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Sintra Day Trip, 1 Day Tour and Excursion from Lisbon
Sintra is the most popular day trip from Lisbon and is a fascinating town with a variety of historic monuments, lavish palaces and challenging hiking trails. Historically, Sintra was the summer retreat for the Portuguese nobility, who constructed extravagant palaces and grand residences that are set amidst the cooling hills of the Serra de Sintra.
The colourful Pena Palace
Sintra is the best day trip from Lisbon and is recommended to all visitors who are staying within the Lisbon region for more than three days. This guide will detail the popular one-day Sintra tourist route, which visits the Pena Palace, the National Palace and the Moors castle. The guide will also provide information about the train to Sintra and the 434 tourist bus, which connects all three main tourist attractions. At the end of the article there is advice for visiting Sintra during the summer months, when the town can get very busy.
Sintra Day Trip - Lisbon to Sintra by Train
Sintra is connected to Lisbon by an inexpensive train service that departs from Rossio train station in central Baixa. Rossio station is connected to the green metro line and a short walk from main tourist district of Lisbon. The journey takes 40 minutes and a single ticket costs €2.15/€1.10 (adult/child) and a return is double the price at €4.30. Bikes can be taken on the train for free but rush hour services can be crowded.
The train from Lisbon to Sintra in Rossio railway station
There is a departure every 30 minutes during day light hours and the first train of the day is at 7am and last at 11pm. The latest timetable can be found on the CP website:
(Note: the link opens a new window and the station for the historic area of Sintra is called Sintra
The Sintra Tourist Bus Route 434
The Sintra 434 tourist bus provides an invaluable service as it connects the train station, town centre and Pena Palace. Without the bus service a large portion of the day would be wasted walking between the major sights. Sintra train station is approximately 1.5km from the historic center, requiring a 20minute walk, while the Pena Palace and Moors Castle are only 2km from the historic center but the route is up a very steep hill.
The bus performs the one directional loop starting with the train station, then passing through the town before climbing the hills to the Moors castle and Pena Palace before return back to the train station. This is the suggested order to discover Sintra except in the summer months when an alternative route is suggested to avoid the long queues, for this alternative route pleased see at the end of this article. For a guide to the tourist bus please click here.
The 434 Sintra tourist bus
The first 434 bus departure is at 9:15 and between 10am-5pm there are departures every 15 minutes with the last bus of the day is at 19:50. A single ticket for one stage of the journey costs €3.00 but most visitors purchase a ticket for the entire loop which costs €5.00. Tickets are purchased from the bus driver and for a full guide to the bus route, please click here. While waiting at the train station, there is a selection of excellent cafes across the road.
The Palacio Nacional - Sintra Day Trip
The first location of the suggested tour of Sintra (and the first stop of the bus after the train station) is the historic center of Sintra and the Palacio Nacional de Sintra. The historic centre of Sintra is a charming example of a Portuguese town, there are cobbled streets and traditional painted buildings filled with family run cafes and unique shops.
At the heart of the town is the Gothic-Renaissance styled Palacio Nacional, with its distinctive coned chimneys that extends from the palace’s kitchens. The medieval palace was a favorite with the Portuguese nobility, being in continuous use from the 15th century through to the 19th century, and making it longest habited royal residence in Portugal.
Other highlights of Sintra include the decorative town hall, the charming shops and the pretty church of Igreja de Santa Maria. The town has as a wide selection of cafes and restaurants, therefore it is the best location for lunch and is advisable to have food before heading up into the hills as there are limited choices near the Pena palace or Moors castle.
From the town centre catch the tourist bus as it climbs the steep and narrow hills of the Serra de Sintra. The next stop is the restored ruin of the Moors castle. The castle was constructed by the Moors in the 9th century to protect the fertile lands of Sintra but was unable to defend against the Christian crusades.
The battlements of the Castelo dos Mouros in Sintra
From the 12th century the importance of the castle waned and it became a ruin after fire and earthquake damage. King Fernando II (1816 –1885) was enchanted by the medieval period and set about restoring the castle as an enchanting ruin. The castle is set amidst dense pine forests and from the battlements there are spectacular views over Sintra.
Pena Palace Sintra
The next tourist attraction is the Pena Palace and this is within walking distance of the Moors castle, so there is no need to wait for the tourist bus. The Pena Palace was designed by the artistic King Fernando II and the palace is an extravagant mixture of vivid colours and fine stone carvings.
The Stunning Pena Palace of Sintra
The interior has been retained to how it was when the monarchy fled Portugal in 1910 and is just as interesting as the exterior. The Pena Palace is the best of the three attractions visited in the day.
The Pena Park Sintra
The Pena Park contains over 200 hectares of forested walkways and hidden paths that surround the Pena Palace. The grounds are tastefully in keeping with the natural scenery of the region, but skillfully incorporate over 2,000 varieties of plant life, with many non-native species.
Hiking trails through the Pena Park
An enjoyable hike is to the Cruz Alta (530m), the highest point in the Serra de Sintra and this vantage point provides wonderful views over the Pena Palace. The walk takes approximately 30 minutes from the terraces of the Pena Palace and is well signed. Shorter walks lead to the statue of King Fernando, which can be seen from the palace or down to the duck lakes. The tourist bus departs from the entrance to the Pena Palace and returns to Sintra train station.
Alternative Route During the Summer Months
As Sintra is the most popular day trip from Lisbon, the town can get very crowded during the summer months, and especially at the weekends. At the height of the tourist season there can be extremely long queues to purchase tickets and over 1 hour waits for space on the 434 tourist bus.
To avoid some of these queues it is suggested to visit the Pena Palace as the first destination in the day and leave exploring the town (and National Palace) to later in the day. This avoids some of the crowds as the 434 bus route directs most tourists to visit the town first and the Pena Palace later in the day.
Alternatively consider visiting Sintra much earlier in the day; the first 434 bus service is at 9:15 and the train services to Sintra start before 7am every day. Sintra has significantly less visitors during the week (Monday-Friday) than at the weekends, and Monday is always the quietest day. Guided tours avoid the need to queue for tickets or buses and pre-booked tours of Sintra are surprisingly inexpensive.