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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.


shopping streets of Sintra

The shopping streets of Sintra

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

The recommended means of travel from Lisbon to Sintra is by train, and there are two regular and inexpensive train services. The two trains depart from different stations in Lisbon; 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 route leaves from the Estação do Oriente (GPS: 38.7675, -9.0991 red metro line), this service is better for visitors travelling to/from the airport, as the metro journey is shorter. Both train routes have similar journey times (around 40 minutes) and the fares are the same.

Sintra train

The Sintra train in Rossio station

A single ticket costs €2.25/€1.15 (adult/child) and a return is twice the price at €4.50. 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. For a full guide about traveling from Lisbon to Sintra please click here and for 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 above 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 the 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 located. 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).

The Circuito da Pena 434 bus route performs the one-directional loop starting at 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 €6.90 or a single stage is €3.90. 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 bus

The 434 bus has to make some tight turns on the way to Pena

There are numerous tours and other gimmicky transport to whisk you around Sintra, but these will always be much more expensive than the bus. If you are considering a tour, it makes more sense to book a tour one which picks you up from your hotel instead, of wasting time catching the train.

The Palacio Nacional (Palácio da Vila)

The first location of the suggested tour of Sintra (and the first stop of the bus after the train station) is the Palacio Nacional de Sintra and historic centre of Sintra. The Gothic-Renaissance styled Palacio Nacional is at the heart of the town (GPS 38.79748, -9.39062) and is distinctive due to the two huge coned chimneys that extends from the palace’s kitchens.

Palacio Nacional

The medieval palace was a favourite with the Portuguese nobility, being in continuous use from the 15th century through to the 19th century, making it the most used royal residence of Portugal. The palace is often referred to as the Palácio da Vila (the Town Palace), as it is in the centre of the town. The Palácio da Vila’s interior spans many different eras, but the majority follows a simplistic styling of cooling floor tiles, high vaulted rooms and beautifully painted ceilings. Highlights include the magpie room, the decretive throne room and the swan room.

Magpie room Palacio Nacional Sintra

The chattering "magpies" of the kings court.....

Insider tip: Don’t miss the views from gardens and terraces which are to the rear of the castle and can be visited just before the exit.

The Historic centre of 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. Highlights of Sintra include the flamboyant town hall, the busy tourist shopping streets of Rua das Padarias and the pretty church of Igreja de Santa Maria.

Câmara Municipal de Sintra town hall

The Romanticism styled Câmara Municipal de Sintra (town hall)

There is a wide selection of restaurants and cafes in the centre of Sintra, and this is the 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 and Moorish castle.
Insider tip: The Miradouro da Ferraria viewpoint (GPS 38.79628, -9.38991) has one of the best views of the town, and is a scenic setting for lunch.

Up into the hills

The next portion of the day climbs up into the hills of Sintra to visit the Castelo dos Mouros and the Palácio da Pena. For this day trip, we do not recommend hiking up the hills, as they are very steep and will waste a lot of energy and time, which is better spent exploring the main sights. It is suggested catch the 434 tourist bus, which departs from the plaza in front of Palacio Nacional (GPS 38.79700, -9.39040), but this is the busiest bus stop of the whole route.

If you do insist on hiking up, the most scenic route goes through the grounds of the Vila Sassetti (GPS 38.79463, -9.39141) and passes the Penedo da Amizade (GPS 38.79209, -9.39123) rock climbing cliffs.

sintra stairs and steps

There are many stairs and steps to negotiate to reach the Moorish castle

The Castelo dos Mouros

The Castelo dos Mouros was constructed by the North African Moors who ruled over the region between the 8th to 11th century. The castle had a dual purpose, primarily as a stronghold to guard the fertile lands of Sintra, and secondary as a fortified lookout, with views over the ocean and to the north (where the early Christian Portugal was establishing itself).

moorish castle sintra

The Moorish castle is set amidst massive boulders

The castle had little strategic importance after the Christian crusaders drove the Moors out of Portugal, and the castle was left to collapse, being severely damaged by fire and earthquake. It was only restored with the construction of the Pena Palace (19h century), as a decorative feature for the grounds of the palace.

This restoration followed the ideals of the Romanticism style of architecture, with the castle intertwined with the ancient forests, and hidden paths leading to wonderful vantage points. These wonderful views from the battlements are the main draw for tourists, while the whole castle has a much calmer ambience than the other popular sights of Sintra.

Castelo dos Mouros sintra

The view from the battlements of the Castelo dos Mouros

Palácio da Pena Sintra

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 interior of the Palácio da Pena is as equally fascinating, being restored to how it was in 1910, when the monarchy fled Portugal due to the revolution.

The Colourful Pena Palace

The Stunning Pena Palace of Sintra

As a visitor there are two distinct areas of the palace complex to explore; the terraces/gardens and the staterooms, and this is reflected in the tickets. The cheaper “Parque” ticket (€7.50 adult) allows the exploration of the colourful terraces that surround the palace and forested grounds. The “Palacio + Parque” ticket (€14.00 adult) allows entry to the staterooms in addition to the grounds and terraces. Try to avoid visiting the staterooms during the middle of the day when it can get very crowded.

The Castelo dos Mouros and the Palácio da Pena are only separated by a gentle 400m walk and there is no need to catch the bus for this short walk.

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.

Cruz Alta sintra

The Cruz Alta is the highest poiunt of Sintra

An enjoyable hike is to the Cruz Alta (530m, GPS 38.78204, -9.39134), the highest point in the Serra de Sintra and from this vantage point are 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.

An alternative hike is to the Chalet da Condessa D'Edla (GPS 38.78509 -9.39931), the alpine styled chalet designed by King Ferdinand II’s second wife, which hides numerous building issues and design flaws…

After exploring the Pena complex (which could easily fill an entire day of sightseeing) catch the tourists bus and return 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 Palacio Nacional) 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.

 

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