Only 40 minutes from Lisbon there is an amazing place that was blessed with a diverse landscape, stunning views and lovely gardens or parks, perfect getaways for hot summer days. This is Sintra and there is no surprise it was chosen as a summer residence by the royals and the rich of Portugal.
Sintra has many attractions to offer, but many travelers like us, combine visiting Lisbon with one day trips to the surrounding areas. So this is our recommendation for a one day trip to Sintra from Lisbon, but if you do have more time around there are still many other things to add on the list.
How to get there:
Getting to Sintra from Lisbon is very easy. There are direct trains either from the city center (from Rossio station) or from Oriente train station, if it is closer to you. The train journey is very cheap (4.30 EUR return ticket) and you don’t have to buy special tickets if you already have the re-loadable metro; just use the card as for any metro journey. There are trains every 20-30 minutes, the journey takes about 40 minutes and you will find seats in the train.
One day itinerary suggestion
Our recommendation is to start from the top, from the most famous attraction, Castelo de Pena.
Castelo de Pena (Pena Palace)
This fairy tale castle, located on the top of the Sintra Mountains and decorated in vivid colors, is a masterpiece of the Romanticism architecture and also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Incorporating the remaining of a former medieval monastery, this beautiful and unique palace had been built with the purpose of becoming a royal summer residence.
To visit the castle we recommend to buy the tickets online, as this will allow you to benefit of a 5% discount (an online adult ticket is 13.30 EUR) and priority in entering the site.
You can get to the castle entrance either on foot, but this will take some time and is not necessarily the easiest way, or by car. There is public transport or you can take a taxi/Uber ride, they are quite affordable.
Don’t expect to see luxury or a very rich content in the castle, but do expect to see breathtaking views of the surrounding area and how the original architecture of the monastery was ingeniously incorporated into the new palace.
You can decide to visit only the park and gardens of the castle or the interior as well. Unless you are in a hurry or want to save the money, it is nice to see it all, to get the complete picture.
When you finish visiting the castle you should allocate some time to explore the park, as it is very beautiful and the walk will be worth it. We recommend going to the high cross on the top for another amazing panorama and from there to take the small path that leads to head to the valley of the lakes. If you want to explore more the park is huge, but we ended the tour with the lakes and we started to descend to the Moorish fortress.
The Moorish fortress (Castelo dos Mouros)
Just as you exit the Castelo de Pena’s park gates near the lakes, across the street through the car park you will find the trail that will lead you to the Moorish fortress. It is about 10-15 minutes walk. The fortress is set on an imposing and strategic location and offers a glimpse of the Moorish architecture and rich heritage. Tickets can also be purchased online with the 5% discount and the entrance costs 7.60 EUR for an adult. Climb the medieval stone walls for amazing view of the area, including of Castelo de Pena and imagine how medieval times in the fortress must have been.
Villa Sassetti Pedestrian Footpath
Once you finish visiting the Moorish fortress we recommend you to go back to the trail you came from the Pena castle and walk back to Sintra on the Villa Sassetti Pedestrian Footpath . This is a short route to the center and also very beautiful. You will pass near the rocky and steep cliffs of the mountain, perfect for climbing, and near the Villa Sassetti, a delightful property built in a Lombard Romanesque style by Victor Carlos Sassetti, a rich owner of famous hotels in Lisbon and Sintra. Arriving to the villa you have the option of taking a well deserved break, having a cup of coffee and/or admiring the wonderful gardens that decorate the very steep landscape surrounding the villa. With refreshed energy you can continue the walk to the center of the town.
National Palace of Sintra
Once in the center of Sintra, and depending on the time, you have the option to either have lunch at a restaurant or pizzeria near by or to continue your visit with the National Palace of Sintra. The palace is now a museum, also included on the UNESCO World Heritage site and it is Portugal’s best preserved royal residence from medieval times. Tickets can also be purchased online with the 5% discount and the entrance costs 9.50 EUR for an adult. The last admission is at 18:30.
The old narrow streets of Sintra center
Sintra center has some lovely and picture perfect narrow streets, full of life, people, souvenirs, shops and bars. We really enjoyed strolling around these streets and experiencing the local taste such as the traditional Ginja liquor served in a cup made of chocolate. If you love sweets you shouldn’t miss it.
This was our recommendation for a one day visit to Sintra. There are still many wonderful places to visit, but it is difficult to include them all in a tight schedule and still to fully enjoy the selected ones. With this itinerary you can at least get a good image of the beauty of Sintra and who knows, maybe you will want to come back another time.