Sintra is a fairytale town. I’ve never been anyplace quite like it. While planning my trip to Portugal, I knew I wanted to spend a day in what looked like the most magical town I had ever seen. And it mostly met my expectations. EVERYTHING here feels like something from a fairytale or Disney movie: the quaint city, the winding hills taking you up to the grand castles, and the lush gardens surrounding the castles and homes.
The challenge to a daytrip to Sintra is planning out what you’re going to see and do once you arrive in the town – but it was definitely easier to sort out once we actually got there.
Getting There: Very easy to travel to Sintra from Lisbon by train. About 40 minute train ride from the Rossio station. Once you arrive at the train station, you will see a few buses for Sintra tours. We hopped on the Sintra Sightseeing bus (free wifi!) to get to town or the palaces. You can use your ticket (16 euro) all day to hop on and off. Suggest getting on the bus at the trains station rather than walking to town first. You can also walk from centre of town to and from train station. You will need to take the bus (or some transportation) to get to Pena Palace and Moorish Castle (they are close to one another so you can walk between). The other palaces are located in or very near the center of town.
What to do: I would suggest entering the Pena Palace and the Quinta de Regaleira, the rest of the palaces you can visit and just take photos from the outside. Definitely not worth paying entry.
Visit Pena first, it is the most popular and very crowded. Costs 14 euro for seeing palace and the park (definitely worth buying both, though the outside is far more interesting than the interior of the palace). Don’t bother visiting the Valley of the Lakes in the park. The park is enormous and you could spend a good chunk of time there just wandering around.
The Moorish Castle is visible from nearly everywhere in Sintra. You can walk between here and Pena, best to walk from Pena as it’s downhill. We walked in and walked around some of the grounds outside, but decided not to pay/enter the castle.
National Palace – Skip it.
Quinta de Regaleira – You can walk here from center of town. It’s all about the grounds, the house is not open to visitors. Costs 6 euro per person. The grounds look very expansive on the map, but are not actually that big. We were able to make it around much of the grounds in 40 minutes. Though this is a cool place, I was a little disappointed as the photos I had seen online made it appear a little more interesting/mysterious.
After visiting Pena Palace and Moorish Castle, we took the bus back to town for lunch and a quick break. We had a great lunch at Tasca do Xixo – nice Portuguese meal on a quiet side street.
Getting back to Lisbon is quite easy on the train, though we visited on a Sunday and had to wait an hour between trains since we missed the first one!