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Want to spend a day exploring fairy-tale castles and royal palaces? Then it’s time to plan a day trip to Sintra, Portugal. Overflowing with historical monuments, enchanting gardens, and beautiful hiking trails, Sintra is an unmissable stop on any Portugal itinerary. And it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump from Lisbon.
In the past year, I’ve done four fabulous excursions to Sintra and it’s one of my favorite places to show friends and family when they visit. Here’s everything you need to plan a great Lisbon to Sintra day trip, including a few different one day Sintra itineraries you can follow once you arrive.
Why plan a Lisbon to Sintra day trip?
The entire cultural region of Sintra, Portugal is considered a UNESCO world heritage site, and when you visit, it’s easy to understand why. With ornate monuments set against a beautiful forested backdrop, Sintra feels like stepping into the pages of a storybook.
Because the attractions are pretty close together, you’ll be able to see a lot of sites in a short amount of time. It’s a dream destination for history buffs and anyone who wants to feel like a kid again for the afternoon, and it’s also one of the most photogenic areas of Portugal. Make sure to bring your camera!
What are the top things to see in Sintra?
The top things to see in Sintra are the Pena Palace, Moorish Castle, Quinta da Regaleira, National Palace of Sintra, Palace of Monserrate, Vila Sassetti, Convento dos Capuchos, and Cabo da Roca Lighthouse. There are also beautiful hiking trails, gardens, and parks to explore.
How long should I spend in Sintra?
You can see several highlights of Sintra in one day, but if you’re particularly interested in history, castles, or hiking, it’s worth spending two days.
When is the best time to visit Sintra?
The best time to visit Sintra is the shoulder season (fall and spring), and on weekdays when there are fewer visitors.
How do I travel from Lisbon to Sintra for a day trip?
You can travel from Lisbon to Sintra by train, taxi, rideshare, or car. I recommend taking the train if you don’t want to deal with parking. You can also visit as part of a guided tour with transit included.
Should I travel from Lisbon to Sintra on my own or with a tour group?
You have a few options for how to plan your Sintra day trip from Lisbon:
- You can go by yourself and do self-guided experiences at each of the castles and palaces. This is what I’ve always done because I like to move at my own pace (i.e., stop for lots of snack breaks).
- You can go as part of a guided Sintra tour excursion. This is a good option if you’re short on time and want to see the highlights with a knowledgeable guide. Guided tours from Lisbon usually include transportation.
In this guide, we’ll focus on how to see Sintra on your own, but if you’re interested in going with a tour group, the following packages have great reviews on Get Your Guide.
- Sintra Highlights Full Day Tour: On this Sintra day tour, you’ll travel from Lisbon to Sintra and see the Pena Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, and the Palace of Monserrate. (Note that admission to the attractions isn’t included in the booking fee.)
- Pena Palace, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, & Cascais Day trip: This one day in Sintra itinerary will take you to the Pena Palace. You’ll spend free time in Sintra town, then head to Cabo da Roca, a lighthouse overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Finally, you’ll continue onward to see the coastal town of Cascais.
Things to do in Sintra
As you plan your Sintra day trip itinerary, here’s a quick look at some of the popular sites and things to see.
National Park and Palace of Pena (Palácio da Pena)
A rainbow-colored castle located high on the mountain with amazing views of the Sintra Nature Park. This palace was a summer residence for the royals and you can tour the elaborate living spaces and gardens. Learn more.
Moorish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros)
The Castle of the Moors is a rocky hilltop fortification that dates back to the 10th century. You can walk along the castle walls and see the remains of tombs, silos, and the medieval necropolis. Learn more.
National Palace of Sintra (Palácio Nacional de Sintra)
This royal palace in the center of the Sintra historic district with two hallmark white chimneys. You can see how kings and queens lived across the centuries. Learn more.
Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira is a whimsical property built in the early 1900s to celebrate art, science, and design. Tour the palace, explore the grounds, and walk down the spiral staircase of the mysterious initiation well. Learn more.
Palace of Monserrate (Palácio de Monserrate)
The Palace of Monserrate is one of my favorite attractions in Sintra because it’s so peaceful. The palace has architectural influences from around the world and it’s relaxing to spend the afternoon wandering through the gardens. Learn more.
Convento dos Capuchos
The Convento dos Capuchos is a historic convent tucked into the woods a short drive outside of the Sintra historic district. It’s a great place to explore and spend time in nature. Learn more.
