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The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Sintra (+ One Day Sample Itinerary)

Last Updated on 25th September 2022 by Sophie Nadeau

Sunny Sintra is a delightful town that’s a must-see for anyone who loves art, architecture, and history. Best visited over the course of a day, Sintra is particularly well-known for its incredible castles, breathtaking natural scenery, and palaces. Here’s how to visit Sintra, as well as everything you need to know before you go!

visit sintra

Where and what is Sintra?

Sintra is located 30 km to the west of Lisbon, the capital of Portugal in the foothills of the the Serra de Sintra. While Lisbon and Sintra are both situated within the middle of Portugal, Sintra itself lies pretty close to the Atlantic Ocean and the sparkling water itself can be spied from some of the town’s highest vantage points.

Though Sintra is technically a Portuguese town, it is often described by many as something akin to a theme park that has come to life thanks to its many historical points of interest and fairytale-like façades.

Sintra is not only a UNESCO World Heritage site, but also one of the most popular places to visit in Portugal thanks to its abundance of romantic architecture. Most places in town date back to the 19th-century, when the town was the retreat of choice for the Portuguese monarchy and associated nobility.

The busiest times of the year are in July and August (European high season) and so, if you’re able to, I recommend visiting in May/ June or September/ October in order to make the most of longer days without the crowds.

visit sintra

How to visit Sintra

If you’re short on time, then the best way to get to know Sintra is as a day trip from Lisbon. With this being said, if you want to get to know the city on more of a local’s level without the crowds, then consider an overnight stay so that you can experience Sintra without the day trippers. Here’s how to visit Sintra:

By train: If you’re looking to see Sintra as a day trip, then the cheapest way to reach the area is by taking the train from Rossio train station in downtown Lisbon. The journey takes around 45 minutes and trains leave several times an hour during the day.

By guided tour: For a no fuss day trip where all of the finer details are taken care of, a guided tour from Lisbon is a no-brainer. Booking a guided tour like this one will take you to all of the highlights of Sintra, and give you a greater insight into the history behind each attraction. Find more information here.

Quinta da Regaleira

Best things to do in Sintra

Quinta da Regaleira

This Gothic mansion is in a beautiful setting with surrounding gardens. The site is part of the UNESCO  “Cultural Landscape of Sintra” and comprises of a Romantic Palace and chapel (which date back to the latter half of the 19th-century) and a surrounding parkland.

Most of the house was designed by the Italian architect Luigi Manini. Particular highlights include Gothic gargoyles and pinnacles. The gardens of the park are pretty impressive and boast features like grottoes, fountains, and benches.

if you’ve spent any time on social media checking out photos of Sintra, then no doubt you’ll have spied the moss-covered central staircase of the Initiatic Well, which is also located within the estate. Of all the places to visit in Sintra, this is one of the less touristic spots.

Quinta da Regaleira

Pena Palace and park

Perched atop the highest spot in town, Pena Palace is undoubtedly the crown jewel when it comes to attractions in Sintra, not to mention it’s the most popular place to visit. The golden hued façade of the Palace is instantly recognisable.

A Romanticist castle in São Pedro de Penaferrim, in the municipality of Sintra, Pena Palace was completed in 1854. Thanks to its elevation at the highest point in Sintra, on a clear day, it’s possible to see the castle from as far away as Lisbon!

pena palace

Castelo dos Mouros

The Moorish Castle is actually one of the oldest historical sites in Sintra and sits atop of its own rocky perch, overlooking the town. There has been a castle onsite since the 8th-century, when it was built to protect the surrounding population, who largely worked in agriculture.

Today, the vast fortified stone walls offer a glimpse into what this part of Portugal would have been like during the Middle Ages. You can easily while away several hours climbing up and down the walls of the castle, though note that it can be pretty windy, even in the summer!

Castelo dos Mouros

Sintra National Palace

The Sintra National Palace shouldn’t be confused with the Palace of Pena, which is higher up the hill. The Sintra National Palace is also called the Town Palace and was built in the 15th-century, making it one of the best-preserved medieval royal residences in Portugal. Today, the structure functions as a historic house museum.

Sintra National Palace

Convent of the Capuchos

One of the lesser-known spots in the Sintra area that is well worth checking out if you have time is the Convent of the Capuchos. This historical convent takes only around 30 minutes to wander around. Highlights include the chance to see a beautiful blend of architecture mixed with religion and nature.

Convent of the Capuchos

Monserrate Palace

Yet another Sintra Palace that is a little out of the way and so not really easy to get to when visitors are just on a day trip to Sintra is the Monserrate Palace. This villa once functioned as the summer resort of the Portuguese court and lies nestled in the verdant Sintra mountain.

