Looking for a day trip from Lisbon? Look no further than the town of Sintra. Hands down, this is the best day trip you can take in the Lisbon area. Sintra is a wonderful town tucked into the hillsides of the Serra de Sintra. This whimsical town is home to magnificent views, fanciful palaces and the ruins of a hillside Moorish castle all waiting to be explored!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
GETTING FROM LISBON TO SINTRA
Having based ourselves in Lisbon, it was a quick 45 minute train ride to reach Sintra. From the Rossio Station catch an early morning train to Sintra - make sure and catch the 'Sintra' train and not the 'Mira-Sintra-Melecas' which would take you a bit further out of the main tourist area. Upon arriving to Sintra, exit the train station and on your right, find the pick-up point for Bus 434. The first bus departs at 9:15am and runs every 15 minutes. The cost to ride this bus is €5 and tickets can be purchased from the bus driver. As Sintra is built upon numerous hills, taking this bus will help get you between the different destinations without having to walk up and down the steep hills and is well worth the small price of the ticket. If you were to walk uphill from the train station to our first stop at the Palácio Nacional da Pena, expect a grueling 50 minute uphill walk. Even with the bus, once you get off, there is still a fairly steep walk uphill to reach the palace. Make sure and have some good walking shoes for the day! And if traveling with a small child in a stroller - like us - make sure it is equipped to handle the bumpy cobblestone!
PALACIO NACIONAL DA PENA
The Palácio Nacional da Pena or Pena Palace is one of the most visited sites in Portugal, so expect large crowds and long waits - the earlier you can visit in the morning the better. For those traveling with small children, make sure and take advantage of Portugal's amazing rule - all families traveling with small children get to cut straight to the front of the line! No joke! The day we visited the Pena Palace, it was actually Easter weekend (one of Europe's busiest travel weekends) and the lines were over three hours long to get into the palace. Luckily, since we had a 2 year old toddler with us, we were able to walk right past the lines to the front entrance - amazing!!! When visiting the Pena Palace, there are two options: visit just the Palace or visit both the Palace and Gardens. For us, with just one day and so much to see in Sintra, we choose to just purchase the Palace ticket. For those with extra time, adding the Gardens to your day could easily fill the whole day by exploring the gardens, ponds, towers, viewpoints, and villas of the almost 500 acre park.
The Palácio Nacional da Pena is situated atop one of the highest hilltops in Sintra and seems to be right out of a fairytale or Disney movie. The base of the palace is built upon an abandoned Hieronymite monastery which was eventually purchased in 1838 by German Ferdinand Saxe Coburg-Gotha, husband of Queen Maria II of Portugal. In 1840, the remodeling of the old monastery began (the red buildings of the palace) and in 1845, the new additions were built (the yellow buildings of the palace). Inspired by the palaces and castles of Bavaria, this whimsical, colorful castle is one of the finest examples of 19th century Romanticism anywhere in the world. Walking thru this palace which is painted canary yellow and bright brick red makes you feel as though you have stepped into a fairytale - spend a couple hours and and just marvel in the beauty of this area. Visiting this palace is a must do and is hands down the most memorable and unique palace that we have ever visited.
CASTELO DOS MOUROS
After finishing up at the Pena Palace, walk over to the Castelo dos Mouros or Castle of the Moors. During the Moorish era (8th -12th century), this castle once defended the entire region. In 1147, the Christian Crusaders stormed the castle and then eventually left the castle to become ruins. It wasn't until 1838, when Ferdinand Saxe Coburg-Gotha, husband of Queen Maria II of Portugal purchased this castle along with the Pena Palace and restored what was left of the castle. To reach the castle, walk along the beautiful forest the surrounds the castle, once inside the entrance you can walk the along the outer walls and turrets of the castle. Exploring this hilltop medieval castle is a true joy and takes you back to medieval times - just imagine these walls full of knights defending the region! We truly enjoyed exploring and taking in the beautiful views over the Sintra regio. Plan on spending 1-2 hours here as the walls are quite expansive and involves climbing up and down some stairs. For us, exploring the Castelo Dos Mouros was our favorite part of Sintra and one of the coolest castles we have visited anywhere!
PALACIO NACIONAL DE SINTRA
After catching the 434 bus to the city center, head to the Palacio Nacional de Sintra. The Palace of Sintra or Town Palace was used by Portuguese royalty on and off from the 15th century to the 19th century. Built in 14th century by King João I over the site of a Moorish castle, the palace is easily recognized by it's two cone shaped chimneys coming from the kitchen of the palace. Over the centuries, this was the favorite summer home of Portuguese kings. Today, you can explore the lavishly decorated interior of this royal home. While the Pena Palace tends to steal the limelight when visiting Sintra - visiting the Palace of Sintra is still worth the time and money. From the outside, the palace looks to be quite plain (aside from the large conical chimneys) but once inside, the palace is lavishly decorated and offers a glimpse into the lives of Portuguese royalty.Today, the palace is the best preserved medieval palace in Portugal and has essentially remained unchanged since the 16th century.
CITY CENTER OF SINTRA
After finishing at the Palace of Sintra spend a bit of time just enjoying the quaint town of Sintra. Wander the streets, explore the shops, grab a ginjinha shot or a bite to eat at one of the restaurants. Or just find a spot to sit back and relax after a busy day of sightseeing! Getting to the Palácio Nacional da Pena, Castelo Dos Mouros and Palacio Nacional de Sintra in one day makes for super busy day - but it is doable and highly recommended! We loved visiting Sintra!
Interested in planning your own trip to Lisbon, Portugal? Below is our summarized itinerary for you to follow or adjust to your own preferences. ENJOY!
Day Trip to Sintra: Walk to Rossio Station, try to catch 8:30am train for 45 minute train ride to Sintra. From Rossio station there are two train services; one to “Sintra” and one to “Mira Sintra – Meleças” - all tourists want the service to "Sintra". From the train station, exit and make a right to find the pick-up point for Bus 434, first bus is at 9:15 and departs every 15 minutes (buy €5 bus pass from driver), Take bus to Palacio de Pena Sintra (opens at 9:30), then walk over to Castelo dos Mouros, then catch 434 bus back down to Palacio Nacional de Sintra, wander the City Center.