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Everything you need to know about planning a Sintra day trip from Lisbon

Pena Palace on of the best things to do in Sinta

If you find yourself in Lisbon you should definitely think about planning a day trip to Sintra, a picturesque town that lies in the foothills of the Sintra Mountains. From the moment you arrive in this fairy tale town, you are suddenly enchanted by its beauty. There are so many things to do in Sintra, that you will struggle to fit them all in, especially on a day trip. But if you are organised, you can make the most of your time. To help, we have put together this Sintra itinerary with everything you need to know. This includes the best things to do in Sintra in one day, as well as information on how to get the train from Lisbon to start your Sintra day trip.

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Sintra Itinerary Factsheet

Country: Portugal

Languages Spoken: Portuguese but English is widely spoken

Currency: Euro

Located in the depths of a pine forest Sintra is by far one of the most magical places we have visited. Filled with manor houses, castles, and extraordinary villas, Sintra truly is one of a kind. It is also one of the wealthiest municipalities in Portugal and spend 5 minutes here and its pretty obvious.

Sintra has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1995 under the Cultural Landscape category. Again, it is not hard to see why. It has a perfect blend of nature and architecture, and allows them to co-exist in a majestic surrounding. It only has a population of under 378,000 which is another nice thing about it, it’s not hugely built up, but there is still a lot to see and do, and more importantly a lot of places to eat, drink, and shop.

Sintra day trip- getting there

So the first thing you need to arrange on your Sintra day trip is how to get there. The quickest and easiest way to get to Sintra is by train. Trains depart from Rossio Station in Lisbon’s historical centre. We purchased our ticket at the counter for around €5 each. The trains are quite frequent and during peak times you will not have to wait longer than 15 minutes to board, and it takes about 40 minutes to get to Sintra. It really is a case of buying your ticket, finding your platform and hopping on the train. 

If you want to take the fuss of getting to the train station out of the equation though, you can book on an organised tour for your Sintra day trip instead. The good news with booking one of these tours is that a lot of the time you can skip the queue. You are limited though to visiting the places that are included in the tours, but they do contain the highlights of Sintra, so all in all not a bad option at all.

How to get around on your Sintra day trip

Before you start planning your 1 day Sintra itinerary, you need to know how to get around. You have a lot of options ranging from tuk tuk hire, to hop on hop off buses. Here are the best ways to get around on your Sintra day trip.

City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off

For our day trip to Sintra we opted to do the City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off tour. We paid a little over €20 for the tickets and the bus stopped at all of the main sights. For us it was the easiest way to get around. We purchased our ticket as soon as we got off the train, walked to the bus stop and we were off. The only downside with the hop on hop off bus is that it follows a very specific route, so what we would say is know where you want to go and hop off the bus in that order. 

Bus

If you don’t want to do the hop on hop off bus, then don’t worry you still have plenty of options for getting around during your Sintra day trip. You could opt to get public transport. This if course a much cheaper option then the hop on hop off bus. But do keep in mind during peak tourist season these buses can be super full! Scottrub is the company that operates buses in Sintra. The two routes that you will probably use (in particular if you are following our Sintra day trip itinerary below) are the 434 and the 435 route. They start and end at Sintra station. Scottrub also do a 1 day pass allowing you to travel on all buses on their route for around €15.00. Just keep in mind these bus services can get really busy and the lines of people standing at each attraction waiting for the bus can be long.

Taxi or Tuk Tuk

Another option for getting around as part of your Sintra itinerary is to book a taxi or a Tuk Tuk. The plus side is that you don’t have to wait in line with hordes of other people. The downside is obviously the cost. It might be helpful getting a taxi to some sights and walking between others. For example we were able to easily walk between Pena Palace and Moorish Castle. You will find Tuk Tuks at all the major attractions, you just flag one down (or the driver flags you down!) and you are off. You will need to negotiate your price with the driver before setting off!

Electric Car

Probably the most interesting way to visit the sights on your 1 day Sintra itinerary is via electric car. Sight Sintra rent these small two people vehicles out for around €25 per hour. The good thing is you can set your own schedule, and from our observation there seemed to be a lot of places to park. In hindsight for our Sintra day trip if we had of done the research before we went we probably would have booked one of these.

Sintra in 1 day – Is it enough?

This post is all about exploring Sintra in 1 day, but you might be wondering how long do you really need here? In an ideal world you probably need about 2 days to have a good look around, and visit all of the sights. If like us, you only have the time to do a Sintra day trip you will still be able to see a lot, you just have to be prepared. Do you research before you go, know what you want to see, and how you will get there. Also be prepared to cull some attractions because you definitely will not see everything as part of  your 1 day Sintra itinerary.

