If you’ve seen photos of Portugal, there’s a great chance you’ve come across the gorgeous castles in Sintra. Sintra is a beautiful town near the capital city of Lisbon. This makes a great day trip for people staying in Lisbon, which is exactly what I did during my Portugal trip. If you’d like to read about how to get to Sintra and how to make most of your trip, keep reading.
Getting to Sintra
Lucky for us tourists, getting to Sintra is super easy from Lisbon. You can do a tour group in which you get door-to-door transportation. But travel in Portugal is cheap and efficient so I believe train travel is the best way to get to Sintra. My hostel, Good Morning Lisbon, offered group tours to Sintra. Many people I met, including my Aussie roommate went on the tour. But I recommend doing it on your own because it doesn’t take long to get to and it’ll be way cheaper. Luckily, the hostel was a 2-3 minute walk to the train station.
As with my other day trips while in Portugal, there was no need to pre-book tickets to Sintra. I showed up at the station and purchased my ticket from a teller when I couldn’t figure out the machine. The train from Lisbon to Sintra for a day trip is 4.50 euros round trip. So cheap! My biggest tip which affected every part of my trip: arrive early. There was a small line at the station, but not too bad when I arrived.
In total, the ride was around 45 minutes.
Through my extensive search on TripAdvisor and Google, I decided on Pena Palace as my first stop in Sintra. If you’ve researched about Sintra, you know there’s a bus loop that brings you to several of the big attractions. Once out of the train station, find the stop for Bus 434, it’s not directly out the entrance, you have to walk a bit down the street. It’s easy to find and likely the crowd from the train is heading there too.
The Bus 434 stop was crowded even though I was early. I was on the first bus up to Pena Palace and I highly recommend timing your travel to be on that first bus. Despite it being crowded, once at Pena everyone dispersed and some sections I had totally to myself. While the crowd waited for the bus to arrive, workers were around to answer any questions. I purchased my ticket from the driver for around 7 euros. This is a round trip ticket.
For more detailed information about the 434 bus route in Sintra, click here.
Pena Palace is the most famous attraction in Sintra. Thus, if you take my advice about heading out early (and you should!) I recommend doing Pena Palace first. This fills up the quickest and you’ll appreciate not having to share views with hundreds more people. The 434 bus dropped everyone off at the bottom of the hill. You need to get your ticket checked at the gate.
Tip: Buy your ticket for each attraction ahead of time to avoid long lines. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later. Check out this website for information on some of the most popular attractions in Sintra.
You can either walk up to the Pena Palace entrance or take a bus. I decided to walk since I saw only it was only about 10 minutes. The hill is definitely steep! If you don’t have good shoes on (you should), are older or not in shape, I’d recommend budgeting a couple extra euros for the bus. I consider myself relatively in-shape and I was huffing by the time I reached the entrance.
Let’s talk about the views! I knew what to expect from the Pena Palace in Sintra and it didn’t disappoint. The colorful buildings looked so magical in person. I couldn’t believe I was there. My ticket was only to explore the exterior, but you can purchase one to see the interior too. For adults, the park and palace tickets are just over 13 euros and the park only (aka the exterior) is just over 7 euros. View this website for more ticket options.
Between Pena Palace, the Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga and Quinta da Regaleira, I’ve never seen such beautiful scenery. Also, I couldn’t budget time to go to the Moorish Castle. But in some places at Pena Palace, you can catch a glimpse of it!
Look at the views!
I had the entire area to myself! Go to Sintra early!
By the time I was almost done exploring, there were way more people.
Next Stop: Quinta
As much as I wanted to see the Moorish Castle, I had to skip it. During my trip I had to use my phone for everything – maps/directions, food, tickets, photos and video. I didn’t have a good portable charger (I tossed it by this point in my trip because it didn’t work) so in order to have enough battery to get back, I needed to plan my time in Sintra accordingly.
A fan favorite in Sintra apart from Pena Palace is Quinta da Regaleira. Many forums and articles I’ve read suggested Quinta over the Moorish Castle. Thus, I took the 434 back into town, walked around a little bit and followed the signs to Quinta da Regaleira. On my way there I grabbed a bite to eat and the walk wasn’t too bad. Maybe 15-20 minutes but I was eating so it may have taken me longer.
Quinta da Regaleira
I bought my tickets there and it was around 6 euros. Let me tell you, this place is amazing. Although there’s a house you can explore, most of your visit will be spent hiking and getting lost in the gardens. And you will get lost! Getting lost in the gardens was a lot fun (for a while, more on this in a second). I was glad I wore my sneakers because you essentially are hiking. There are so many little nooks and crannies around, this feels like the attraction you can visit several times and continuously discover new areas. But as with many people I had my eye on a particular sight: the Initiation Well.
The Initiation Well
The well is a big draw for visitors of Quinta da Regaleira. I was warned online that it can be a bit hard to find and boy was that an understatement. I knew I’d get lost, I expected that and embraced it. But searching for what is one of the gardens most sought after sight was a lot harder than it should’ve been. While searching, I saw countless others who were searching for it to no avail either. The signage sucked, it showed you a general direction of where it’d be – but it’s such a forest in there with places to climb up and down the limited signs were useless.
That’s my biggest gripe, because as much as I loved Quinta, I became annoyed and aggravated after a while. I searched for the well for over an hour! In fact, I was ready to give up and sat down to rest and drink some water before calling it quits. Then I noticed people walking into something and realized I decided to take a pit stop right in front of the well!
Despite being ready to give up, I did quite enjoy Quinta. I felt really inspired by the scenery. I enjoy writing and I felt like I was walking in the setting of a Narnia-inspired fantasy. In fact, Quinta da Regaleira inspired the setting for a book I’m in the early planning stages of.
A Successful Day in Sintra
My day trip to Sintra was short and I definitely need to see more of it. But overall, I am very happy with how I planned my trip. Arriving early, going to Pena Palace first and buying my ticket for the palace online all contributed to my positive experience. Keep in mind, I went to Sintra in April and there were many people there. High season (July, August) will likely be a lot more crowded.
Have you been to Sintra? Should I visit the Moorish Castle? What other sites should I visit? Let me know.