Monserrate

Suggested One Day in Sintra Itinerary

Before heading out to explore Sintra, I highly recommend planning your route in advance. Since there is so much to see and do, you’ll want to bullet point what you most want to explore.

If visiting Sintra as a day trip from Lisbon, aim to leave from the Rossio train station by 9 AM, if not a little bit earlier. This Sintra itinerary is quite ambitious and so my one piece of advice would be to not walk everywhere. For example, take the tourist bus up hills in order to save time to explore the sites themselves!

Pena Palace and Park: After arrival at the train station, take the 434 bus and begin your day by heading to the highest point in town, the Pena Palace. This historic structure and its associated estate take several hours to visit. Pena Palace officially opens at 9:30 AM though aim to arrive a little before that time as this is the most popular attraction in

Castelo dos Mouros: Following a visit to Pena Palace, it’s a fairly short and simple walk to reach the Castle of the Moors. The walk is downhill and takes around 15 minutes. It takes around an hour or so to visit this Sintra attraction.

Lunch in Sintra Town: You can then walk down into Saõ Martinho (the walk takes 15 to 25 minutes) or hop on the 434 bus. Once in town, you can get lunch at one of the many eateries. There’s a surprising number of vegan and vegetarian restaurants and some of the top picks include A Praça and Mela Canela.

Sintra National Palace: After a hearty lunch, the Sintra National Palace is just a short walk away, not far from the centre of Saõ Martinho. This 11th-century Moorish Palace takes one to two hours to visit.

Quinta da Regaleira: Finally, end your day by visiting Quinta da Regaleira. This regal building takes two to three hours to fully enjoy. At the end of the day, it’s a fairly easy and short walk to get back to Sintra train station which will take you back to Lisbon.

Quinta da Regaleira

Sintra travel tips

If you want to make the most of your day and maximise exploration time (while all of the sites are actually open), then it’s best to set off to explore Sintra as early as possible. The castles open their doors between 9 AM and 10 AM (depending on the castle in question) and so aim to arrive just before that time.

Once in the Portuguese town, there are a number of ways to get around which vary in cost and depend on your personal preference. As well as on your own two feet (so be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes), other ways to get around town between the points of interest include tuk-tuk, bus, and taxi.

Do not rent a car. As a result of mass tourism, traffic jams are frequent and so driving around can get pretty frustrating pretty quickly! If you’re able to, then one of the most efficient ways to explore Sintra is on foot. For more inspiration, be sure to check out our top Portugal travel tips.

An alternative way of getting around town that’s efficient and quite inexpensive is by taking the tourist bus. This will shave a fair bit of travel time off your route (depending on the traffic). The 434 bus does loops of the town and a single fare can be purchased at a cost of a few euros.

Quinta da Regaleira

Where to stay in Sintra

As I mentioned previously, if you’re not in a rush, then staying in Sintra overnight gives you the chance to see the town without the crowds, mad rush, and day trippers which descend on the city each day.

Despite being a popular destination with day trippers, there is a surprisingly good choice of places to stay in town. Here are some of the best places to stay in Sintra based on web-reviews and location:

Budget: Those who are looking for low-cost accommodation during their time in Sintra can check out this budget hostel. As well as female only and mixed dorm rooms, private rooms are also available. Check prices and availability here.

Mid-range: This cosy accommodation in Sintra offers highlights such as an airport shuttle bus and close proximity to Sintra train station. Check prices and availability here.

Luxury: If you’re in search of an uber luxurious stay during your time in Portugal, then you’ve come to the right place. This five-star hotel boasts amenities such as a hotel and spa. Check prices and availability here.

What to wear when exploring Europe

In the summer, you can’t go wrong by pairing a cute midi dress with classic white tennis shoes for a laid-back smart casual look that’s just as chic for walking around a city’s cobbled lanes as it is for wandering coastal paths. I love this dress and have it in several colour ways. In terms of tennis shoes, this is my go-to shoe.

When it comes to winter in Europe, most places (with the exception of a few islands) can get pretty cold and so warm layers is a must. I find that cute ankle boots like these ones are the perfect mix of practical meets cute.

Shoulder seasons (spring and summer) in Europe tend to come with a mix of rainy and sunny days and so, again, layers are a must. Trench coats and sneakers are the best uniform to explore the continent in.

Finally, a cross-body bag like these ones is a must. I personally use a crossbody bag by this brand and love its shape, size, and versatility. As well as being convenient and compact, it’s one of the safest ways to transport your valuables, all the while looking chic. I also recommend bringing along a travel adapter like this one so you can charge all of your electronics during your stay!

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