Everyone we’ve talked to about Portugal recommends visiting Sintra! So what did we do? We hopped on a train and did a day trip from Lisbon to Sintra. My oh my was it worth it! And going there from Lisbon is so easy since it’s only a train ride away.
If you’re looking to get out of the city and see very unique and picturesque castles then just over an hour away from Lisbon you can find the beautiful city of Sintra. With castles and fortresses up in the hills that are just waiting to be explored, we couldn’t imagine a much better way to spend our day.
From exploring the Pena Palace to hiking around the Castle of Moors you will be filled with views, history, architecture, nature, and adventure for a full day of fun, hopefully in the sun!
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A perfect day trip from Lisbon to Sintra
This day trip from Lisbon to Sintra is perfect if you want to get away from all the busy streets of Lisbon for a day. Not that Sintra, Pena Palace, and Castle of Moors don’t get busy as well but you’re out in nature and surrounded by forests so it has a much different feel to it.
You’ll enjoy quiet walks through forests and gardens around Pena Palace along with gorgeous views of the coast and castles up in the hills. For all you outdoor adventure lovers, you will fall in love with this little area of Portugal in a heartbeat.
When is the best time to visit Sintra
Portugal has quite good weather all year round so there really is no bad time to go on a day trip to Sintra and visit all the beautiful attractions and sights around the city and the area.
Whenever you do go we recommend leaving early in the morning and plan to come back quite late because there is so much to see and if you end up just going for a day trip like us then you definitely want to be able to see everything and not rush it.
Even one day didn’t feel like enough and there was still so much to see. If it’s possible you can always spend a night or two in Sintra and take it all in. We’re definitely coming back to do that sometime soon.
How to get from Lisbon to Sintra
The easiest and most convenient way to get to Sintra from Lisbon is by train. It’s a 45-minute train ride that costs about 3$ and has a few stops in Lisbon before making its way out towards Sintra.
The train leaves often so you don’t have to worry about timing but if you do want to make the best of the day trip we recommend trying and getting on a train sometime around 8 am. This way you’ll be in Sintra before the majority of the crowds.
Coming back from Sintra to Lisbon is basically the same thing. You can even buy a return ticket beforehand and then just hop on one of the trains on your way back to the city.
We recommend getting one of the contactless travel cards that you can just top up at the train station. It’s easier to keep track of your tickets on the travel card and saves you from buying individual tickets every time.
What to bring on your day trip to Sintra
Everyone’s day trip is going to be a little bit different but there are definitely some essentials that everyone should bring to Sintra. There’s always that one thing we somehow forget so let’s make sure that doesn’t happen to you!
Here’s what you should bring to Sintra:
- Good walking shoes or sneakers.
- Lots of water! A LifeStraw is great so you can fill it up wherever you go. This is the one we use and we love it!
- Phone, wallet, camera, public transport card, and headphones for the train ride.
- It never hurts to pack a light jacket or sweater in case the weather changes while you’re exploring around Sintra.
- Sunscreen is an absolute must in Portugal! In the summer months, you can see 40 degrees Celsius or more.
- It’s always nice to pack some snacks. There are cafes and restaurants but it’s good to have snacks if you get hungry on the walking trails away from the touristy spots.
- A portable charger for your phone and/or camera. It’s crazy how fast your battery drains on day trips from all the Google Map usage and photo taking. It’s always good to have a charged phone in a foreign place.
Once you get to Sintra
As soon as you hop off the bus we recommend finding bus 434 in Sintra where you can buy a round-trip ticket for all the sights. A round-trip ticket in 2021 costs €6.90.
If you wanted to, you could walk to all the sights but you’ll be doing so much walking even when taking the bus so we don’t recommend this. We personally find that it’s better to have the bus to hop on and off at all the sights.
You’ll find the bus as soon as you get off the train and you’ll be able to buy your tickets directly from the driver. Remember to bring cash!
#1 First stop: Castle of Moors
Since the bus goes in a loop it only makes sense to do the activities in order! The Castle of Moors is the first stop and one you want to spend at least an hour at. There’s so much to see and explore throughout this ancient watchtower. It’s been restored over the years and we don’t want you to forget about visiting the castle and just going straight to the Palace de Pena.
Its famous walls snake around the hills that overlook Sintra and offer some of the best viewpoints in the area. A stretch called the ‘Romantic Ruins’ leads you past the remains of ancient silos, which are being slowly consumed by undergrowth, and the guardhouse to the outer walls.
