Sintra is a small town with fairytale-like palaces, dramatic ocean views and a picturesque town center. It’s one of the most visited destinations in Portugal and my day trip there was one of my trip’s highlights.
My sister and I separately visited the historic town of Sintra and here, I share our combined practical travel tips on visiting it. This post shares:
- ⭐️ Top attractions and highlights of Sintra
- 📍 Sintra map with main attractions pinned
- 🗓️ 2 day trip itineraries to choose from
- 💡 Tips on picking a Sintra tour
- 🚗 Best ways to get to Sintra from Lisbon
- Sintra at a Glance
- Getting Around
- Day Trip Itineraries
- Sintra Map
- Top 5 Attractions
- 3 Notable Attractions
- Picking the Right Tour for You
- Portugal Trip Planning Template
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Sintra at a Glance
Here’s some general information on Sintra to help you plan your trip:
🏰 Known For
The picturesque town of Sintra is known for its royal palaces, castles, stunning views, natural landscapes and lush greenery. It is also known as one of the best day trips you can take from Lisbon.
Sintra has a royal, almost fairytale-like atmosphere with its colorful buildings, bright palaces and ornate castles nestled in beautiful gardens.
If you enjoy taking photos or want to see a European city that’s more unique, you’ll also likely enjoy Sintra.
Sintra is located 21 miles west of Lisbon in the western peninsula of Portugal.
☀️ Best Time To Visit
To avoid the peak season crowds in the summer and still enjoy the town’s great weather, the best time to visit Sintra is during the spring (March to May) and the fall (September to October).
- During the spring, Sintra’s weather averages 50°F to 70°F. I visited Sintra in May and I could wear a tank top with long jeans, with the occasional light jacket.
- During the fall, Sintra’s weather averages 57°F to 77°F. My sister visited Sintra in September and wore a similar outfit to mine.
⏳ How Long To Visit
Sintra is most often visited as a full-day trip from Lisbon, but you can easily spend two days there.
If you only have one day in Sintra, you’ll be able to visit approximately three to five of Sintra’s top attractions, but you won’t be able to adequately see all of them.
💰 Expected Cost
The cost of doing a day trip to Sintra depends on your transportation (i.e., are you taking a tour, Uber or public transportation?) and the number of attractions you plan to visit, as many of Sintra’s top attractions have an $8+ USD entrance fee.
This Portugal travel guide has other recommended top destinations to check out besides Sintra.
How To Get To and Around Sintra
You can get to and around Sintra in four different ways: by taking public transportation, calling an Uber or taxi, booking a tour or driving.
🚌 Budget Option: Public Transportation
Taking the train and bus to Sintra is the most budget-friendly way to get to the town, but it’s also one of the most inconvenient modes of transportation.
Getting To Sintra
You can take the state-owned CP train from Lisbon’s Rossio station to the Sintra train station.
The train ride takes 40 to 50 minutes and leaves every 10 to 15 minutes (see the train timetable here). The Lisbon to Sintra train tickets cost €2.30 (~$2.47 USD) each way.
Getting Around Sintra
Once you get to the Sintra train station, you can walk, rent an electric car for the day, call an Uber/taxi/tuk tuk or take the 434 or 435 tourist bus. The Sintra bus costs €12.50 (~$13.41 USD) for a ticket that lasts 24 hours.
- The 434 shuttle bus runs every ~15 minutes and the route includes Pena Palace, Castelos dos Mouros and the town’s historic center. It operates from 9:15 am to 7:50 pm.
- The 435 shuttle bus runs every ~20 minutes and the route includes Pena Palace, Quinta da Regaleria, Monserrate Palace and the town’s historic center. It operates from 9:30 am to 7:50 pm.
During the peak summer season, you might have to wait for a while to get on the bus and you also arrive at popular attractions at the same time as everyone else.
🚕 Best Option When Traveling With a Group: Uber or Taxi
Getting to Sintra: You can call an Uber from Lisbon and take it to Sintra’s town centre. The drive will take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes depending on traffic.
Expected cost: Taking an Uber from Lisbon to Sintra round-trip can cost $100 USD or more. My sister took an Uber in the fall and paid $90 USD to get to Sintra and $47 USD to get back to Lisbon.
