Planning to spend one day in Sintra? You’re in for a treat! I’ve visited this charming town three times and drafted a helpful 1 Day Sintra Itinerary for those planning a visit.
Make no mistake, taking a one day trip to Sintra from Lisbon should be included in any proper Portugal itinerary. Sintra is magical and offers a rare respite from the busy city living of Lisbon. The air is cleaner, the hills are alive and the castles are breathtaking. The city is impossible to forget.
Luckily, a Sintra day trip from Lisbon, Portugal couldn’t be easier. All it requires is a comfortable 45-minute train ride from the Rossio train station in Lisbon. The best part? Round trip tickets cost €5 per person.
During our first trip to Lisbon, we took a day trip to Sintra and it turned out to be one of the most memorable parts of the entire trip. I mean, look at those colors!!
In an effort to make your trip as easy as possible, I wanted to share the perfect one day Sintra itinerary for exploring the marvelous castles and town. This guide will help you see the most of everything in one day.
I’m not one for small talk, so let’s get to it!
One Day in Sintra Itinerary
- Arrive in Sintra
- Explore Sintra city center
- Visit Pena Palace
- Explore Quinta da Regaleira
- Walk the walls of the Moorish Castle
- Tour Monserrate Palace
- Head back to Lisbon
Tips for Visiting Sintra, Portugal
Sintra is full of UNESCO World Heritage sites
- In fact, the entire city of Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Impressive, considering there are over 4,400 cities in the world and only 250 are designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Bring walking shoes
- Exploring the main attractions in Sintra requires a lot of walking, so pack comfortable shoes. Bus and taxi options are available, but the best way to see this city is to explore on foot.
Sintra is a sunny place, wear sunscreen
- Don’t forget sunscreen! I swear by this sunscreen, I discovered it in France and now buy it in bulk. You’ll never catch me without it! Shade is hard to come by while explore the castles in Sintra, so lather up adequately and bring some extra sunscreen with you.
Food and restaurants
- There aren’t many food options at the attractions. Your best bet for food is the town of Sintra, keep that in mind during your day trip. Our pack was full of snacks to tide us over.
- Sintra is consistently ranked as one of Portugal’s wealthiest and most expensive municipalities. Don’t worry, as visitors it doesn’t feel expensive. Admission to the castles and palaces is very reasonable.
- If you plan to visit all the sights listed in this post, you have the option of purchasing a “Combined Ticket” and getting a discount. The discount is rather small, but it could make a difference. Combined tickets can be purchased wherever tickets are sold. Here’s the discount table:
How to get to Sintra from Lisbon
The relaxing train ride from Rossio Station (in Lisbon) to Oriente Station (in Sintra) takes 45 minutes and costs a mere €2.20 euros per adult.
We were surprised to find that roundtrip fare for two adults set us back a mere €8.80 total. That’s nothing!
Since most visitors come for the castles, upon arrival, you have the option of walking to the palaces or taking a bus. Since 90% of our diet consisted of pastries, we decided to do the responsible thing and walk to the first stop, Quinta da Regaleira.
Personally, I recommend opting for the walk because it takes you through the charming town of Sintra at a leisurely pace. We didn’t have a hard time knowing where to go.
Grab a Sintra-bound train from Lisbon’s Rossio train station. Here’s a helpful link to the timetables where you can also purchase tickets. Tickets are current €2.50 one way for a 40-minute ride.
One Day in Sintra Itinerary
Stop #1. Explore Sintra City Center
En route to our first stop, we will pass through Sintra City Center. I suggest taking the time to admire the lovely buildings of this town. I mean, look at those lovely splashes of color! You’ll be hard-pressed to find a single drab thing around here.
Pro Tip: Swing by Casa Piriquita for a pastry before embarking on your adventurous day. Think flakey pastries that’s aren’t overwhelmingly sweet. Just the energy boost you need for your one day in Sintra!
