After spending 2 days in Lisbon, we headed out of the city to spend one day in Sintra.
Sintra is one of the top day trips from Lisbon and there’s no question why. There’s so many amazing residences and estates to explore. It can be a bit hard to narrow down which places to visit, and that’s where my Sintra day trip itinerary comes in.
This itinerary includes 4 different Sintra properties including one that is often overlooked. So, if you’re planning a day trip to this wonderful town, here’s how I recommend spending one day in Sintra.
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How to Get to Sintra from Lisbon
If you rented a car for your time in Portugal, you can drive from Lisbon to Sintra although it’s not recommended. There’s limited parking in Sintra and the historic center is closed to traffic. Make sure to google the attractions you’re looking to visit to see if they offer parking. If you find that most of the places you want to visit don’t have parking, it may be better to leave your car in Lisbon and take a different method to Sintra.
The easiest way to get to Sintra from Lisbon is by taking the train. The ride takes around 40 minutes and runs multiple times a day. I recommend leaving Lisbon around 8:00 AM so you can arrive in Sintra around 9:00 AM.
You can find the Lisbon to Sintra trains schedule here.
There are plenty of tours that operate from Lisbon to Sintra. If you don’t want to work out the logistics of the train, you can sign up for a tour that takes care of it all for you.
Book Your Lisbon to Sintra Tour
Getting Around Sintra
There is a tourist bus that runs throughout Sintra stopping at different attractions. However, the reviews of the 434 bus aren’t great and if you only have one day in Sintra, waiting around for a bus is not a great use of time. That being said, there are better ways of getting around Sintra.
There are tuk tuks available at almost all the major attractions in Sintra. They make it easy and convenient to make it from place to place. Some charge for the route/distance and some will charge per passenger. Just double check with the driver before hopping in.
Taxis and Bolt
In my opinion, the best way to get around Sintra is by taking taxis and Bolt rides. Bolt is like Uber and came in handy getting us from place to place in Sintra. It was also the cheapest transport option we took while in the city. The only thing is you will need data in order to use the app.
One Day in Sintra Itinerary
Depart from Lisbon
For the sake of this itinerary, we’re going to work off you taking the train from Lisbon to Sintra.
Like I said above, I recommend taking a train that will get you to Sintra by 9:00 AM. If you are in central Lisbon, you’ll most likely be catching a train from Rossio Station. There’s a Starbucks attached to the train station which is convenient for early morning travels. I’m not one to reach for Starbucks when traveling, BUT they come in handy when you’re heading out earlier than local cafes open.
The train to Sintra will stop at multiple stations along the way, but Sintra is typically the end of the line. That being said, you can take a little cat nap if you want.
Once you arrive in Sintra, catch a taxi to Peña Palace. There will be drivers lined up outside of the train station so you won’t have to go far to find one. It’s a short 10 or so minute ride up to the grounds, and some of the drivers will give you a little history lesson about Sintra along the way.
One Day in Sintra Itinerary Stop 1: Peña Palace
When you arrive at Peña Palace, the taxi will drop you off by ticketing. The Palace doesn’t officially open until 9:30 AM but the grounds open at 9:00 AM. Aim to arrive at least 15 minutes before the palace opens to be one of the first in.
If you purchased your tickets online (highly recommend) you’ll go straight towards the gate to get scanned in. If not, there are kiosks off to the side where you can buy tickets onsite.
One thing to keep in mind is that Pena Palace has timed entry which means only so many guests are allowed in per hour. That being said, if you arrive at 9:00 AM without a ticket the next available entry might not be until 11:00 AM and you’ll have to find a way to fill that 2 hour window. So, don’t leave it to chance, book your Pena Palace ticket ahead of time!
Getting to the Palace
After scanning your ticket, you have 2 options, book the shuttle bus or take the 15/20 minute walk to the palace. The shuttle bus is €3 I believe and has to be pre-purchased at one of the windows outside the gate. If you or someone in your group is lower mobility, this would be the best option for you. The shuttle will drop you off at the base of the palace and you’ll have about a 7 minute walk to the “doors.”
We didn’t want to wait for the next shuttle so we opted for walking. The hike up to the palace from the entrance is somewhat steep and will get your heart pumping. Luckily, we visited in November so the weather was pleasant.
Once you arrive at the actual palace, they will scan your ticket again to ensure you’re entering at the right time.
After scanning in, you’ll make your way through the residence. There is a specific one-way route you’ll take from room to room, so make sure to take it all in as you go.
Once you make it through the interior, you’ll arrive back outside near the on-site cafe. There’s a wall there that’s a great place to take some photos. Through the arch way, you’ll find where to take the insta-famous staircase photo and a small chapel.
The palace isn’t huge, therefore, it doesn’t take much time to see. We spent about an hour and a half at the palace and that’s with plenty of picture taking. After making your way back to the entrance, it’s time to head to stop 2.
One Day in Sintra Itinerary Stop 2: Castle of the Moors
Castle of the Moors is a hilltop medieval castle built during the 8th century.
