A trip to Sintra is one of the most popular day trips out of Lisbon. Sintra has fascinating tourist attractions and historic buildings that make it worth the 45 minute train ride out of Lisbon. I mentioned before in my 24 Hours in Lisbon guide that while I was planning my time in Portugal, all I really wanted was an easy guide to see the must-see attractions in my limited amount of time, so I made one for Sintra as well! (it's also a great way to show off my pictures)

Here's a day trip guide to Sintra from Lisbon with information about how to get to Sintra and what to see while you're there. 

Guide for getting to Sintra

The train

  • To get to Sintra, you should take a train. Not to be confused with the metro, you will be taking a train out of the Oriente Station or Rossio Station. You will need to buy a separate ticket for the train, a metro/bus ticket will not work. There are Sintra trains very often, about every 30 minutes.
  • Budget about 45 minutes for the train ride.
  • Train tip: Purchase your tickets the day before you intend to go to Sintra so that you can buy your round-trip tickets and locate the correct train station. 

From the train to the sights

  • From the train station, you will not be directly in front of the Sintra sights that you've seen in the tour brochures. In order to get to the sights, you will either have to walk, or better, find some other form of transportation, because it is quite a distance to go and it will likely be uphill. 
  • Option 1: Walk
    If you're really up for it, you are free to walk, but I wouldn't recommend it. I took transportation up and down the hill (from the sights to the train station) and it was quite a long drive. Even without having to walk up and down, after visiting the palace/castle, I was already pretty tired. 
  • Option 2: The bus
    The bus is probably the most popular option and I noticed that it was mentioned in pretty much every website that I saw while researching Sintra. It was the mode of transportation that I ultimately took. Buy your bus tickets ahead of time if you can, you can pre-purchase tickets for the bus at the metro station in Lisbon. If you didn't, no worries, you can purchase tickets upon entering the bus. 
    • If you get motion sickness easily, I know I do, then be aware that the bus route is very windy. There are a lot of sharp turns. Additionally, the large numbers of people on the bus probably won't make it that much better. While I didn't feel very sick on the bus (a miracle!) I could have very easily felt motion sickness and I would have taken motion sickness medicine before to be safe if I had known. 
  • Option 3: a tuk tuk or jeep
    When I was in Sintra, I noticed a lot of tourist targeted forms of transportation, like tuk tuks or jeeps. These will likely end up being a little more pricey than a bus, but it might be nice if you want a more fun experience while heading up/down than the bus. The bus tends to be crowded and cramped and the tuk tuk may be better if you prefer to sit (as you are not guaranteed a seat on the bus), don't like the idea of smooshing together in that bus, and would simply like to be a bit more comfortable. 

General tips

  • Bring some kind of heavy snacks. There is not much food available once you're up in the hills. While it may seem like a Disney fairytale at times, there's nowhere near the level of vendors that Disneyland has. I brought an empanada, a granola bar, and a magdalena pastry up as my lunch and did not purchase any food. 
  • Bring lots of water. Again, there is only about one small cafe per attraction, so you want to make sure that you have enough water for when you're out and about.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, especially if you're visiting the Castle of the Moors. 

Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace)

A Day Trip Out of Lisbon to Sintra, Portugal

A Day Trip Out of Lisbon to Sintra, Portugal

The Pena Palace is probably the first picture that you see when you google "Sintra", which is a pretty good indicator of how magnificent it is. As a result, it is also a must-see if you're in Sintra. I love the architecture of the palace because it almost seems like a few completely different buildings morphed together into one, but somehow it works. 

The Pena Palace ticket can be purchased as either a ticket for merely the park grounds or you can purchase a ticket to visit the interior of the palace and the park grounds as a set ticket. Honestly, looking back on it, you probably could buy a ticket to the park grounds and still be very happy. Access to the park grounds allows you to still visit the castle and have access to parts of it, (for example, the photo above and below were taken without using my ticket to enter the palace) you just won't get to see the interior. In my opinion, the interior is nice, but the exterior is nicer.

I do think that it is worth taking a moment to look around the gardens after you finish looking at the famous palace. It is filled with plants from all over the world. It's peaceful, calming, and there's a lot t explore in there. 

A Day Trip Out of Lisbon to Sintra, Portugal

A Day Trip Out of Lisbon to Sintra, Portugal

One thing that I didn't like about the palace was that it can feel a little bit rushed. In some parts, it can be tight, crowded with people, causing you to feel pressured to quickly move with the same pace as other people. However, you can always step aside and let other people pass you to take it at your own pace.

A little history behind the Pena Palace:

Believe it or not, this palace began as a monastery. However, the palace that you see today was given an "extreme home makeover" by King Ferdinand II, who was a Austrian that married into the Portuguese royal family. He wanted to create something that would rival the Neuschwanstein castle in Germany, so he commissioned the palace.

A Day Trip Out of Lisbon to Sintra, Portugal

A Day Trip Out of Lisbon to Sintra, Portugal

Castelo Dos Mouros (Moorish Castle)

The Moorish Castle has a great view of the city and has a lot more of a rugged charm compared to the picture perfect Pena Palace. What I think makes it really stunning is how it's on top of a hill, giving it  a great view, and the hill has all of those giant rocks. Seriously, just take a moment to look at the size of those rocks in comparison of the size of the actual castle. They're huge!

The Moorish Castle, however, requires more walking than the Pena Palace and you will have to walk uphill on it. The ground is rocky, so you have to be careful while walking and it's best to wear comfy shoes. There is only a railing on one side of the castle, so it's better to walk on that side for safety. Some people on TripAdvisor greatly exaggerated the dangers of this castle, mentioning how the tourists were pushing them to the point that they were "worried that they would fall to their death" due to having no railing. While you should be careful while walking, don't let those reviews dissuade you from visiting, it is very unlikely that you will fall off the castle walls.

While the Castle's actual look may not be very original, I said that it looked like the Great Wall of China, which my mom also said when I showed her the pictures, the view is great. You can see the Pena Palace, historic centre of Sintra, and the Quinta da Regaleira from the castle. It was really cool too because it was so high up that the fog seemed to be drifting right by. As for the amount of athleticism needed to walk up the castle, it was most definitely within my bounds. The Great Wall of China was a lot more physically demanding than this.

A Day Trip Out of Lisbon to Sintra, Portugal

A Day Trip Out of Lisbon to Sintra, Portugal

A little history behind the Moorish Castle:

The Castle was built by North African Moors during the 9th century to guard the town but was eventually taken during the Christian conquest of Portugal in 1147. It was rebuilt by King Ferdinand I in 1375, but was damaged by the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake. Like the Pena Palace, it was later restored by King Ferdinand II.

A Day Trip Out of Lisbon to Sintra, Portugal

What else is in Sintra?

However, there's so much more in Sintra than just what I saw. While these are the two most famous attractions in Sintra, making them both must-see spots if you only have one day, if you want to make the most of your time in Sintra, there's still more to see. If I had more time, I would have loved to see the Quinta da Regaleira or the Historic Centre.

1 comment:

  1. Wow!! These pictures are stunning!
    xo, Sydney