could easily spend the whole day at Pena Palace alone.

red and yellow turreted castle with people looking towards it over a crenellated wall

Lunch Stop

Spend an hour and a half in Sintra, exploring, purchasing souvenirs, and stopping for lunch. Sintra is a really cute town in its own right, with cobblestone streets, boutique shops, and small cafés and restaurants.

TOP TIP: For lunch, we recommend Restaurante Romaria de Baco. This is a little hidden gem that is more frequented by locals than tourists, with a really authentic atmosphere. The food is incredible – you really have to stop here!

Quinta da Regaleira

Following lunch, head to Quinta da Regaleira. This is just a short ten minute walk up from Sintra town, making it incredibly convenient to visit. We would recommend booking your tickets in advance in order to maximize your time and not waste it standing in a queue.

Quinta da Regaleira is completely different from Pena Palace and complements it perfectly. Whilst Pena Palace is characterized by bright colors, Quinta da Regaleira has more of a mystical atmosphere, with hidden caves and grottos to explore.

The highlight of Quinta da Regaleira is the Masonic Well of Initiation. This is the most beautiful well we have ever seen, with a spiral staircase leading down the edge of the well and arched windows looking in. Be prepared to queue to go down as they do limit numbers, but it really is worth the wait.

This is another attraction where you really need to book your priority entry tickets in advance. As the second most popular attraction in Sintra after Pena Palace, the entry queues here are often just as long.

TOP TIP: Queues for descending the well will be shorter the later in the day you leave it, so it may be worth leaving this to be the last thing you do in Quinta da Regaleira.

How Long to Spend at Quinta da Regaleira

Quinta da Regaleira is much smaller than Pena Palace, though it still deserves a good two hours to properly explore. 

circular well seen from above with brick walls and arches in the walls

How to Get Around Sintra

What to Do with More Time in Sintra

If you have a little more time than just one day in Sintra, there are plenty more palaces and castles you can explore. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend trying to fit any more into this itinerary, I’ve listed below a few others you can visit if you visit again. 

Palácio Nacional de Sintra 

The Palácio Nacional de Sintra, or Sintra National Palace, is located in the town itself and is the best-preserved medieval royal residence in Portugal, dating back to the 10th century. It was one of the most important buildings in Portugal. It was inhabited by the royal family as a hunting retreat due to the lush forests and cooler climate, or to escape outbreaks of plague within the capital.

Whilst the National Palace may look a little plain from the outside, with whitewashed walls accented with yellow, the inside is a completely different story. The rooms are beautifully and intricately decorated, as you would expect from a royal palace. The walls are covered in stunning azulejos, decorative tiles, and have information boards so you can understand a little more about the palace.

TOP TIP: Make sure you visit the coat of arms room will honestly leave you speechless, with an intricately carved wooden ceiling and the most beautiful ornate blue azulejos covering the walls. You also have to visit the swan room and the magpie room. Make sure to look up – the ceilings are beautiful.

white palace with teracotta roofs and conical towers

Moorish Castle

The Moorish Castle, or Castelo Dos Mouros, is another castle worth visiting on a day trip to Sintra. Built in the 8th and 9th centuries, this military castle is the oldest in Sintra. You’ll see the tall turrets of its long stone wall from the Pena Palace.

This is the type of castle you see in history books. Long, snaking, fortified walls at the top of a huge hill, with watch towers at strategic positions all the way around. 

The best part about the Moorish Castle is that it is not as visited as the Pena Palace, National Palace, or Quinta da Regaleira. This means you shouldn’t have to queue for long to get in and will have a much more peaceful experience, although we still recommend that you book tickets in advance.

Whilst there is not so much to see in terms of the castle itself, the Moorish Castle is worth visiting in order to walk the length of its walls. The views are absolutely incredible and have to be some of the best in Sintra.

TOP TIP: If you have mobility issues, this might be one to avoid as the walls have many inclines and declines, with thick stone steps to walk up and down.

large castle with crenellated walls flying flags atop a craggy outcrop surrounded by trees

Parque e Palácio de Monserrate

Though smaller than most palaces in Sintra, Monserrate Palace takes the crown as one of the most beautiful. It is less visited and hence much less crowded than many places in Sintra, making for an enjoyable visit.

The gardens of Monserrate are absolutely breathtaking and stretch as far as the eye can see. There are also several green spaces for you to lay out a picnic and enjoy the sunshine. Whilst it is a little hilly, and many paths have steps, there are accessible paths making it a great palace to visit with a stroller or a wheelchair. 

It’s a 5 minute walk from the entrance to the palace, and it is so worth it. The palace is full of intricate details, carvings, and gothic arch windows it will honestly blow you away. This is the sort of hidden gem that makes you wonder why it’s not busier, yet you’re secretly glad that not many people visit. 

stony and peachy coloured building with ornate soffits and arces, surrounded by palms and trees

Tips for Visiting Sintra

Best Time to Visit Sintra

Sintra is a beautiful place to visit year-round. However, the best time of year to visit has to be shoulder season, from April to May and September to October.

Fewer people visit Sintra at these times of year, hence your visit is likely to be much more enjoyable. During spring, the gardens will be in bloom with so many different and exotic plants, while in autumn, the trees are turning shades of orange and red. This is incredibly beautiful to see. Plus, the weather still tends to be mild.

Summer offers the best weather, however the crowds can be significant. The weather in Sintra tends to be relatively mild, around 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) but days are often damp and misty. 

We’ve visited Sintra twice, in July and November. The difference in numbers and crowds was vast, with November being far quieter and still warm enough to ride around in a tuk-tuk.

woman in an orange tuk-tuk with trees and stone walls in the background

How to Avoid the Crowds

The palaces and castles of Sintra are certainly no secret being one of the most popular tourist attractions in the whole of Portugal.

If you’re trying to avoid crowds, I would first say that you need to be realistic that this is a very popular destination and it is unlikely you will ever get it to yourself. 

Here’s our top 5 tips on how to avoid the crowds as much as possible:

  • Plan in advance which palaces you want to visit and visit the most popular one first, just as the gates are opening.
  • Avoid visiting on a weekend.
  • Consider staying in Sintra overnight to enjoy the town without the majority of the tourists.
  • Visit less popular palaces such as Palácio de Monserrate.
  • Head to the gardens and parks – people often don’t stray from the palaces themselves.
red and yellow palace high on a hill with a woman walking towards it on a lower path

What to Wear

The weather in Sintra can be a little unpredictable. If you’re visiting Sintra from Lisbon, don’t rely on the weather in Lisbon being an indicator of what it will be like in Sintra – we made this mistake!

As it is located at a higher altitude than Lisbon, Sintra is much cooler. Make sure to bring layers, and a waterproof jacket in case of showers. I would also recommend a pair of comfortable shoes as you will be doing a lot of walking!

Tickets and Passes

Whilst tickets are available to purchase at the gates of each palace and castle, we would highly recommend purchasing them in advance. This will save you from wasting time standing in queues on the day.

However, you will need to prebook your entry time so make sure you’re realistic about how long you will spend in each place – we guarantee it’ll be longer than you expect!

If you have already purchased the Lisbon Card, you will get discounted entry, however, this only works if you purchase your tickets at the gate on the day. We would say that the discount isn’t worth the possible long wait!

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