Sintra Portugal Guide - Updated for 2016!
Sintra is a picturesque Portuguese town that is set amidst the pine covered hills of the Serra de Sintra. This slightly cooler climate enticed the nobility and elite of Portugal, who constructed exquisite palaces, extravagant residences and decorative gardens. The variety of fascinating historic buildings and beautiful scenery has established Sintra as a top rate tourist destination and the most popular day trip from Lisbon. This guide will provide an introduction to Sintra and links to further in-depth tourist guides.
The beautiful Pena Palace of Sintra
Why Visit Sintra?
For such a relatively small town there is a vast amount of sights and activities to captivate visitors. Contained within Sintra are two national palaces, an ancient ruined castle, multiple grand houses and a series of challenging hiking trails. The town itself is lined with pretty cobbled streets and traditional buildings filled with shops, cafes and restaurants, all with stunning vistas over the plains of central Portugal. Sintra’s extensive history has been closely entwined with the fortunes of Portugal and this is reflected in the varied historical sights of the town. Sintra has so much to offer visitors – no wonder it is the most popular day trip from Lisbon.
Sintra as a day trip
Sintra is ideal as a day trip from Lisbon; there is a lot to see, it is easy to get to and it has a very different atmosphere from the Portuguese capital. Another convenient aspect is that the three main tourist attractions of Sintra; the National Palace, the Moors castle and Pena Palace all can be seen in one day. Sintra is suitable for visitors of all ages and is regarded as the best day trip from Lisbon. For a guide to visiting Sintra, as a day trip from Lisbon, please click here.
The Castelo dos Mouros is one of Sintra’s best tourist attractions
Sintra is only 30km to the west of Lisbon and is connected by a regular and inexpensive railway, while there is a tourist bus service that provides a link to the main tourist attractions. If you are spending more than three days in the Lisbon region it is suggested to include Sintra on your holiday itinerary. Our favourite tours are:
How about a longer holiday in Sintra?
There are sufficient sights in the Sintra region for a second full day of sightseeing and the day could include visiting the Quinta da Regaleira stately home, the grand Palacio de Monserrate and the austere Convento dos Capuchos.
The Palacio Nacional as seen from the Moors castle
The other advantage of spending a night in Sintra is that the town can be explored at leisure once all of the day trippers and coach tours have left. Sintra does have a range of fantastic hotels which tend to cater to the upper market. For those tourists wishing to spend longer could use Sintra as a base to explore the region, as there are regular trains to Lisbon and buses to Cascais, Estoril and the Lisbon coastline.
What’s the best Sight of Sintra?
The beautiful Pena Palace is the standout monument of Sintra. This 19th century palace was designed by a king who was passionate about the arts and wished his royal retreat to reflect that of an opera. The exterior is painted vivid colours, with decorative towers and battlements and statues of mythological creatures.
The Stunning Pena Palace of Sintra
The interior of the palace is as equally fascinating, as it has been restored to how it was left in 1910 when the Portuguese nobility fled from Portugal with the fall of the monarchy. Queen Amelia spent her last night in Portugal in the Pena Palace before leaving in exile. For a guide to all of the sights of Sintra please click here.
What’s the best hidden gem of Sintra?
The extensive grounds of the Pena Palace are filled with non-native Portuguese plant life, forest trails and the highest point in the Serra de Sintra, the Cruz Alta. From this vantage point, approximately 20 minutes’ walk south from the palace, there are spectacular views of the Pena Palace set amidst the lush greens of the forest. The classic photo of the Pena Palace is taken from this view point and there are views out over the Lisbon estuary and the Atlantic Ocean.
Hiking trails through the Pena Park
How to get to Sintra from Lisbon
There is a regular train service that departs from Rossio train station in central Lisbon. The train journey takes 40 minutes, as it is a slow regional service but a return ticket costs only €4.30. The train service starts early in the morning and continues late into the night and there are generally 3 departures per hour. For a full guide on traveling to Sintra from Lisbon please click here.
The train from Lisbon to Sintra in Rossio railway station
Never drive to Sintra as there is simply not enough car parking spaces. Public transport in the Lisbon region is excellent and a rental car is often not needed for a holiday.
How to get around Sintra?
Sintra train station is approximately 1.5km from the historic centre and often tourists are perplexed as where to go once exiting the train station. There is a convenient tourist bus service which connects the train station to the historic town and then climbs into the hills to reach the Moors Castle and Pena Palace.
The 434 Sintra tourist bus
This bus service is highly recommended for visitors with one day in Sintra as it is a long walk into the town centre and a very steep walk up the hill to the Pena Palace. The bus departs every 15 minutes and the first bus of the day is 9:15. An early start is recommended to avoid the crowds as Sintra is a popular tourist destination especially at the weekends and summer months. For an updated guide to the 434 Sintra tourist bus please click here.
The colourful Pena Palace near Sintra
Does Sintra Portugal get crowded with day trippers?
Unfortunately, Sintra can get very crowded with coach loads of visitors especially at the weekends during the hot summer months, but luckily there is a great work around! Visit Sintra on a Monday, Sintra is significantly quieter on a Monday than at the weekend and all of the tourist attractions are open, unlike Lisbon where many shut on Monday.
If you do visit Sintra at the weekend plan your visit earlier in the day, and as mentioned before never attempt to drive.