Due to the high cost, taking an Uber from Lisbon to Sintra is only recommended if you’re traveling in a group of three or more people. The advantage, however, is that you don’t have to rely on public transportation and can create your own custom Sintra itinerary.
🚐 Most Convenient Option: Sintra Tour
The best way to get to Sintra from Lisbon is by booking a tour, which includes private transportation to and around Sintra. A Sintra full-day tour starts at $60 USD and is usually closer to $90 USD, not including tips.
I booked a Sintra tour, which I found convenient especially because there was a road blockage to Pena Palace, Sintra’s #1 attraction the day I visited. My tour guide efficiently reorganized our itinerary and still made sure we got to Pena Palace by the end of the day when there were fewer crowds.
Since there are hundreds of Sintra tours to pick from, the main challenge to booking a Sintra tour is choosing a good one. Further below are some tips on picking the right Sintra tour for you.
🚙 Hard Mode Option: Driving to Sintra
You can rent a car and drive to Sintra, but it’s generally not recommended for most visitors. Driving to and in Sintra can be challenging for various reasons:
- Parking is not allowed in the town’s historic center, so there’s limited parking and if you find any, you’ll likely have to pay for it.
- The roads are winding, hilly and narrow.
- You’ll be stuck if you run into a road blockage, which may be infrequent, but it happened when I visited Sintra.
The main advice I’ve received when driving to Sintra is to leave Lisbon early (before 9 am).
Day Trip Itineraries for Sintra
Below are two great Sintra day trip itineraries that efficiently sequence top attractions for your trip. Both itineraries are packed, so you can skip an attraction if you want more downtime or to move at a more leisurely pace.
These day trip itineraries are the improved and combined versions of my and my sister’s Sintra itineraries (we visited Sintra in May and September separately).
Sintra Itinerary #1: Pena Palace Early
This Sintra day trip itinerary prioritizes getting to Pena Palace early to beat the crowd and seeing many of Sintra’s top attractions on foot.
The tradeoff with this itinerary is that you may not have much time to go outside of Sintra to get a beach view or visit a beach town. This is similar to what my sister did and is prefilled in the Portugal trip planner template below.
|Morning||🏰 Beat the crowd at Pena Palace (9:30–11:15 am)|
👣 Walk to Castelos dos Mouros (15 mins)
☀️ Visit Castelos dos Mouros (11:30 am–12:45 pm)
|Afternoon||👣 Short walk to Sintra’s center (15 mins)|
🥘 Get lunch and explore Sintra’s Historic Center (1–3 pm)
👣 Short walk to Quinta da Regaleira (15 mins)
🏰 Visit Quinta da Regaleira (3:15–4:45 pm)
🚌 Take the 435 bus or Uber to Monserrate Palace (15 mins)
🏰 Visit Monserrate Palace before closing (5–6:30 pm)
|Evening||🚗 Uber to Cabo da Roca, Cascais or back to Lisbon (6:30–8:30 pm)|
Sintra Itinerary #2: Pena Palace Later
This full-day Sintra itinerary prioritizes getting to Pena Palace later to minimize the crowd before closing time. It relies on taxis and Uber rides to get from one attraction to the next.
This itinerary also breaks up Sintra’s attractions by going to a beautiful ocean view in the middle of the day. This is similar to what I did.
|Morning||☀️ Visit Castelos dos Mouros (9:30–11:15 am)|
🚗 Uber to Quinta da Regaleira (15 mins)
|Afternoon||🏰 Visit Quinta da Regaleira (11:30–1 pm)|
⭐️ Walk to Sintra’s Historic Center, have lunch and explore or have lunch at Quinta da Regaliera and then drive to Monserrate Palace (1–3 pm)
🚗 Uber to an ocean view (30 mins)
🌊 Views at Cabo da Roca or Praia da Água Doce (3:30–4 pm)
🚗 Uber back to Sintra (30 mins)
🏰 Visit Pena Palace before closing (4:30–6:30 pm)
|Evening||🚗 Uber to Cascais or back to Lisbon (6:30–7:30 pm)|
This travel guide has a one-week Portugal itinerary that shows you how to sequence a Sintra day trip while visiting Lisbon and Porto as well.
Sintra Map With Recommended Places
This Portugal map has all the recommended places in Sintra pinned.