Stop #2. Pena Palace
Arguably the most popular palace in Sintra, Pena Palace needs no introduction. This colorful Sintra castle is an internet sensation, high on the must-see list for anyone visiting Sintra for one day.
Built in the 12th century, Pena Palace serves as the crown jewel of the Sintra Hills. Engrossed in a lush forests and beautiful gardens, the palace combines the beauty of nature with the splendor of royal wealth harmoniously.
This place is so beautiful, if not for the fun colors alone. This is exactly the type of palace I imagined when I was a child. As such, no proper Sintra itinerary is complete without mentioning this gem.
Tip to the wise: if you want to tour the interior of Pena Palace, arrive as early as possible (preferably when they open). We arrived mid-day and the queue to get in was over two hours long.
There’s no way we were going to spend two hours of our precious vacation day standing in line. We did not tour the interior but wish we could have. Oh well, it’s nice to have a reason to return.
Quick History on Pena Palace
To understand how the most famous palace in Sintra came to be, it’s important to know the history. Sometime in the 12th century there was a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pena built atop the hill Pena Palace sits on today. Years later, King Manuel I ordered the construction of a monastery to be built on the site.
Everything was fine and dandy until the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755, which reduced the monastery practically to ruins. The monks were not easily deterred and the monastery remained active for an entire century until the abolition of religious orders in Portugal (1834).
At that point, Pena Palace was abandoned, destined to be forgotten until King Ferdinand II stepped in. Enchanted by the breathtaking nature upon visiting Sintra, Ferdinand decided to transform the monastery into a summer palace for the Portuguese royal family (pinkies up).
When King Ferdinand died in 1885 the palace was bequeathed to his second wife, the Countess of Edla. The palace was then sold to King Luis (Ferdinand’s son) who wanted to keep the palace in the royal family.
Not hard to see why! This is one of the most beautiful palaces in Sintra, no wonder the royal family continued to use it until the monarchy fell in 1910. Afterwards, Pena Palace was classified as a National Monument and purchased by the Portuguese State.
Things to see at Pena Palace
- Explore the park and visit the cafe on the terrace. Enjoy sweeping views of the lush forest beneath you while sipping an overpriced cafe.
- Tour the interior of the palace. Just remember to get there early to avoid unbelievably long lines. For more photos of Pena Palace, check out this quick post.
Pena Palace is what most folks picture when thinking about spending one perfect day in Sintra, thankfully it doesn’t disappoint. The fun colors are reason alone to visit.
Did you know? On a clear day, Pena Palace is visible from Lisbon.
For more photos of Pena Palace, check out this quick post.
You May Enjoy Reading: 5 Breathtaking Sintra Castles You Can’t Help But Love
Stop #3. Quinta da Regaleira
Designed in the late 1800s, Quinta da Regaleira is one of the most incredible castles in Sintra. The whimsical gardens at Quinta da Regaleira mimic ancient secret orders, full of hidden tunnels and concealed symbolism that speak to a time since forgotten.
This Sintra palace is the passion project of António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro, an eccentric millionaire eager to appease his ideologies and bewildering whims.
We wanted to see the famous well at Quinta da Regaleira, so we made it the second stop during our one day in Sintra. Along the way, we passed through the breathtaking gardens and the Quinta da Regaleira Tower, which we promptly climbed, of course.
With a strong passion for alchemy, Masonry and the Rosicrucianism, Monteiro hired renowned Italian architect Luigi Manini to bring the vision to life.
Focusing on Manueline, Renaissance, Medieval and Classical styles of architecture, both men were known for their eclectic personalities. So it’s only fitting that the end result turned into one of the most beautiful Sintra castles. The end result was an estate that housed the palace, chapel and park with lakes, grottoes, fountains and wells. This is definitely a must see for anyone planning a 1 day Sintra itinerary.
Quinta da Regaleira was designed to fascinate, confuse and delight visitors with secret passages and hidden tunnels. Chief among them are the famous Initiation Wells, which seems to be the biggest draw at this beloved Sintra palace.