Cabo da Roca
Cabo da Roca is a lighthouse perched on the western cliffs with sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s about a half-hour drive from the Sintra town center and is usually a stop on guided Sintra and Cascais tours. Learn more.
How to get from Lisbon to Sintra
There are three main transportation options for your Lisbon to Sintra day trip, assuming you’re going on your own and not part of a tour.
Taking the train from Lisbon to Sintra
The train is an easy and affordable way to travel from Lisbon to Sintra. There’s a direct train that runs a few times per hour from Rossio Station.
Rossio train station is across the street from the Rossio metro stop and train tickets cost €2.30 each way. The journey takes about 40 minutes and the Sintra train station is conveniently located in the center of town.
To check the train schedule, search for routes here with Lisboa-Rossio as the starting point and Sintra as the endpoint.
Taking an Uber, Bolt, or Taxi from Lisbon to Sintra
It’s also possible to Uber, Bolt, or take a taxi from Lisbon to Sintra. The drive is quick and you can be dropped off right in the center of town for a quick start to your morning, but the price can vary dramatically based on the time of day and surges.
I’ve seen quotes that range from €20 to €50 one way, but this might make sense if you’re traveling as a group and can split costs. Uber and Bolt are popular rideshare options in Portugal, and you can book taxis through a service called Radio Taxi.
Renting a car and self-driving
If you rent a car and self-drive, you can come and go whenever you like. The drive from Lisbon to Sintra is straightforward, but you might face issues with parking in Sintra.
When we drove our first time visiting Sintra, we ended up circling for nearly an hour looking for a place to park. There’s a lot of traffic and the streets are narrow, so your best bet is to go early (most monuments open at 9:30am) and save the location of a few parking lots in advance so you don’t have to wing it.
There are a few paid parking lots in the historic part of Sintra, including this one close to the Sintra Station and Museu Anjos Teixeira. There’s also a small free lot across from the Palace of Monserrate.
Having done it both ways, I’d recommend hopping on the train or grabbing an Uber/Bolt for your Lisbon to Sintra day trip to avoid the parking headache.
Getting Around Sintra
Once you’re in the town of Sintra, you’ve got a few options for reaching each of the attractions.
Walking or Hiking: You can walk to many of the attractions in Sintra but be prepared for a bit of a workout. The hills in Sintra are no joke, but thankfully the trails and pathways are beautifully maintained and clearly marked to get to the popular attractions.
Bus: Two tourist bus routes cover the main attractions of Sintra, Scotturb bus 434 and 435. Last time I was there, I purchased a 24-hour unlimited ticket that lets you ride both buses as much as you want for €11.
- Bus 434 runs in a one-way loop from the Sintra train station. It stops in the historic city center before heading up the mountain to the Moorish Castle and Pena Palace. Then it comes back down the mountain to the train station.
- Bus 435 also picks up at the Sintra train station and stops at the National Palace of Sintra, Quinta da Regaleira, Seteais Palace, and the Palace of Monserrate.
Keep in mind that the Pena Palace and Moorish Castle are not accessible by private cars, so the best way to get there is to hike or take bus 434.
How to Spend One Day in Sintra: Itinerary Ideas
You’ve got a few options for what to do in Sintra for one day. Here are three fun-filled Sintra day trip itineraries.
[Option 1]: Pena Palace, Moorish Castle, and Quinta da Regaleira
- Buy a hop-on-hop-off bus pass
- Ride the bus to Pena Park and Palace
- Walk down to the Moorish Castle
- Take the bus back to town
- Walk or take the bus to Quinta da Regaleira
- Dinner at Raiz in historic Sintra
This one day Sintra itinerary covers three of the best places to see. Arrive in the morning and walk to the bus stop next to the train station. I got lost my first time trying to find this bus stop, so when you exit the train station take a hard right and walk on the sidewalk directly beside the train station. You’ll see the bus stop ahead.
Wait for bus 434 which will take you up to the mountain to the Pena Palace and Moorish Castle. It comes about every 15 minutes and you can buy an all-day hop-on-hop-off ticket that includes access to buses 435 and 434 for €11.
The bus ride up the mountain takes around 20 minutes and it’s a wild one. I was honestly amazed that we were able to make it up the tiny, zigzagging roads on such a giant bus. If you get motion sick, don’t forget to pack your sea bands!
You’ll stop at the Moorish Castle first then the Pena Palace a few moments later. They’re so close together you can walk between them, but I’d say go to Pena first since it gets more crowded as the day goes on. Plus, getting to the Moorish Castle after will be a downhill walk.