Things to do in Sintra in 1 day

A Sintra day trip will be filled with visits to ancient manor houses, colourful mosaics, and beautiful gardens. Here are some of the best things to do in Sintra to help you plan your own itinerary.

Palácio Nacional da Pena is a must for your Sintra itinerary

Palácio Nacional da Pena

This was a must see on our Sintra itinerary. The Palácio Nacional da Pena is one of the most vibrant palaces we have ever visited and one of the top things to do in Sintra. As we made our way darting up the hill towards it on the bus, this colourful building was the first thing that really caught our eye. The bright colours and bold design make it feel like it should be the home of a Disney Princess. The palace was commissioned in 1842 by King Ferdinand II who wanted it to be reflective of a scene from an opera. The result was the grandiose palace we see today.

We tried to get here early, but even then, a lot of people had already arrived. Entry to the palace is €14 and this includes entrance to the palace as well as the park. If you just want to visit the park then opt for the cheaper ticket of €7.50. With this option you get to explore the outside of the palace as well as the impressive gardens that surround it.

Because there are so many things to do in Sintra, you can save time by purchasing your tickets online in advance. These also include a skip the queue option.

The National Palace of Sintra

Another prominent sight to add to your Sintra itinerary is the National Palace, which is currently a historic museum. It is one of the best-preserved royal palaces in Portugal and apparently one of the most loved among Portuguese nobility. It is distinctive due to the two chimneys rising out from the top that have become part of the iconic landscape in Sintra. Doors open at 9.30 am and last entry is 6.30 pm. Tickets cost around €10, and it takes about 40 minutes to explore the full museum. This is another of the top things to do in Sintra, and you might find that it gets a little busy so do plan your trip accordingly.

The Quinta da Regaleira

Another of our favourite spots during our Sintra day trip is the Quinta da Regaleira, a Gothic style grand house and estate. The house was built in 1904 by Carvalho Monteiro, a well to do Portuguese businessman. After being owned by various people it was only in 1997 that the local government reclaimed it as a national monument and opened it to the public a year later. The house itself is beautiful and on first glance with its gargoyles and ornate features, you could be excused for thinking this was something out of the Addams Family. Although apparently the dark features that you see today came about over time, and the home was originally a cream colour.

The real magic of the property though lies within the gardens. The gardens cover 4 hectares and the designs were inspired by the owner’s spiritual and occult philosophies. One of the most incredible parts of the property has to be the Initiation Well, which was built to signify the initiation ceremony of the Knights Templar. You can make your way to the bottom if you dare (Dave and I being scared of heights struggled to even look down), and once below there are a number of tunnels connected to the well that run below the gardens. Entry is €6 to explore the estate, and you will probably want to spend a good hour or so here. There is a beautiful cafe in the grounds where you can relax by the water fountains and enjoy the ambiance. For us this was one of the more beautiful things to do in Sintra, especially strolling around the gardens.

Moorish Castle

If you are looking for things to do in Sintra, that don’t involve grand houses, thenMoorish Castle or The Castelo dos Mouros is a good option.The castle ruins are set in the middle of an exquisite forest and the views from the top of the ruins are absolutely incredible. The castle was built in the 9th Century as a way to guard Sintra but it later fell into ruin.  In the 19th century King Ferdinand II turned it into a picturesque ruin that forms part of the gardens of the Pena Palace.

One of the reasons we enjoyed our visit so much was because the castle ruin is really different to the stately manors and palaces that you find in Sintra. Once you purchase your tickets for €8, you will make your way through the luscious forest path towards the castle. If you aren’t a fan of heights, exploring the castle ruins might be a little difficult, although Dave and I both managed to do it and we are notoriously scared of heights. We spent about 1 hour here taking in the views before making our way on foot to Pena Palace.

You can purchase your tickets online in advance to save you queuing on the day.

Monserrate Palace

The Monserrate Palace is located around 3.5km from Sintra’s historic centre and so it is easy to overlook this hidden gem. If you decide to stay for a second day then this is one of the top things to do in Sintra for a longer visit. The design is a mix of Arabic, Gothic, and Indian and these styles combined make it one of the most stunning mansions in Sintra. The gardens are also incredible to explore. Entry is €8.

Sintra Historic Centre

Another one of the best things to do in Sintra, is to explore the historic centre. Full of cobbled streets and charming cafes, this is a brilliant place to explore and in all honestly just to get lost in. Make sure you reward yourself after a day in Sintra with some Ginjinha, which is a sour cherry liqueur often served in an edible chocolate shot glass.

Sintra itinerary

With so many things to do in Sintra, if you only have 1 day in Sintra then realistically you will not be able to see all the main sights, but if you arrive with a plan then you can see quite a bit. Here is our 1 day Sintra itinerary:

After arriving in Sintra we book the hop on hop off bus tour and made our way to Moorish Castle. The lines were minimal and we spent a good hour or so exploring the ruins.

