Planning to spend one day in Sintra? You’re in for a treat!
During our 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 itinerary for exploring Sintra. 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!
Itinerary for One Day in Sintra
- Getting to Sintra
- Sintra city center
- Quinta da Regaleira
- Monserrate Palace
- Castelo dos Mouros
- Pena Palace
- Return to Lisbon
Good to know before visiting Sintra
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.
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:
Getting 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.
Stop #1. 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 the day ahead.
Stop #2. Quinta da Regaleira
Our first official stop will be a magnificent palace by the name of Quinta da Regaleira. The gardens at Quinta da Regaleira are whimsical indeed. They mimic ancient secret orders, full of hidden tunnels and concealed symbolism.
We wanted to see the famous well at Quinta da Regaleira, so we made that our first stop. Along the way, we passed through the breathtaking gardens and the Quinta da Regaleira Tower, which we promptly climbed, of course.
P.S. If you look closely at the photo above, you’ll notice Castelo dos Mouros in the distance. We’ll be seeing that later today.
Quinta da Regaleira admission:
- The entrance fee for Quinta da Regaleira is €6/€4/€18 (adult/child/family).
- Admission includes access to the house and grounds.
Length of visit:
- Typically 1 hour.
History of Quinta da Regaleira
- Originally purchased by a millionaire eager to appease his ideologies and bewildering whims, Quinta da Regaleira is chockfull of symbolism related to alchemy, Masonry and the Rosicrucianism.
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
Quinta da Regaleira is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Stop #3. Monserrate Palace
Our second stop will take us to the much calmer Monserrate Palace, where gothic, Arabic and Indian architectural styles are seamlessly blended together.
Monserrate Palace is often overlooked by visitors eager to take a photo of the better known Pena Palace. Quite the pity, really. Especially considering how elaborate and quiet this hidden gem is.
Monserrate Palace admission:
- The entrance fee for Monserrate Palace is €8/€6.50/€6.50 (adult/child/senior).
- Admission includes access to the palace and gardens.
Length of visit:
- Tours typically last 1 – 2 hours.
History of Monserrate Palace
- Monserrate Palace was imagined by an English millionaire by the name of Sir Francis Cook. Cook had a knack for world travel and his intent was to build a summer home that displayed his passion from the ruins of neo-gothic palace.
- As fate would have it, Sintra was that very spot. Wandering the grounds makes visitors feel like they’re exploring different parts of the world – from India to Mexico to Arabia.
Things to see at Monserrate Palace:
- Beckford Waterfall
- The Ruined Chapel
- Mexican Garden
- Inside Monserrate Palace: the Music Hall and kitchen.
Monserrate Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site
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.
If I can do it, you can too! When I first saw photos of Castelo dos Mouros I assumed it was the great wall of China. It’s such a cool place to explore.
Castelo dos Mouros admission:
- The entrance fee to the Castelo dos Mouros is €8/€6.50/€6.50 (adult/child/senior).
Length of visit:
- Typically 1 hour.
History of Castelo dos Mouros
- Castelo dos Mouros was originally built in the 8th century and positioned at a high vantage point to provide protection over Sintra. The sturdy castle fought off many would-be invasions, but fell to the Christian crusade in 1147.
- Portuguese Kings hoped to strengthen the defense of Castelo dos Mouros but the royal court favored Lisbon and the castle was neglected for a while, destined to be forgotten.
- Fast forward to King Ferdinand II 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, eager to accept visitors from all over the world.
Things to do at Castelo dos Mouros
- Explore the grounds to your heart’s content. We spent an entire hour climbing up and down the stairs, all the way to the highest point when Pena Palace can be seen on full display (if it’s not too foggy).
- Castelo dos Mouros is a real treat for those that are interested in medieval castles and fortresses.
Castelo dos Mouros is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
#5. Pena Palace
The entrance between Castelo dos Mouros and our final stop, Pena Palace, is a mere 600 feet. You know what they say, save the best for last! I hate to admit it, but the tourist hype around Pena Palace is worth it.
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.
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.
Pena Palace admission:
- The entrance fee for the gardens is €7.50/€6.50/€26 (adult/child/family).
- The entrance fee for the palace and park is €14/€12.50/€49 (adult/child/family).
Length of visit:
- Typically 1 hour for the gardens and two hours if touring the interior.
- Heads up: Your visit may take closer to 3 hours due to long lines.
History of Pena Palace
- Pena Palace was originally a monastery that reduced to ruins during the earthquake of 1755. After the earthquake, the monastery was abandoned until King Ferdinand decided to transform it into a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family. After his death, the palace went to his wife until it became the property of the Portuguese government.
- Interesting fact: Queen Amelia, Portugal’s last queen, spent her final night at Pena Palace before leaving the country in exile.
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!
Did you know? On a clear day, Pena Palace is visible from Lisbon.
For more photos of Pena Palace, check out this quick post.
Pena Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
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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