Top 5 Attractions in Sintra
Having taken separate Sintra trips and visited many of its top attractions, here are my and my sister’s combined recommendations on the best things to do in Sintra in rough priority order.
1. Park and National Palace of Pena (The Colorful Palace)
🤔 Why visit: One of the Seven Wonders of Portugal and a UNESCO Heritage Site, the National Palace of Pena is Sintra’s most famous palace and gets close to two million visitors per year. The palace is known for its colorful and photogenic exterior.
🌟 What to do there: Once you get to Pena Palace, you can:
- Walk through the interior of the palace and take a guided tour to learn about its history as well as about the monks and royal family who lived there. The palace was built by King Ferdinand II and was inhabited by the last queen of Portugal.
- Spend significant time touring and taking pictures of Pena Palace’s purple, red and yellow exterior.
🚗 Getting there: The National Palace of Pena is located at the top of a steep hill, so if you’re not taking a Sintra tour, you’ll need to take a 15 to 20-minute uphill walk or pay about $4 USD for a bus ride to the top of the hill.
Pena Palace is almost always crowded, so to minimize the crowds, visit the palace either early (around opening time at 9:30 am) or an hour before closing time (it closes at 6:30 pm daily).
💰 Expected cost: Pena Palace has a €14 entrance fee (roughly $15 USD). Tickets are timed, so you’ll need to select the date and entrance time in advance.
If you want to get near the Pena Palace, you must buy tickets to the palace, not just to the park. If you only buy park tickets, you won’t be allowed to see the exterior of the palace up close.
When booking Sintra tours, keep in mind that some tours include and others do not include the Pena Palace entrance ticket. Further below are more tips on picking the right Sintra tour for you.
⏰ Suggested duration: You can expect to spend one to two hours exploring Pena Palace, with two hours being more likely if you’re taking a guided tour.
🍀 My take: Pena Palace’s interior, even when enhanced with a guided tour, is average in my opinion (I found the tour at Sintra National Palace more interesting). However, Pena Palace’s exterior is worth the hype and there’s a lot more to explore than I expected.
2. Quinta da Regaleria (Palace in a Garden)
🤔 Why visit: A UNESCO World Heritage site and often considered one of the best Sintra attractions, Quinta da Regaleira is a large park-like villa that’s home to a Renaissance-style palace, a lake and a famous inverted tower.
🌟 What to do there: Quinta da Regaleira’s estate is about the size of five and a half football fields, so you can take a stroll through its garden or head straight to some of its top attractions, which are:
- The Initiation Well. Quinta da Regaleira’s most popular attraction, the Initiation Well is an inverted tower with a spiral staircase that leads to underground tunnels built under the gardens. The well is said to have been part of a mysterious Knights Templar ritual.
During the peak season, expect long lines for the Initiation Well.
- Palacio da Regaleira. The palace of the villa is also called “Quinta da Regaleira” and is a five-floor structure that’s pretty to look at from the outside. Visitors can only access the main floor.
- Regaleira Chapel. The villa’s chapel is right in front of the palace and it’s worth a quick stop.
🚗 Getting there: Quinta da Regaleira can be reached by walking, taking the bus, calling an Uber/taxi or driving.
- Walking: From Sintra’s historic center, you can get to Quinta da Regaleira within 30 minutes by foot. It’s also a 10 to 15-minute walk from Castelo dos Mouros.
- Bus: The 435 tourist bus makes a stop here.
- Driving: If you’re driving, Quinta da Regaleira has a parking lot that gets filled up during the peak season. It’s about $4 USD per hour for parking.
💰 Expected cost: Quinta da Regaleira has an €11 entrance fee (~$11.76 USD) and you don’t need to buy tickets in advance.
Quinta da Regaleira also has a cafe in case you need to grab a snack or lunch. The food is not bad, but it’s also not amazing, so you should only stop here if you need a quick bite or if your visit aligns with lunchtime.
⏰ Suggested duration: You can expect to spend one to two hours walking around Quinta da Regaleira.
🍀 My take: Quinta da Regaleira is a nice area to walk through and feels very much like walking through a nice, gated park. If you’d rather prioritize seeing views, consider visiting Castelos dos Mouros instead.
