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The best independent guide to Sintra

Sintra-Portugal.com

The best independent guide to Sintra

How many days for Sintra? How long to spend in Sintra

Sintra is a fascinating town nestled within the stunning Serra da Sintra hills. Within this region, you’ll discover ancient castles, majestic villas and wonderful palaces, including the spectacular Palácio da Pena.

The town is the most popular day trip from Lisbon, and visits to a couple of the main sights can be rushed through in a few hours. However, there are many other attractions and activities that could easily fill a stay of three or four nights. Sintra could be used as a base from which to explore the region, with day trips to Lisbon, Cascais, Queluz Palace and the Serra da Sintra coastline.

So instead of asking ‘how many days to see Sintra', the question should be 'how many days do you have to discover Sintra?'.
This guide will provide suggested itineraries for 1-day, 2-day and 3-day trips to Sintra, along with a 1-week holiday.
Related articles: The best sights of SintraDay trip to Sintra

Palácio da Pena Sintra

The colourful Palácio da Pena is always a highlight of a trip to Sintra

The Castelo dos Mouros

The Castelo dos Mouros standing high above Sintra

How long to spend in Sintra? A quick overview of suggested itineraries

The majority of visitors to Sintra see the town as a one-day trip from Lisbon. The most popular route for a day trip covering the main sights of Sintra is:
• The Palácio Nacional de Sintra or the Quinta da Regaleira
• Explore historic centre of Sintra
• Lunch in the town centre
• Ride the 434 bus up the hill to the Palácio da Pena
• The Palácio da Pena
Castelo dos Mouros (optional)
• Bus back to the train station
This route is the most popular, but it can get very busy with tourists, especially around the Palácio da Pena.

 

 

A day trip itinerary that takes in the quieter sights of Sintra - ideal in peak season - is:
Palácio de Monserrate
• Palácio de Seteais gardens
• Lunch in the town centre
• Explore Sintra town centre
• Palácio Nacional de Sintra or Quinta da Regaleira (later afternoon)

If you have two days in Sintra, a recommended tour is:
• Day 1 Morning: Palácio da Pena and Parque da Pena
• Day 1 Afternoon: Castelo dos Mouros and Sintra town centre
Day 1 Evening: Sunset at Cabo da Roca
• Day 2 Morning: Quinta da Regaleira and Palácio Nacional de Sintra
• Day 2 afternoon: Palácio de Monserrate and Convento dos Capuchos

For the third day, it is suggested to visit the Sintra coastline:
• Day 3 Morning: Ride tram to Praia das Maçãs
• Day 3 Afternoon: Praia Grande beach and Palácio Biester

An alternative for day three is:
• Day 3 Morning: Palácio de Queluz
• Day 3 Afternoon: Caminho de Santa Maria hiking trail

Insight: A suggested itinerary for a one-week holiday to Sintra is detailed at the end of this guide.

The interactive map below displays a map of Sintra with the main sights and the suggested itineraries. (Note: zoom out to see all of the points)

Popular day trip to Sintra: 1) Palácio Nacional de Sintra 2) Quinta da Regaleira 3) historic centre of Sintra 4) Palácio da Pena 5) Castelo dos Mouros
Alternative day trip to Sintra: 6) Palácio de Monserrate 7) Palácio de Seteais 3) historic centre of Sintra 1) Palácio Nacional de Sintra 2) Quinta da Regaleira
Other sights of Sintra: 8) Cabo da Roca 9) Sintra tram 10) Praia das Maçãs 11) Praia Grande beach 12) Palácio Biester 13) Palácio de Queluz 14) Caminho de Santa Maria hiking trail

One day in Sintra

The majority of visitors to Sintra are day trippers from Lisbon or the Cascais coastline. You can visit the main sights of Sintra in a single day, which is sufficient for most tourists.

The best day trip (if there are no crowds) involves taking the train from Lisbon (or bus from Cascais/Estoril) then starting the day by visiting the Gothic Palácio Nacional de Sintra or the mystical grounds of the Quinta da Regaleira. You can then explore the historic centre of Sintra and have lunch here.

In the afternoon, ride the 434 bus service to the top of the hill and visit the Palácio da Pena and - if you have the time/energy - the Castelo dos Mouros, before catching the bus back to the train station.

Palácio da Pena Sintra

The whimsical exterior of the Palácio da Pena

The standout attraction of Sintra during this day trip is the extravagant Palácio da Pena, with its wonderous exterior and beautifully restored state rooms. In our opinion, the next best sight is the Quinta da Regaleira, with its gardens containing a hidden cave network of passages, a ceremonial well (the Poço Iniciático).

Poço Iniciático in the Quinta da Regaleira Sintra

The steps descending down the Poço Iniciático in the Quinta da Regaleira

The Castelo dos Mouros is a 9th-century castle that spans a craggy ridge high above Sintra, providing spectacular views over the entire region. The Palácio Nacional de Sintra is a Gothic-style palace that is rich in Portuguese history and has many beautifully painted state rooms.

Castelo dos Mouros

The amazing views from the battlements of the Castelo dos Mouros

The three sights seen in the day trip (Pena, Regaleira and Mouros) are all unique, fascinating and worth visiting even if you're not much into history.

Sintra is extremely popular and gets very crowded during the peak season. There will be long queues for the bus up to the Pena Palace, limited time slots to enter the Palace, and restaurants will be packed at lunchtime.

For any trip to Sintra always start as early in the day as possible. If you have time, you may want to give yourself two days to see the sights at a more relaxed and enjoyable pace.

Palácio Nacional de Sintra Sintra

The Palácio Nacional de Sintra was the most lived-in and used palace, being used continuously by the Portuguese nobility from the 15th century up until 1910.

