On my last trip to Portugal, I returned to Sintra because, honestly, it doesn’t stop to amaze me. I noticed some slight differences from my previous trip. That’s why I want to give you some recommendations to visit Sintra, especially on a day trip from Lisbon.
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This time I traveled in winter, and let me tell you that the season doesn’t affect the beauty of this city at all. But, like everything beautiful, it didn’t go unnoticed for a long time. So it’s evident that Sintra is getting more touristy.
There weren’t many tourists because it was winter. There are no crowds either because the attractions of Sintra are somewhat scattered. But you can see the change in the services available in the city.
You can read this other post about What to see in Sintra in one day.
Recommendations to visit Sintra from Lisbon
Trains to Sintra from Lisbon are frequent so it’s not necessary (and it’s not possible) to book in advance. But do try to arrive as early as possible to take advantage of the day. Especially if you visit Sintra in winter because the hours of light are much less.
Travel on spring or autumn
If possible, organize your trip for the fall or spring. You’ll not have the restrictions of the winter, but neither hordes of tourists of the summer.
The first time, I traveled in October and the weather was ideal for walking through the woods of Sintra. Besides, we had several hours of sun and we didn’t feel so rushed as in the last visit.
If you travel in winter you’ll have fewer sunlight hours, besides the attractions close at least one hour earlier than in other seasons.
Organize your time
Another recommendation to visit Sintra is to organize your time and decide beforehand what you want to see.
Sintra has several attractions but some are far from the center. Every site here is special and you may want to spend enough time in each place. And the truth is that Sintra has a magic vibe, you’ll feel in a fairy tale among so many palaces, parks and woods.
It’s ideal to have a car to reach the furthest attractions, although finding parking spots might be a problem. And if you do the day trip from Lisbon, you’ll not have enough time to see it all. That’s why you should consider the next recommendation.
Stay one night or come back another day
Stay in Sintra for one night or return another day from Lisbon. The journey is barely half an hour by train and also cheap.
Being so close to Lisbon, most tourists choose to take the day trip. But honestly, Sintra is worth staying at least one night. I regret not having planned it so, because I always had the feeling that there were many wonders that I missed.
Check out this list of accommodation available in Sintra if you decide to spend the night here.
Use the tourist bus lines
If you are like me who live on the other side of the pond and travel for a few days to the old world, we have to make good use of time. That’s why among my recommendations to visit Sintra is to use bus 434 and 435. This transport from the company Scotturb takes you to the main attractions in Sintra.
In Sintra, it’s worth walking. The woods are beautiful, and from time to time you will come across an arch, a fountain, a lake, a kiosk and maybe even an elf 😉 . But not having enough time…then no way.
Bus 434 covers the route to get to Pena Palace. It departs from the Sintra train station and the price for a trip is € 3.90. You can also buy the round trip ticket for € 6.90. These are the stops on the route:
Bus 435, also called Villa Express 4 palaces, is the one that goes by Quinta da Regaleira and by Monserrate Palace. The price is € 3,00 for a trip and € 5 for the complete circular route.
In this site, you can see the schedules for the two seasons (summer and winter). It is in Portuguese only, but you can use a translator.
There are also some passes you can use. If you are coming from Lisbon you could use the Train & Bus pass. It includes a round trip from Lisbon and the unlimited transport for one day on the Scotturb buses. This pass costs € 15.80 and you can buy it at the train station in Lisbon. Although I really don’t know if it’s worth it for a single day.
3 attractions that you MUST visit
Another recommendation to visit Sintra is that you don’t miss the 3 main attractions. Especially if you don’t have intentions to return (unfortunately it’s not always possible). These are the Palacio da Pena, the Castelo dos Mouros and the Quinta da Regaleira.
Well, these are my 3 favorite places, with Palacio da Pena topping the list. It’s a mix like between princess tales and Alice in Wonderland. It takes the trophy for its eclectic and colorful architecture and its large park. Also for its location in the highest part of Sintra.
In second place (and I’m still thinking if it shouldn’t be on first) is the Quinta da Regaleira. If you like mystery and fantasy you will love this place. Besides its beautiful architecture and gardens, its secret passages stand out. I could spend the whole day exploring its enigmatic corners.
In third place is the Castelo dos Mouros. This is a fortress and its walls near the Pena Palace. Although it’s not a palace, I really liked the experience of climbing its walls in the fog and feeling the cold wind. It has a very special vibe due to its location. Of course, there is some risk because there is not much protection.
Tour Sintra on your own
Among my recommendations to visit Sintra is that you explore it on your own. This way you can decide what to see and how long to be in each place.
I tell you this because in Sintra there is a hop-on-hop-off bus which although in big cities it may be a good idea, in Sintra is a waste of time.
And the same goes for the tuk-tuk … in fact, I wrote this point so I can complain extensively about the tuk-tuk. Well, on this last trip I had the bad luck to let them convince me to take a tour in one. It was a total waste of time, besides the waste of €40 that we paid for 2 people.
We had little time and I really wanted to see the Monserrate Palace which is 3 km from the center of Sintra. They approached us and convinced us that the tuk-tuk would be a way to see more in the little time we had left.
Long story short, we only saw the Seteais Palace (which can easily be reached on foot from the center) and a long road (with nothing at the sides). About the Monserrate Palace, we only saw part of the palace and roof 🙁
In that hour and with those 40 euros, we could have arrived in Monserrate with the bus, pay the tickets and even have some money left to buy pasteis de nata. Unless you can’t walk (or for some other reason that I can’t think of) never, and I mean NEVER! use the tuk-tuk (at least in Sintra, in other places, I don’t know).
I always recommend to visit a place on your own but if you are really short on time or you don’t like to organize your trip, then check out these tours departing from Lisbon:
Wear comfortable shoes and bring water.
Having already vented my anger out, my next recommendation is to bring comfortable shoes, water, and even some snacks.
As I mentioned before you’re going to walk a lot among the woods in Sintra, especially in between Castelo dos Mouros and Pena. Besides, some of these sites are far from restaurants or cafeterias. You may find some snacks, but you know… to higher prices than usual.
Other recommendations to visit Sintra
Around the old town there are some places where you can eat portuguese food and snacks.
We ate in a Pizza-Hut because we have some dietary restrictions (for example I don’t eat meat) and we choose places we know. But, of course, when I can, I try some local dishes, especially desserts.
Pizza-Hut is next to the train station. I let you know because we lost a lot of time searching for it, we had already left the station and had to return. Sintra has some very long streets and a very irregular line, we had troubles finding it with the google maps.
There are some establishments where you can buy souvenirs in the city center. It is worthwhile to wander around to see what you find.
I hope you find this publication useful and don’t miss visiting Sintra because it is truly a magical place.
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Thanks for reading, travel much and bon voyage!