3. Moorish Castle (Best Sintra Views)
🤔 Why visit: Castelos dos Mouros, also known as the “Moorish Castle” or “Castle of the Moors”, is a medieval castle originally built to defend the region and now offers the best views of Sintra. Like Quinta da Regaleira and Pena Palace, it’s considered a national monument.
🌟 What to do there: Castelos dos Mouros has no meaningful interior places to explore; you’re primarily outside exploring the castle’s walls, walking on its cobblestone stairs and looking out at some of its highest viewpoints.
🚗 Getting there: Castelo dos Mouros can be reached by walking, taking the bus or taking an Uber/taxi. There’s no parking near the Moorish Castle, so driving is not recommended.
- Walking: From Sintra’s historic center, you can get to Castelos dos Mouros within 15 minutes by foot. It’s also a 10 to 15-minute walk from Quinta da Regaleira.
- Bus: The 434 tourist bus makes a stop here.
💰 Expected cost: Castelo dos Mouros has an €8 entrance fee (~$8.55 USD) and you don’t need to buy tickets in advance.
⏰ Suggested duration: You can expect to spend one hour to 90 minutes exploring Castelo dos Mouros.
🍀 My take: Castelos dos Mouros is different from the other Sintra attractions in that there’s no interior to explore, making it a great place to walk around for some of the best views of Sintra.
4. Sintra’s Historic Center (Picturesque Shops and Streets)
🤔 Why visit: Sintra’s historic center is packed with small, cute shops in narrow, winding streets. It’s a great place to walk around, window shop or grab a meal.
🌟 What to do there: Walk around the streets of Sintra’s historic center and look for views and stores that pique your interest.
One of my favorite places to check out is Casa Piriquita, which serves their famous travesseiro, an almond pastry that translates to “pillow.” Many Sintra tours will call this place out. Further below are more tips on picking the right Sintra tour for you.
💰 Expected cost: Sintra’s historic center does not have an entrance fee.
⏰ Suggested duration: You can spend anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours walking and eating around Sintra’s old town.
🍀 My take: Sintra’s historic center is not always called out as one of Sintra’s top attractions, so it can surprise visitors when they end up spending several hours there. I would recommend budgeting one hour here because it’s a nice area to window shop and walk around.
5. Cabo da Roca (Edge of the World)
🤔 Why visit: Called the “edge of the world”, Cabo da Roca is the westernmost point of Europe and features stunning, plunging cliff views of the Atlantic Ocean. Cabo da Roca is not in Sintra, but it’s often considered a must-stop in many Sintra itineraries and tours.
While Cabo da Roca is the most famous, it’s also the most touristy. There are alternatives to Cabo da Roca that will give you similar views with fewer crowds, including Praia da Água Doce, which is where I visited.
🌟 What to do there: Once you’re at Cabo da Roca, spend a moment staring at the breathtaking view. The ocean waves are strong, so swimming is not safe here.
💰 Expected cost: Cabo da Roca is free to enter, but you will need to pay for your transportation. A taxi or Uber from Sintra can cost anywhere from $15 to $30 USD one-way depending on the season.
⏰ Suggested duration: You can spend 15 to 30 minutes admiring the views.
🍀 My take: I went to a less crowded, but equally beautiful stop at Praia da Água Doce. If you have a car or are taking a tour, this is a beautiful must-stop area.
3 Other Notable Attractions in Sintra
Here are three other Sintra attractions that are also very popular.
1. National Palace of Sintra
🤔 Why visit: Located at the center of Sintra, the National Palace of Sintra (also called “Palácio Nacional de Sintra”) is the oldest palace in Portugal that has been built over several centuries. The guided tours there are fairly interesting.
🚗 Getting there: The National Palace of Sintra is at the center of Sintra, so it’s easy to get to it. It’s about a 3-minute walk from Sintra’s historic center, a 15-minute walk from the Moorish castle and a 35-minute walk from Pena Palace.
💰 Expected cost: National Palace of Sintra has a €10 entrance fee (~$10.70 USD).
⏰ Suggested duration: You can spend 30 minutes to 1.5 hours walking around the National Palace of Sintra.
🍀 My take: The National Palace of Sintra is much better with a guided tour. It’s not a particularly beautiful or interesting building to me, so what made the visit interesting was learning about its history and amusing stories (ask your tour guide why the Magpie Room is named so).