A one-day trip to Sintra – an alternative

The huge crowds in Sintra - especially if a number of cruise ships have moored in Lisbon - can be overwhelming and off-putting.

An enjoyable day trip, which avoids the peak crowds and skips the Palácio da Pena, is:

Catch the train to Sintra (bus from Cascais or Estoril), then from Sintra train station ride the 435 bus to the Palácio de Monserrate. This wonderous, Arabic-inspired villa is arguably more beautiful than the Palácio da Pena (just on a smaller scale) and will be significantly quieter. Afterwards, ride the bus back to Sintra and explore the historic centre.

After a late lunch (restaurants are less busy after 2pm), visit the Palácio Nacional de Sintra or Quinta da Regaleira, when they will also be less crowded. By the afternoon, most visitors have headed up to the Moors castle or Pena palace, so the town will be a bit quieter.

Palácio de Monserrate Sintra

The Arabic inspired Palácio de Monserrate, with its intricate stone details and latticework

Sintra in half a day

No matter what you've seen or read, half a day is not long enough to fully appreciate Sintra. Three hours is only just enough time to see the historic centre and the Quinta da Regaleira (or Palácio Nacional de Sintra).

Equally, it can take up to 90 minutes to get to the terraces of the Palácio da Pena from the train station – between waiting for the bus, the 20-minute bus ride, queueing for tickets and finally walking to the palace. Sintra deserves at least a full day of sightseeing and should not be combined with any other towns.

The only way it is possible to see a bit of Sintra and another town (usually Cascais) is via an organised tour, which removes the hassle of public transport and provides you with a knowledgeable guide. We have worked with GetYourGuide for the previous seven years, and some of their best tours of Sintra include:
Sintra Highlights Full-Day Tour
Sintra, Cabo da Roca and Cascais Full-Day Tour from Lisbon
Sintra, Cascais and Cabo da Roca Coast Day Tour

Warning: Never consider driving to Sintra, as there is limited car parking and the historic centre is closed off to traffic. In summer, the road up to the Pena Palace is closed to cars, and there is a constant traffic jam around the town as frustrated drivers hunt for parking spaces. For any trip to Sintra, take the train.

Two days in Sintra

Two days in Sintra allows a more relaxed approach to sightseeing and provides more time to discover the sights.

A prime example of this is the Parque da Pena, the expansive grounds that surround the Palácio da Pena. Found within them is the warrior statue (Estátua do Guerreiro), the Cruz Alta (highest point of the region at 529m), the Chalet e Jardim da Condessa d'Edla (an alpine-inspired lodge), along with numerous forested footpaths.

Palácio de Monserrate Sintra

The Chalet da Condessa d'Edla, a pretty 1.3km walk from the Pena Palace

An addition to the Castelo dos Mouros is the Caminho de Santa Maria, a scenic downhill footpath that leads into the centre of Sintra, avoiding the need to catch the busy 434 bus.

For your two days in Sintra, you could either take two separate day trips from Lisbon or base yourself in the town for one night. Once the tourists have left for the day, Sintra has a relaxed and calm ambience, and it is actually a pleasurable experience to dine out.

If you have two days in Sintra, we would suggest:
• Day 1 Morning: Palácio da Pena and Parque da Pena
• Day 1 Afternoon: Castelo dos Mouros and Caminho de Santa Maria walk
• Day 1 Evening: Sunset at Cabo da Roca (via the 403 bus)
• Day 2 Morning: Quinta da Regaleira, Palácio Nacional de Sintra and the historic centre
• Day 2 afternoon: Palácio de Monserrate and the gardens of the Palácio de Seteais

Cabo da Roca Sintra

The Cabo da Roca is the most westerly point of mainland Europe, and a magical location to watch the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean

Palácio de Seteais Sintra

The Palácio de Seteais is a grand 18th mansion, which has been converted into a high-end hotel, but its gardens are open to non-residents

A third day in Sintra

The third day in Sintra could take in many of the interesting sights of the surrounding region.

If it is summer, we’d suggest a ride on the quaint tram down to the pretty beach town of Praia das Maçãs. This is the best beach that is easily accessible from Sintra.

From Praia das Maçãs you could follow the coastline south to the popular surfing beach of Praia Grande. An alternative is to catch a taxi from Praia das Maçãs to Azenhas do Mar (2km to the north), a picturesque village perched at the edge of cliffs. It's also the setting for one of the best restaurants of the region, the Restaurante Azenhas do Mar.

Praia das Maçãs Sintra

The Praia das Maçãs is the best beach close to Sintra

Instead of a beach-focused day, you could visit the Convento dos Capuchos, a Franciscan monastery nestled among the forest and giant boulders of the region. With a car, you could also visit the Capela de Nossa Senhora da Peninha, a small chapel with a wonderful viewpoint.

A week's holiday in Sintra

An enjoyable holiday could be had based in Sintra, discovering the best sights of the town as well as the surrounding region.
• Day 1: Palácio da Pena and dos Mouros
• Day 2: Quinta da Regaleira and Palácio Nacional de Sintra
• Day 3: Praia das Maçãs (beach day)
• Day 4: Lisbon day trip - Alfama and Baixa districts
• Day 5: Cascais day trip
• Day 6: Lisbon day trip - Belem districts
• Day 7: Queluz palace

Lisbon tram

The traditional tram of Lisbon passing the Se Cathedral

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A tourism guide to Sintra Portugal
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How many days to spend in sintra
Lisbon to Sintra
434 tourist bus sintra
Lisbon Day Trips
lisbon beaches
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A tourism guide to Sintra Portugal
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