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Sintra Day Trip, 1 Day Tour and Excursion from Lisbon

Sintra is a fascinating destination, offering a variety of historic monuments, beautiful natural scenery and endless amounts of Portuguese charm. The town is rightfully the most popular day trip from Lisbon, and a visit to Sintra is highly recommended for visitors who have more than three days within Lisbon.

Palacio Nacional da Pena

The beautiful Pena Palace will be the highlight of any trip to Sintra

The main tourist sights of Sintra are scattered across the pine-covered hills of the Serra de Sintra, and most visitors tend to follow the same sightseeing route. This popular one-day route includes the Palácio Nacional, the historic centre, the Castelo dos Mouros and the Palácio da Pena, which will be the highlight of any visit to Sintra. This suggested route makes for an enjoyable day trip to Sintra and this article will explain in depth this popular itinerary, along with details of how to travel to Sintra and the essential 434 tourist bus.


Note: At the end of the article are alternative one-day tours and tips to avoid the summertime crowds.

 

Quick details for a day trip to Sintra

Should I join an organised tour?

Sintra is a destination where an organised tour can be useful; there are steep hills and long walks separating the main sights, while in the summer there are long queues for almost everything. Over the previous five years, the standard of organised tours has vastly improved, and now have tour guides that are enthusiastic and extremely knowledgeable with tours that tend to cater for more worldly and clued up travellers.


An organised tour is an essential if you plan to visit both Sintra and Cascais in one day; this route by public transport leaves no time for sightseeing. Only consider combining Cascais and Sintra if you are really pushed for time, as both towns deserve a day each.


When selecting a tour always base your choice on relevant reviews, and know exactly what you are getting for your money (are entrance fees included? It’s not a large coach tour?). Over the last three years we have worked with GetYourGuide.com who have provided tours to many hundreds of happy visitors. A selection of their best tours of Sintra include:

Day trip to Sintra Day Trip

The following section explains in-depth the suggested 1-day itinerary for Sintra.

Lisbon to Sintra

Sintra is connected to Lisbon by two regular and inexpensive train services and this is the recommended means of travel to Sintra. In Lisbon, the two trains depart from different stations; Rossio station and Estação do Oriente. The majority of visitors depart from Rossio station (GPS: 38.7143, -9.1407, green metro line) as it is in the Baixa district, the main tourist hub of the city. The second train leaves from the Estação do Oriente (GPS: 38.7675, -9.0991 red metro line), and this service is better for visitors travelling from the airport, as the metro journey is shorter. Both trains have similar journey times (around 40 minutes) and the fares are the same. For a full guide about traveling from Lisbon to Sintra please click here.

Sintra train

The train from Lisbon to Sintra in Rossio railway station

A single ticket costs €2.20/€1.10 (adult/child) and a return is twice the price at €4.40. There is a departure approximately every 30 minutes during daylight hours and both services start early in the day and continue till late at night. The latest timetable can be found on the CP website:

http://www.cp.pt/StaticFiles/Passageiros/1_horarios/horarios/PDF/lx/azambuja_sintra_completo.pdf

(Note: the link opens a new window, and this busy PDF timetable lists all of the train services along the Azambuja-Lisboa-Sintra railway)

The Sintra train station confusion…..

Sintra is the final stop of the railway, but the station (GPS: 38.7990, -9.3857) is 1.5km from the historic centre and it isn’t instantly obvious which way to head once leaving the station. The main road to historic centre is the along the Av. Miguel Bombarda – this is to the right when taking the exit from the far end of the station. Luckily there are always lots of people on the station to ask for directions, unfortunately most will be trying to sell a tour, tuk-tuk ride or other gimmicky tourist activity.

Our advice is either to walk to the historic centre, which follows a scenic and flat route or to catch the 434 tourist bus, which leads conveniently onto…….

The Sintra Tourist Bus Route 434

The 434 tourist bus provides an invaluable service as it connects the train station, with the historic centre and the top of the hill where the Pena Palace and Moors castle are situated. Without the bus service a significant portion of the day would be wasted walking between the major sights. Sintra train station is 1.5km from the historic centre (a 20-minute walk), while the Castelo dos Mouros and the Palácio da Pena are a very demanding uphill hike from the centre (+45minutes)

Circuito da Pena 434 bus route performs the one-directional loop starting with the train station, then passes through the town before climbing the hills to the Moors Castle and Pena Palace before return back to the train station. A ticket for the entire loop cost 5.50 or a single stage is €3.10. There is a departure every 15 minutes during peak hours and the exact timetable is posted at the bus stop next to the train station. This bus service can get very busy during the summer, and there can be long queues in the town centre, waiting to head into the hills. For a guide to the tourist bus please click here.

434 Sintra tourist bus

The 434 Sintra tourist bus

The Palacio Nacional and town centre

The first location of the suggested tour of Sintra (and the first stop of the bus after the train station) is the historic centre 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.

Palacio Nacional

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 Palacio Nacional is sometimes referred to as the Palácio da Vila (the Town Palace). The medieval palace was a favourite 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 a wide selection of cafes and restaurants, and is best location for lunch. It is advisable to have food before heading up into the hills as there are limited and very expensive choices at the Pena Palace or Moors castle.

 

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The Castelo dos Mouros

From the town centre catch the 434 tourist bus as it climbs the steep and narrow hills of the Serra de Sintra to the Castelo dos Mouros. This castle was constructed by the Moors (8-11th century) primarily as a stronghold to guard the fertile lands of Sintra but also as a fortified lookout. The views from the castle’s battlements are spectacular views over Sintra and the entire region.

moors castle sintra

The battlements of the Castelo dos Mouros in Sintra

 

Pena Palace Sintra

The Castelo dos Mouros and the Palácio da Pena are only separated by a gentle 400m walk and this is advisable instead of waiting for the bus. The Palácio da Pena will be the highlight of the day trip to Sintra, and is a riot of colours, decorative fortifications and whimsical stone carvings.

The Colourful Pena Palace

The Stunning Pena Palace of Sintra

There are two district areas of the palace, the terraces/gardens and the staterooms. The cheaper “parque” ticket (€7.50 adult) allows the exploration of the colourful terraces that surround the palace and forested grounds including the hike up to the Cruz Alta viewpoint.

The interior of the Palácio da Pena is fascinating, as it has been restored to how it appeared in 1910, when the monarchy fled Portugal due to the revolution. The palace and ground ticket (Palacio + Parque) costs €11.50, try to avoid visiting the state rooms during the middle of the day when it can get very crowded.

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 skilfully incorporates over 2,000 varieties of plant life, with many non-native species.

Parque da Pena

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 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.

For a guide to a second day in Sintra please rea this article.

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