What’s with the Initiation Wells at Quinta da Regaleira?
The Initiation Wells are two wells that resemble underground towers (lined with stairs). The wells were used for ceremonial purposes (they were never used for water) that included Tarot initiation rites. The number of steps and the spacing of the landings is linked to Tarot mysticism.
It’s fascinating to imagine the wells being used for that purpose, which is why I consider this one of the coolest palaces in Sintra.
Things to see at Quinta da Regaleira
- Visit the Initiation Well – a mythical well used for initiations and rites of passages.
- Climb to the top of Regaleira Tower
- Explore the breathtaking gardens
- Tour the inside of the palace
Stop #4. Moorish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros)
Up, up, up we go! Up the steep hillside to the Moorish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros). This hike is no walk in the park, but it’s definitely manageable – I hiked it in sandals and a dress.
When I first saw photos of Castelo dos Mouros I assumed it was the great wall of China. Getting to climb the ancient castle walls and lookout towers is an unforgettable experience. Which is why no list of the best things to see in Sintra in one day is complete without mentioning this gem.
History of Castelo dos Mouros
Originally built in the 8th century, Castelo dos Mouros was positioned at a high vantage point to ensure protection over Sintra. This Sintra castle successfully fought off many invasion attempts before succumbing to the Christian crusade in 1147.
Portuguese Kings hoped to strengthen the defense of Castelo dos Mouros but the royal court favored Lisbon and didn’t want to invest in repairs. As expected, the castle was neglected, destined to eventually yield to the forces of nature and decay.
Fast forward to King Ferdinand II (same guy behind Pena Palace) who, fueled by a passion for the arts and middle ages, ordered the reconstruction of the castle. To this day, Castelo dos Mouros stands proudly, gates wide open, accepting visitors from all over the world.
Stop #5. Monserrate Palace
Our forth stop on this Sintra itinerary takes us to the (much calmer) Monserrate Palace, where gothic, Arabic and Indian architectural styles are seamlessly blended together.
Monserrate Palace is often overlooked by those spending one day in Sintra in favor of the better known Pena Palace. Quite the pity, really. Especially considering how elaborate and quiet this hidden gem is.
History of Monserrate Palace
Imagined by Sir Francis Cook, an English millionaire, Monserrate Palace served as a summer home not only to Cook’s family, but for the various knacks he acquired from his world travels. An intrepid explorer, Cook was keen to display his passion for exotic places through architecture.
There’s no denying he was successful in his pursuit. Visitors can easily mistake Monserrate Palace for the elaborate palaces of Mexico, India and Arabia. With so much intricate beauty, this is an experience you won’t want to rush.
Things to see at Monserrate Palace:
- The Music Hall
- The Main Hall
- Beckford Waterfall
- The Library Door
- The Ruined Chapel
- Mexican Garden
Returning to Lisbon from Sintra
Simply head towards Oriente Station and hop aboard the same train you arrived on. Trains to Lisbon run every 30 minutes.
And that’s a wrap! I hope you enjoyed this guide for how to spend the perfect day in Sintra as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Looking back at these photos makes me wish we had more time in Portugal because there is so much to see. I have a feeling we will be visiting Portugal again one of these days and next time, we will devote a minimum of one week to exploring this beautiful country.
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History of Sintra
While exploring Sintra, we couldn’t help but notice how big and beautiful the homes were, not to mention the high concentration of palaces and castles. We couldn’t help but wonder if Sintra was a playground for the wealthy. Well, further research showed that …
- Sintra is one of Portugal’s most expensive and sought after real estate markets, famed for its numerous historic villas, luxury estates, and Michelin star restaurants, and is home to one of the largest foreign expat communities along the Portuguese Riviera.
- Sintra is similarly known for its high standards of living, consistently ranking as one of the best places to live in Portugal.
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