🤔 Why visit: Cascais is a seaside town that’s often a popular stop for visitors making their way back from Sintra to Lisbon. Cascais offers beach vibes, shops, art and a lot of ice cream.
🚗 Getting there: Cascais is located 30 minutes west of Lisbon and 20 minutes south of Sintra. You can get to Cascais by calling an Uber or taxi, taking a Sintra tour (many of them stop at Cascais), train or bus.
💰 Expected cost: Cascais doesn’t have an entrance fee, but expect to spend some money shopping or eating.
⏰ Suggested duration: You can visit Cascais as a full-day trip on its own or make it as a short one-hour stop on your way back from Sintra to Lisbon.
🍀 My take: Even though many people seem to like visiting Cascais, I found it to be the most underwhelming stop during my Sintra trip because after seeing all the palaces, gardens and beautiful ocean views, Cascais felt like an average beach town.
3. Park and Palace of Monserrate
🤔 Why visit: The Park and Palace of Monserrate include a beautiful, fairytale-like villa sitting on top of a hill.
💰 Expected cost: The Park and Palace of Monserrate has an €8 entrance fee (~$8.55 USD) and you don’t need to buy tickets in advance.
⏰ Suggested duration: You can expect to spend one to two hours looking around this palace.
🍀 My take: I didn’t make it to Park and Palace of Monserrate, but if I had to do my trip all over again, I would have prioritized this over Cascais.
Picking the Right Sintra Tour for You
Since there are hundreds of Sintra tours to pick from, it can be challenging to find one that matches what you want.
Having spent hours researching Sintra tours and gone on a tour myself, I recommend considering these two main things:
- What are the top two to three attractions you want to see? Most tours will include Pena Palace and a combination of two to four other attractions. It’s not possible to see all attractions in one day, so you will have to prioritize.
- How much are you willing to spend? Most Sintra tours will cost around $80 USD, but you can find more affordable ones for $60 USD or go on a private, customized tour for $100+ USD. My Sintra tour cost $75 USD with tip, but the lower price was partially because the tour was given in Spanish instead of English.
Be aware that some tours do not include entrance tickets, which is why they have a cheaper tour price. Read the tour descriptions carefully to see if you need to buy the entrance tickets separately.
Five Curated Sintra Tours
Here’s my curated list of highly-rated Sintra tours that I would consider booking if I were to do it again:
- If you are most excited by Pena Palace, this Sintra tour with close to 1,000 five-star reviews focuses on Pena Palace by dedicating two hours to it. It also stops by the historic center and three coastal places.
- If you are most excited by Pena Palace and Quinta da Regaleira, this well-rated Sintra tour gives equal time to each. It also stops by Sintra’s historic center and two coastal places.
- If you don’t care for the Pena Palace hype, this well-rated Sintra tour skips the Pena Palace altogether and gives visitors more time in Quinta da Regaleria and the historic town, while also doing three coastal stops.
- If you want to see Castelos dos Mouros, this Sintra tour is one of the few that includes it and skips Cascais. Despite the high cost, this is the Sintra tour I would most likely book if I had to do it all over again because it offers my ideal stops.
- If you want to visit Pena Palace at the end, this highly-rated Sintra tour does that and also has several other stops. Most tour groups visit Pena Palace in the morning; my tour group visited towards the end when it was significantly less crowded.
Portugal Trip Planning Template
To make your travel planning easier, download the trip planning template below and use it as a starting point. The template has country-specific travel information as well as an itinerary, packing list and map with recommended places pinned.
The template is built on Notion, which is what I use for all my travel planning (I’m not paid to say this; I just like the tool). If you don’t have Notion, creating an account is free.
If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave them in the comments below.
Portugal Travel Guides
- 🇵🇹 7 Amazing Days in Portugal: Lisbon + Porto Trip
- 💰 Trip to Portugal Cost: 2023 Travel Expense Breakdown
- ⛅ Lisbon Travel Guide: 8 Great Things To Do, 4-Day Itinerary + Cost Breakdown
- 🏰 How To Plan an Amazing Sintra Day Trip Itinerary
- 🍷 Porto Travel Guide: 6 Great Things To Do, 3-Day Itinerary + Cost Breakdown
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