There’s quite a lot to see and do in Lisbon, Portugal’s colourful and hilly capital. One of those things is a day trip from Lisbon to Sintra, only a 45 minute train ride away. Sintra is UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Landscape, filled with panoramas and palaces. Make sure your camera has a full battery when visiting!
Note: we visited Lisbon and Sintra in November 2016.
How to get from Lisbon to Sintra?
To get from Lisbon to Sintra, you just have to hop on the right train and get off at the last station. Child’s play! After a lovely breakfast (with pastries!) at Largo Da Sé Guest House, we walked over to the Rossio Railway Station. The grumpy guy at the ticket window charged our reusable Viva Viagem cards (€0.50 per card) with a return ticket to Sintra (€4.30 per person) and less than 10 minutes later we were on our way to see some palaces.
It’s only a 40-45 minute train ride to Sintra, which makes it the perfect day trip from Lisbon. This ride takes you along green and hilly landscapes (and high apartment buildings with laundry hanging from the balconies), so don’t forget to look outside every once in a while. By the time we arrived in Sintra, the last stop, it was almost 10:00 in the morning. We were ready to do some exploring!
How to get around in Sintra?
When you’ve arrived in the Sintra Railway Station you’re still a good 1.5 km away from the historic town centre. Luckily bus 434 leaves from around the corner. Bus 434 is a hop-on hop-off bus looping from the train station to the three major attractions in Sintra: the National Palace, the Moorish Castle, and Pena Palace. A single round trip will cost you €5 per person, to be paid to the lady that’s hanging around at the bus stop.
There’s another option to get around in Sintra though. If you hate crowded tourist busses and aren’t traveling on a budget, you can hop on one of the cute and colourful tuktuks that will take you on a more private tour of Sintra. We just kept to bus 434 though. We’ve already been shaken around in tuktuks in Cambodia and Thailand for way less money.
For those on a really tight budget or an energy high, Sintra is doable on foot as well. The round trip we did by bus is about 10 km, but be warned: Pena Palace is located on the second highest point of the Sintra Hills. You’ll be hiking some steep slopes up there! Even if you take the bus, there’s quite a lot of walking involved to get from the bus stop to the palaces. We do know some people who did it on foot, but don’t say we didn’t warn you about the climb.
Note: when exiting the Sintra Train Station, go right and keep walking until you reach the second bus stop on your right. That’s the one where bus 434 will depart about every 15 minutes.
What to see and do in Sintra?
There’s enough to see in Sintra to keep you entertained for at least 2 days. However, we decided to keep it to a day trip from Lisbon instead of spending the night in Sintra. We only visited the Moorish Castle and Pena Palace, but they’re both amazing. Oh, and we had Travesseiros de Sintra from Piriquita, yum! Keep scrolling to read more about our day trip from Lisbon to Sintra.
Buy lunch at Piriquita II
About 5 minutes after we hopped on bus 434 at the train station, we pulled over at the first stop: the National Palace of Sintra, or Palácio Nacional de Sintra. This original Moorish Palace is a pretty impressive building with two large chimneys. For a fee you can enter the palace, but we didn’t.
Instead, we walked over to Piriquita II to buy lunch. Piriquita is a famous bakery, founded over 155 years ago. The original one was closed (high season was over), but Piriquita II was open for business. We ordered some Travesseiros de Sintra, like the friendly personnel from Largo Da Sé Guest House recommended, together with some Pastei de Nata and an Empada de Frango, a chicken pie. Travesseiros de Sintra are puff pastries filled with egg and almond cream. They look like pillows, like the name already suggests, and they’re absolutely delicious!
If you want to read up on the history of Piriquita and their famous Travesseiros de Sintra, head over to the Piriquita website.
Visit the Moorish Castle – Castelo dos Mouros
The second spot where bus 434 stops is the Moorish Castle or Castelo dos Mouros, a 15 minute drive from the National Palace of Sintra. The bus drops you off on the side of the road. Head over to the glass cubicle to buy entrance tickets for €6.50 per person. Don’t forget to pick up a map of this former military fortress as well.
It’s quite the walk before your tickets will be checked, when you enter the inner walls of the Moorish Castle. Be prepared to climb some steps, but trust us when we say the view is worth the money and effort. Oh, and the castle walls are gorgeous against that backdrop of 360° panoramic views of the surrounding land, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. At certain watchtowers there are binoculars, free to use to check for incoming enemy troops.
Before heading back to the bus stop, we wandered around in the woods looking for a geocache that’s hidden there. It’s not an easy access hiding place though, just so you know. All in all we spent over an hour exploring Castelo dos Mouros. It’s definitely worth a visit!
Visit Pena Palace – Palácio Nacional da Pena
The last stop before bus 434 heads back to the Sintra Railway Station is Pena Palace, or Palácio Nacional da Pena. Technically the bus drops you off at the entrance of Pena Park, the gardens surrounding the palace. While buying our entrance tickets from the ticket machines (no need to queue in front of the ticket window) we noticed there’s apparently a combo ticket for the Moorish Castle and Pena Palace for €17.10 per person. This saves you no less than €0.90 per person. We were devastated. But having already visited the Moorish Castle, we bought a regular ticket for Pena Palace: €11.50 per person.
It was 12:30 by now and the pastries from Piriquita were burning a hole in our backpack. Time for lunch! We walked up to the Temple of Columns or Templo Das Colunas and found a spot in the sun to devour the heavenly Travesseiros de Sintra we bought in the town centre of Sintra. We had the original Travesseiros de Sintra with almonds and one with chocolate too. Yum!
From our lunch spot we could already see the 2 yellow towers of Pena Palace. Before heading over there to see them up close though, we hiked up to Cruz Alta (The High Cross), the highest point in the Sintra Hills. A statue on a huge pile of rocks and a steep slope later (took us about 15 minutes), we were rewarded with an amazing 360° view. It was a tad depressing to see how far we still seemed to be away from Pena Palace, but in truth it’s just a 20 minute walk. After 5 minutes of admiring the view and making tons of photos, we headed to the colourful Pena Palace.
We explored Pena Palace from the outside (loving the colours!) before heading in. Unfortunately they were doing some renovation works both inside and out, but it was still stunning! In 20 minutes we went through all of the gorgeous rooms, some a little quicker than others. Don’t skip the Queen’s Terrace, and don’t forget to look up every once in a while. The ceilings are impressive too!
By then our legs were almost jelly, so we headed back to the bus stop. All in all we spent just over 2 hours on the grounds of Pena Palace.
Our day trip from Lisbon to Sintra in short
- Time: 6.5 hours
- Cost: €34.40 per person, including transportation, lunch, and entrance fees
- Visited: Moorish Castle, Pena Palace and surrounding gardens
- Lunch: pastries from Piriquita II
A visit to Sintra is a must-do day trip from Lisbon. The panoramas are awesome and the palaces impressive! There’s a lot more to see there than the Moorish Castle and Pena Palace though, but this seemed to be enough for us for 1 day. We recommend to see at least these 2 palaces when you visit Sintra. And remember: visiting Sintra without eating Travesseiros de Sintra is like visiting Belgium without drinking beer!
Have you been to Sintra? Did we miss an awesome panorama or gorgeous palace? We’d love to read about your experience in the comments!
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