Spend about two hours taking in the views, grounds, and gardens of Pena, the rainbow-colored summer palace. There’s even a cafe on one of the upper terraces where you can grab a coffee and imagine that you’re a royal enjoying an afternoon at your holiday home. The walk between the palace and the main entrance gates takes about 20-30 minutes, so this will be a longer stop on your Sintra day trip.
When you’ve wrapped up at Pena, head downhill to the Moorish Castle. Here, you can explore the old fortification walls and see the latest excavations that are revealing more about this ancient site. Once you’re all done, grab the bus back down the mountain to town.
The bus only goes one way on a loop so it will drop you off back at the train station. From there, you can hop on bus 435 or take a leisurely 20-minute walk through town to Quinta da Regaleira. Along the way, stop to refuel at Café Saudade, a charming cafe with sandwiches, salads, toasts, and bakery items that you can smell from a mile away.
Once you arrive at Quinta da Regaleira, give yourself about an hour and a half to two hours to tour the grounds, see the mysterious Initiation Well (rumored to have ties to the Knights Templar), and check out the inside of the palace.
To top off your day of castles, walk back to downtown Sintra to grab a bite on the outdoor patio at Raiz. Reviews rave about the atmosphere, drinks, and live music. They’re open for lunch and dinner Thursday through Tuesday and are closed Wednesday.
[Option 2] Palace of Sintra, Quinta da Regaleira, Palace of Monserrate
- Explore Sintra town
- Visit Sintra National Palace
- Lunch at Tascantiga
- Walk to Quinta da Regaleira
- Bus, drive, or taxi to the Monserrate Palace
For this Sintra one day itinerary, you’ll start at Sintra train station and walk down R. João de Deus toward the roundabout with the Pelourinho de Sintra monument. At the roundabout, take the first left and walk down the street called Volta do Duche.
This road will take you to the historic city center and along the way, you’ll pass the Parque da Liberdade, a free public garden, and Fonte Mourisca, a grand fountain that dates back to the 1920s.
Continue walking down the road until you hit the Sintra National Palace. Spend about an hour exploring the lavish interior spaces and gardens. After, take some time to explore the tiny streets and shops in the old town.
For lunch, head to the popular Tascantiga restaurant. This traditional Portuguese tapas spot has excellent views of the village and countryside from the outdoor terrace. They’re open for lunch Monday through Saturday, dinner Friday and Saturday, and closed Sunday.
After eating, walk through town to the Quinta da Regaleira. Budget for one and a half to two hours to see everything at Quinta da Regaleira, including the Initiation Well, towers, gardens, and palace. There’s also a cafe here where you can grab a coffee or snack and enjoy the views.
Next, you’ll travel to Monserrate Palace. The best way to get there is by public transportation, rideshare, driving, or taxi. You can either wait for bus 434 at the Quinta da Regaleira bus stop or snag an Uber, which will take about 10 minutes and cost 3-5 euros. If you drive, there’s a small parking lot across from the palace entrance.
Monserrate is the least crowded and most tranquil of the Sintra palaces. There are beautiful gardens and a large grassy lawn where you can unwind after a day of sightseeing. Inside the palace, make sure to go upstairs to the room where they show a documentary film about the history of the property.
[Option 3] One Day Sintra Hiking Itinerary: National Palace of Sintra, Vila Sassetti, Pena Palace, Moorish Castle
- Visit Sintra National Palace
- Lunch at Casa das Minas
- Hike to Vila Sassetti
- Hike to the Moorish Castle
- Walk to the Palácio Nacional da Pena
- Hike back down on the Santa Maria trail OR Seteais trail if you have more time
Sintra is a fantastic place to hike, so if you’re interested in spending more time in nature, this itinerary is for you! Start by exploring the town of Sintra and the Sintra National Palace. Visiting the Sintra National Palace and gardens takes about one hour.
Next, walk across town to a cobbled road called Estrada da Pena which runs alongside the Parque das Merendas. If you need a pick-me-up or restroom break before hiking up to the Moorish castle and Pena palace, pop into Casa das Minas. This quirky, secluded cafe has great food, coffee, and an impressive view of the Sintra Palace.
Continue walking along Estrada da Pena until you see a sign for Vila Sassetti, the Moorish Castle, and the Pena Palace. This sign marks the trailhead that will take you up the mountain. The trail is well maintained and there are viewpoints and gardens to enjoy as you walk. The full hike takes around 45-minutes to an hour.
