If you’re visiting Lisbon, don’t miss the magical town hidden right in its backyard. It’s full of majestic gardens, panoramic views and castles straight out of a fairytale.
Lisbon is Portugal’s capital and hub of tourist activity, and there’s no doubt that the city itself has plenty to offer. But if you’re here for more than a few days, you might want to venture beyond it to one of the many attractive destinations for day trips from Lisbon. If so, Sintra should be at the top of your list.
Located just north of Lisbon in the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, Sintra is a magical mountain village with iconic attractions that make it a tourist hotspot. Despite its popularity, however, it retains a quaint and unique spirit. Walking through the historic center feels like stepping into the pages of a fairytale. If that sounds like your cup of tea, start planning a Sintra day trip now!
How to Get From Lisbon to Sintra
There are several different ways to get from Lisbon to Sintra and back. By car it’s only a 30- to 45-minute drive, depending on traffic. You can easily rent a car in Lisbon if you’re thinking about doing some more traveling. However, traffic and parking in Sintra can be difficult, so it may not be worth the trouble. If you’re only interested in a Sintra day trip, it makes more sense to take public transportation.
Fortunately, it’s incredibly easy to get to Sintra by train. From Lisbon’s centrally located Rossio station, the journey takes around 40 minutes and costs just €2.25 (the return ticket is double this price). You can also depart from Oriente station, in which case the trip is a few minutes longer. Trains depart every half hour or so, but they can get crowded, so it’s best to go early in the morning.
How to Get Around Sintra
Once you arrive in Sintra, there are a few options for moving around the city. From the Sintra train station, it’s just a short walk into the historic center. From there, however, it’s quite a climb to the town’s main attractions: Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle.
If you have the time and energy for a steep 45-minute hike, go on foot. If not, you can catch the 434 local bus from the train station, which will take you to the city center first, then up the hill to the castle and palace. A hop-on-hop-off ticket costs €6.90, allowing you to move freely between the different stops throughout the day.
How to Spend Less Than 24 Hours in Sintra: What to See and Do
Sintra deserves as much of your time as possible, but we understand that you might only be able to dedicate a few hours of your trip to it. If that’s the case, you’ll need a plan to make sure you see the most essential sights. There are certain spots you just can’t miss, and a few experiences that might become the highlights of your time in Portugal.
First of all, you have to visit the historic center. With its steep and winding streets, charming shops, lovely bakeries and local restaurants, you’ll want to spend at least an hour or so exploring. The town itself is small, so you can see it all in no time. Make sure you stop by Casa Piriquita, an iconic bakery famous for sweet local specialties like queijadas and travesseiros.
Sintra’s Tourist Trifecta
Sintra has three main claims to fame: the Pena Palace, the Moorish Castle and the Quinta da Regaleira. Although there are several other places worth visiting, these should take priority if you only have time for a day trip from Lisbon. Depending on how much time you want to spend at each, you might even need to pick just two.
The Pena Palace is a must. With its bright red and yellow turrets presiding over the city from a perch high in the mountains, it’s much more than your average castle. You can tour the inside of the buildings, but the gardens around them are arguably even cooler. Acres of nature are dotted with lookout points, duck ponds, exotic plants and more. Hike to the highest point for an incredible 360-degree view of the surroundings, stretching all the way to the sea.
Just 400 meters from the Pena Palace, you’ll find the Moorish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros). This structure was built more than 1,000 years ago, but was restored in the 19th century as a decorative addition to the palace’s grounds. Wandering among the medieval ruins is intriguing, but this place’s main attraction is the gorgeous views it offers. Definitely worth a visit!
Explore Portugal’s Most Mysterious Estate
The Quinta da Regaleira is an essential stop on any Sintra day trip. It’s a vast estate that includes—but is by no means limited to—caves, tunnels, wells, castles, statues, fountains, and all manner of wonderfully weird surprises throughout its grounds. You could easily spend hours here, wandering from one oddity to the next and getting lost in underground passageways. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience, and certainly not to be missed.
Once you’ve seen the sights, toured the historic center and sampled the local sweets, you can return to Lisbon or continue your trip, secure in the knowledge that you’ve done Sintra right. But that doesn’t mean you won’t want to come back—no matter how much time you spend in this mystical little town, the magic never seems to run out.
Melissa first moved to Madrid to explore her interests in linguistics and communication, and quickly fell in love with the city’s culture and cuisine. She’s particularly passionate about Spanish vermouth and canned seafood, and makes it a point to drench absolutely everything in olive oil.