The outer walls of the Castle of Moors is the one section that you can actually still walk on and we recommend doing at least that if you plan to visit the castle. It may be hard to see everything in one day but give yourself at least an hour here exploring the “Romantic Ruins” and the castle wall before heading to Pena Palace.
The Palace is only a short walk away from Castle of Moors so when you’re ready to continue just walk on the trail. It’s about a 10-minute walk to the entrance of the palace.
The directions from the Moorish Castle to Pena Palace can be found here.
#2 Second stop: Pena Palace
We were fortunate and lucky enough to visit the Pena Palace during shoulder season when it wasn’t as busy as it usually gets. You may not be so lucky so we highly recommend buying your ticket online in advance. That way you can skip the line waiting to buy your ticket and save a bunch of time (and get a small discount). Especially if you’re doing a day trip to Sintra from Lisbon like we did, we know time is quite important!
Once you’re inside the grounds of the Palace there is an endless amount of stuff to do and the Pena Palace deserves its own post with everything. For now, let’s just talk about the highlights and what to do in a few hours!
First, walk up the main path to the entrance of the Palace to Pena where you’ll have great views of the towers and colours from the castle. There is a beautiful courtyard that’s all yellow and overlooks the Moorish Castle, Sintra, and the Portuguese coast.
There’s a reason this Palace was built up on the hills. You can see enemies coming from such a distance that you’d have some time to prepare for the attack. Nowadays the viewpoints are what attract all the tourists to this magical palace in Sintra.
After you’re done exploring the castle we recommend doing a short little hike to Cruz Alta (High Cross). From the castle, you’ll take one of the paths towards Cruz Alta where you’ll find a cross stacked on top of a bunch of rocks overlooking the Palace.
The trail from the Pena to Cruz Alta can be found here. It should only take about 25-30 minutes to hike there.
From there you can head back down to the entrance where the shuttle bus you paid for will be waiting for you (hopefully). If not, it’ll arrive shortly…remember it’s Portuguese time, stuff’s never on time! 😉
#3 Third stop: Sintra National Palace
The Sintra National Palace is a great last stop if you have the time for one more stop. It’s the last stop on the bus tour and also near the train station that takes you back to Lisbon. So you can see how you’re doing with time when you arrive back in Sintra and decide if you have the time for the National Palace or not!
The National Palace is located right in the city center of Sintra and is said to be the only palace that spans through all of Portugal’s existence. It’s the oldest Moorish castle and has been around for longer than the country itself! The two chimneys stand out above the town and can be seen from almost anywhere in town.
You’ll have the option to pay for a ticket and roam around the different rooms in the palace or just walk freely around the garden and admire the white moonish-styled architecture from the outside.
You can plan your visit with the timing of the train back to Lisbon. We’d recommend 30 minutes to walk from the National Palace back to the train station. Or else you can wait for the bus to take you back.
Train back to Lisbon from Sintra
The good thing is that trains run quite frequently. So if you miss one don’t worry, another one will come soon enough. You can see the different times here and just buy a ticket once you actually get to the train station.
There’s your Lisbon to Sintra day trip! As you can see the day trip is completely doable in a day. You just need to do some planning in advance and figure out how to make the best of your time!
The three activities we mentioned above should definitely fill up your day! You may enjoy one more than the other and spend more time there, but you should easily be able to do all three in a day!
A quick recap on a day trip to Sintra
- So first check the time you want to leave from Lisbon here. You can buy tickets at the train station.
- Read through the post on the train! 😉
- Hop off the train and go buy your bus ticket on the bus. Look for bus 434! The stop is about a 2-minute walk from the station. They should accept credit cards once you hop on the bus but bring some cash just in case. You can either buy the 1 loop pass for roughly 7 euros or the 24 hours pass for 15 euros.
- Enjoy the day at all the different spots! Remember Pena Palace is the one that requires the most amount of time! We spent like 6 hours exploring the grounds!
- Head back to Sintra and check when the trains depart here.
- Enjoy the train ride back into the city after such a fun day exploring the Sintra area and all the beautiful castles and palaces. We sure did! =)
We hope you enjoy the day trip. We’d love to know which stop was your favourite or if you found any new and uncovered hidden gems in this beautiful town!