We then went to Pena Palace and paid for a ticket that covered both the gardens and the inside of the palace. The lines here can get pretty intense so definitely factor this in to your schedule. If you are in a rush or if you don’t want to walk up the hill you can purchase a one way bus ticket to the base of the palace. We recommend doing this on the way up to the castle and then exploring the gardens on the way back down. If you purchase the tickets to tour the inside of the palace, you will probably need to schedule about 2 hours to see the palace. Even more if you are wanting to take your time exploring the gardens.

We ended up getting a quick, and yes overpriced, bite to eat at the Palácio Nacional da Pena. But when you only have 1 day in Sintra you need to make the most of your time. Afterwards we made our way to Quinta da Regaleira. We spent about 1.5 hours here and made time to sit down for some afternoon tea consisting of custard tarts and coffee.

Afterwards we recommend making your way into the centre. It is walkable from Quinta da Regaleira and a great place to reward yourself with some Ginjinha. It is also easy to walk from here to the train station to make your way back to Lisbon after your Sintra day trip.

Tips for planning your Sintra itinerary

Here are some of our tips for seeing Sintra in 1 day and making the most of your time here:

☞ Plan your day in advance, research what you want to see and work out the best route in advance. It helps to know which attractions are next to each other so you are not back tracking on yourself.

☞ Wear proper shoes. Sintra is hilly, and even if you are getting the bus around to the main attractions, once inside you will do a lot of walking. For example you have to walk up quite a hill to get from the entrance of the Palácio Nacional da Pena where you purchase your tickets, to the actual palace itself.

☞ Carry a bottle of water with you at all times, not all attractions have a lot of shade and it does get hot. Plus with all that walking you must stay hydrated.

☞ Busier attractions like the Pena Palace are worth visiting early in the morning when they open to try and beat the crowds.

☞ If you are only planning a Sintra day trip you won’t see everything. Pick two or three must sees and plan your day around these.

☞ When you get off the train it can be overwhelming trying to work out how to get to all the attractions. A lot of them are quite a distance from the train station so try to work out how you will get around. Once you get off the train you will be bombarded with tour bus companies and tuk tuk drivers. Decide in advance the most economical way to get to the attractions you want to see.

When is the best time to plan your 1 day Sintra itinerary?

Peak season in Sintra, like everywhere else in Europe tends to be the summer months. August is especially busy due to the school holidays so visiting at this time is less than ideal. We recommend visiting in either spring or autumn. These shoulder seasons are a great time to experience Sintra with far less crowds. We visited in October, which was still busy, but nowhere near as busy as the summer months. Palácio Nacional da Pena was still really busy, but the other attractions not so much.

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How much money do I need for my Sintra Day Trip

As mentioned earlier in this Sintra itinerary, it is one of the wealthiest municipalities in Portugal. The good news though, is that despite this it is incredibly affordable for tourists. You will need to factor in things like entry fees and transport, but all in all you can do things cheaply. We would recommend budgeting around €90 per person for your day in Sintra. This will include, food, drinks, transport, and entry fees. Of course how much you spend will depend on what things you want to see, so it can be done much cheaper.

Sintra day trip – a map

As you can see there are so many things to do in Sintra. We couldn’t see them all. On our day trip to Sintra we visited:

☞ Moorish Castle

☞ Palácio Nacional da Pena

☞ Quinta da Regaleira

☞ Sintra Centre

We definitely felt like we only scratched the surface, so here is a map of Sintra to show you where everything we saw is located. The point in red on the map is the main train station in Sintra.

Sintra itinerary for a day trip – a recap

Hopefully this guide will help you plan your own Sintra itinerary. For us, Sintra is one of the most magical places we have ever visited, and our only disappointment was that we would have loved to have stayed longer. Still as our guide has shown you, it is possible to plan the perfect Sintra day trip as long as you plan ahead. If you are looking for more photo spots in Portugal why not check out our post on the most Instagrammable places in Lisbon.

If you found this guide for things to do in Sintra useful please do pin it for later!

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Pin this Sintra itinerary

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  • Brianna
    November 24, 2018 at 4:57 pm

    I read about Sintra a few weeks ago and it wiggled its way onto my travel list. But your images definitely secured its place there! I have to see this place!!

    • Lizzie
      November 24, 2018 at 5:05 pm

      Thank you! It honestly is so beautiful. When we booked to go to Lisbon I just knew we had to visit.

  • TravelerAndrew
    May 28, 2019 at 10:35 pm

    I’m planning a day trip to Sintra, and this itinerary (along with the helpful hints and suggestions) is exactly what I needed! Thank you so much!

    • Lizzie
      June 1, 2019 at 1:25 pm

      Thanks so much for the kind words. So glad it helped!