Sintra is located on the foothills of Portugal’s Sintra Mountains, conveniently close to Portugal’s capital, Lisbon. It’s known for the high concentration of gorgeous palaces and villas, combined with beautiful scenery.
Sintra is a fantastic day trip destination due to it only being a short train ride or drive away from Lisbon (30 minutes). It’s also easily reachable by a quick drive or Uber from Cascais.
You can hit up Sintra in just a day, but if you have the ability to do more than one day, there is a lot to see. However, if you’re not really into beautiful architecture and countless palaces, one day might be enough. When I visited I went for one day, and one night, this way I could get up incredibly early and start my exploring, and it gave me a bit more time and flexibility.
The train runs from Lisbon to Sintra frequently and you don’t need to worry about buying tickets in advance, however, it can be incredibly busy so if you want to get a seat on the 40ish minute ride, arrive early. Note that these are regular commuter trains and they don’t have luggage racks, etc.
The train departs from Rossio Station (most common) or Oriente Station, via Areeiro, Entrecampos, and Sete Rios stations. Head to the ticket counter and request a ticket, the ticket costs only €2.25 for an adult.
This is a great guide for getting to Sintra.
When you arrive at the station in Sintra, you’ll exit and turn right to find the tourist buses that travel around two different routes to bring you to the different palaces. Sintra is very hilly like much of Portugal so it’s not impossible to walk to the palaces, but some of them would take a lot of time and work to get to.
The ones that are walking distance are the National Palace of Sintra that is located right in the historical city centre of Sintra (however, this isn’t one of the best palaces to see in the area, I’d skip it for some of the others). The other one that is walking distance is Quinta da Regaleira, but wear good shoes because you will be walking up hill a lot!
For the tourist bus routes, there is bus 434 which has four bus departures per hour and does a one way loop heading to Pena Palace and stopping at the Mourish Castle. Pena Palace is worth seeing, it’s the palace on the front of the Lonely Planet book and is incredibly popular because of its bright red and yellow exterior. However, it’s a tourist trap so if you are visiting in high season, go here as early as possible and buy your ticket online in advance to not only save money but also not have to wait in line. Mourish Castle is also popular just because it’s near Pena Palace, I didn’t visit it because I was limited on time and was told it basically was just ruins with a good view, and there were better places to see in Sintra.
Tourist bus 435 goes to Monserrate Palace, Seteais Palace and Quinta da Regaleira (incase you don’t want to walk to this one).
Planning a day
When I visited I went to Pena Palace first thing in the morning and then came back to town to take the bus to Monserrate Palace. After that I came back to town and walked to Regaleira, as well as through the historical town, stopping in the little shops!
Pena Palace is probably the busiest of the palaces but it’s still worth a visit because it’s truly unlike any of the other palaces there with it’s bright, cartoonish colours. However, out of the three palaces I visited, this was my least favourite because the other two had so much to offer not just in terms of the palace itself but the grounds too.
Monserrate was one of my favourites, what’s so beautiful about it is the gorgeous gardens and grounds. You can wander around the gardens here for hours, and it’s so peaceful, away from the main tourist traps.
My other favourite was Regaleira which just had an amazing main palace that looked like it was straight from a Disney movie, plus the grounds were really fun to explore with lots of different structures to climb up and explore.
The trip to Sintra is super easy to do in a day, but like I said, there is a ton to see so if you are incredibly into architecture you could probably stay here for a couple days and see all the palaces. However, as per others recommendations, including locals, these were the three places I was told were the best if you are limited on time and I would highly recommend them all myself too!
What else would you suggest you do in Sintra? Share below in the comments!
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