The entrance to the castle grounds is about a 10 minute walk from Pena Palace. From the entrance, there’s about 10 more minutes to the castle.
Walking through the castle grounds feels like a fairytale. The stone walls overgrown by lush greenery creates a very whimsical atmosphere. While the architecture and decor are what make Pena Palace stunning, the sheer, natural beauty is what shines at Castle of the Moors.
Once you make it to the walls of the palace, you can take in amazing 360 views of Sintra. We spent about an hour walking around and taking pictures, and then made our way back to the entrance.
One Day in Sintra Itinerary Stop 3: Lunch in Sintra city center
After Castle of the Moors, grab a tuk tuk to Sintra city center for lunch. The ride we took cost €5 per person and was well worth it rather than having to walk the whole way into town. Just note the tuk tuks have a certain area they can drop off in, so you’ll still have to do some walking to get to certain places.
For lunch, I recommend Tascantiga (pronounced tash-can-tiga), a Portuguese tapas restaurant. They have a little terrace you can sit on and the food is pretty dang good.
We tried the fennel, goat cheese, orange and crispy ham salad, cod fish fritters, french fries, and steak sandwich. The only thing we didn’t love was the salad. It just needed a little more dressing and no fennel (I didn’t know what fennel was when we ordered it) and it would have been great! We also had some sangria and finished our meal with the strawberry cheesecake which came in a cute, little flower pot.
One Day in Sintra Itinerary Stop 4: Quinta da Regaleira
Once you’ve refueled with some lunch, it’s time to head to your next destination – Quinta da Regaleira.
Quinta da Regaleira is a UNESCO World Heritage Site built in the late-1800s. Located on the outskirts of Sintra historic center, the property is a reflection of the first owner’s and architect’s personalities and styles clashing together to create a Manueline, Renaissance, Medieval and Classical styled estate.
Quinta: a large house in the country or on the outskirts of a town.
I’m no architecture buff but I can appreciate different styles. My favorite part of visiting older homes and estates is seeing how differently things were done back then. Nowadays most homes are simple in their design and decor. There’s no intricately carved wooden ceilings or detailed tile work adorning the walls. Unfortunately, today’s residences lack the charm and craftsmanship of their predecessors. But I digress, back to Quinta da Regaleira.
One of the main reasons to visit Quinta da Regaleira is to view the Initiatic Well.
The Initiatic Well, or Initiation Well, was used for ceremonial purposes and never served as a water resource. The original owner of the house was a known Freemason and there are many symbols of masonry, the Knights Templar, alchemy and more throughout the property.
For example, at the bottom of the spiral staircase that makes up the well, you’ll see a compass over a Knights Templar cross. The bottom of the Initiatic Well leads to a system of tunnels that can be accessed from various points.
While the well is the main draw of visiting Quinta da Regaleira, there is way more to see. There are grottoes, caves, a chapel, the manor, and even a small waterfall to see.
We spent about 90 minutes exploring the various parts of the property but you could easily spend over 2 hours here seeing all the different bits.
One Day in Sintra Itinerary Stop 5: Monserrate Palace
The last stop on this Sintra day trip itinerary is Monserrate Palace.
People often skip Monserrate to visit other attractions in Sintra, but I highly recommend checking out this palatial villa. Located in the foothills of Sintra, Monserrate is grand in every sense of the word. From the magnificent archways to the sprawling gardens, the palace is a beautiful example of romantic architecture.
It’s crazy to me that it used to be a private residence, and that someone once owned this lavish estate. Out of all the places we visited during our day in Sintra, Monserrate was probably my favorite. It’s somewhere I could see myself living, not literally, but in the sense that the architecture and decor really spoke to me.I would love to own a home that embodies the essence of Monserrate someday.
The palace has an interesting history which you can learn about on the second floor. As you walk through the different rooms, you’ll learn about the people and architects that created Monserrate. You’ll also learn how the estate sat in squalor for a while until it was taken over by the Portuguese government and restored it to its former glory.
After exploring the palace, you can wander the gardens before heading back to SIntra city center.
Finishing up in Sintra
Our flight to Barcelona left that night, so we had to catch the train back to Lisbon when we were finished at Monserrate. However, if you have the time, you could definitely spend some time in the city center. There’s a bunch of different shops and eateries to check out, so it might be worth it to hang around a bit longer.
Is Sintra, Portugal Worth Visiting?
1000% Yes! Most places have one or two palaces to visit, but Sintra is littered with them. If you love seeing interesting architecture and visiting historical homes, you’re going to love Sintra.
How long is it from Lisbon to Sintra?
Sintra is only 23 km (~14 mi) from Lisbon. The train ride from Lisbon to Sintra takes about 40 minutes while the drive takes around 25 minutes..
Can you go to Sintra without a tour?
Of course! You just finished reading my self-guided Sintra itinerary. If you want to be able to pick and choose which palaces you visit, then you’re better off without a tour.
Alright, so there you have it, my one day in Sintra itinerary!