Once you reach the top of the mountain, the entrance gates to the Pena Palace and Moorish Castle are only a few hundred meters apart from each other. Spend a few hours checking out the Moorish Castle and Palace of Pena, including the huge network of gardens in Pena park. The Pena Palace also has a terrace and cafe where you can grab a bite before heading back down the mountain.
After finishing your castle tours, follow the Santa Maria trail behind the Moorish Castle for a different route down. This path takes about an hour and will let you out behind the Santa Maria church in town.
Alternatively, if you have more time and are up for another attraction, you can take the Seteais trail down the mountain. This hike lasts about an hour and a half and ends just a short walk away from the Quinta da Regaleira. If you do this option, you may want to skip the Sintra National Palace at the beginning to save time.
[Update: The Vila Sassetti trail is temporarily closed for maintenance. Instead, take the Santa Maria or Seteais trail up to the Pena Palace and Moorish Castle.]
How much time should I spend in Sintra?
Many travelers only have one day to visit Sintra as a day trip from Lisbon, and that’s great! One day in Sintra is better than none, and you’ll still be able to see some impressive highlights.
While the best of Sintra can be seen in a (full and busy, but fun) day, you might want to spend more time here if you’re particularly interested in history, hiking, or have extra room in your itinerary.
Sintra is a popular day trip destination, but when you stay overnight, you’ll get to see a different side of the city without the crowds and tourists. You get to try more restaurants and you’ll have the monuments to yourself when they open first thing in the morning.
If your Portugal itinerary allows it, two days would allow you to see nearly all the palaces and castles of Sintra without feeling like you ran a marathon. I usually max out at about two or three sites per day, so if you want plenty of time to see more attractions, it’s a good idea to book an overnight.
These Sintra hotels have great reviews:
- Tivoli Palacio de Seteais: Spend the night in a real palace! This palace estate was built in the 1700s and now it’s used as a luxury hotel.
- Sintra Boutique Hotel: This hotel is located in central Sintra and it has great reviews for the staff and location.
- Casa Azul Hostel: Casa Azul Hostel is a budget-friendly option with dorms and private rooms located just a 15-minute walk from the town center.
When is the best time to visit Sintra?
Fall and spring are the best times to visit Sintra for nice weather and minimal crowds. Sintra is the hottest and most crowded in peak season which spans the summer months of June, July, and August. Mornings are usually cooler and less crowded.
Because the weather in Sintra can differ from the surrounding areas, it’s a good idea to check the forecast before you go.
Tips for visiting Sintra in one day
Book tickets online in advance: If you do nothing else when visiting Sintra, do this: buy your tickets online in advance. Every time I’ve visited I’ve seen lines about ten miles long to buy tickets for each attraction, but you can skip the line and walk straight in like a celebrity VIP if you buy your tickets online. Sometimes the tickets are even a bit cheaper.
For Pena Palace, you’ll need to book a specific day and time to use your ticket, but for every other destination, you can buy a ticket a few minutes before you arrive, save the barcode to your phone, and show it at the door.
Wear shoes and clothes you can walk in: Even if you’re not taking one of the hiking routes, expect to walk a ton in Sintra. The attractions are large and most have huge gardens too, so good walking or hiking shoes are a must.
The Pena Palace, Moorish Castle, and Vila Sassetti aren’t accessible by private car: You can reach the Pena Palace and Moorish castle by bus 435, tuk-tuk, or one of the walking trails and you can only reach Vila Sassetti via the Sassetti walking path through Parque das Merendas.
Don’t stretch yourself too thin: It can be tempting to squeeze five attractions into a single day, but each site has so much to offer you’ll miss a lot by doing this. You could realistically spend an entire day in the gardens of the Pena Palace alone, and the travel time between each attraction would also be exhausting.
Instead, I recommend picking your top two must-see attractions and another spot you’d like to see if you have time. Grab tickets to your must-see spots the day before you go, and buy online tickets on the fly for everything else once you’ve got a better sense of how much time and energy you have.
I hope you have an amazing time on your Sintra day trip from Lisbon! Sintra is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime destination, and no matter which itinerary you choose you’ll be in for a memorable time.
Planning a trip to Portugal? These travel guides can help:
- 2 Weeks in Portugal: Sintra, Lisbon, Ericeira, and Porto
- 10 Day Portugal Road Trip: Algarve, Lisbon, Sintra, and Ericeira
- Sao Miguel, Azores Travel Guide: Sights, restaurants, and accommodation
- Best Restaurants in Lisbon: Where to eat and foodie guide