A trip to Lisbon isn’t complete without visiting nearby Sintra for at least a day trip. With its colorful castles, rich history, and quaint winding roads, Sintra was a highlight of our trip to Portugal. I can definitely see why Sintra was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site! Keep reading for my step-by-step guide on how to get there, what to see, where to eat, and mistakes to avoid.
How to Get to Sintra, Portugal
If you’re planning to visit Sintra from Lisbon, you’re in luck—it’s incredibly easy to get between Lisbon and Sintra by train. The train takes only 40 minutes each way to get to and from Sintra, and a round trip train ticket costs 4.50 euros. We took the train from Rossio station in central Lisbon, and bought our tickets at the station.
To get around Sintra, we mostly walked and used Uber, which we found to be fairly affordable. We also took a tuk-tuk which, although fun, ended up being a bit of a disaster (more on that later). There is also a bus that stops at many of the major sites, however we didn’t end up taking it as the route didn’t totally make sense for the sites we wanted to see.
There is so much to see and do in Sintra that, if you have the time, I would highly recommend staying in Sintra for a few days. Here are a few suggestions for where to stay in Sintra:
What to Wear in Sintra
Like Lisbon, Sintra is super hilly, so good walking shoes are an absolute must. When I got dressed for our day trip to Sintra, I didn’t fully appreciate how much walking there would be (in between sites, up castle steps, etc.). I decided to wear sandals and definitely regretted it. Don’t be like me—wear sneakers, or at least sturdier sandals.
Due to its altitude and location closer to the coast, Sintra is often chillier than Lisbon, which was definitely the case when we visited. I recommend dressing in layers, and bringing a light jacket or sweater. During our day trip, the weather went from sunny, to foggy, to rainy and back. Consider bringing an umbrella (we wish we had) for surprise downpours.
I wore a red maxi dress to pop in photos and to bring out the red accents of Pena Palace. My boyfriend definitely made fun of me for dressing to “match a castle” (which I acknowledge sounds silly), but I was happy with how the photos turned out!
Where to Eat in Sintra
Although we didn’t sit down for any full meals in Sintra, we visited a few cute cafes on our day trip. When we got off the train in Sintra, our first stop was Cafe Saudade for a coffee and bathroom break. Although there isn’t a direct translation of “saudade” in English, it means something close to “a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing.”
On the recommendation of our Uber driver, a Sintra local, we also stopped at a cafe/bakery called Piriquita to try their famous travesseiros, made of puff pastry and almond cream filling. Definitely a must-try!
After our coffee break, our first stop was Fonte Mourisca (Moorish Fountain). We decided to check out Fonte Mourisca first as it was on the way from the train station to Quinta da Regaleira, our next stop. However, I would only recommend trying to walk between sites for those in good physical shape—otherwise, consider taking the bus or Uber instead, as the terrain is hilly and the sites are relatively spread out.
Fonte Mourisca is basically located on the side of the road and is free to check out. It’s worth a quick stop to admire the beautiful tile work and to snap some photos.
Quinta da Regaleira
After walking from Fonte Mourisca, we eventually made it to Quinta da Regaleira. Although Quinta da Regaleira is not as well known as some of the other palaces in Sintra, it is fascinating and worth a visit. Tickets are 8 euros. In addition to the palace, the grounds feature an interconnected system of wells, tunnels, and grottoes that you can explore. In my opinion, the most visually stunning well is the Initiation Well, pictured above. Although it is a bit tricky to find, you’ll get a map of the grounds with your ticket that will help you track it down.
After visiting Quinta da Regaleira, we decided to take a tuk-tuk to Pena Palace, which in hindsight ended up not being the greatest idea. The tuk-tuk cost 20 euros total for the three of us (more than taking an Uber), and because of Sintra’s one-way roads, ended up having to take a giant circle in order to get to Pena Palace. Had I known how indirect the route from Quinta da Regaleira to Pena Palace is, I definitely would have visited the sites in a different order. If you do end up taking a tuk-tuk in Sintra, make sure everyone is wearing a seatbelt, as the police are quite strict about it.
After our tuk-tuk fiasco, we eventually made it to our last stop, Pena Palace. Pena Palace is probably the most well-known attraction in Sintra, and did not disappoint. The entrance fee for just the park is 7.50 euros, while tickets to tour the inside of the palace as well are 14 euros. If you are just interested in touring the outside of the palace (including the courtyards, like the one pictured above), then entrance to the park is all you need. We weren’t totally sure what each ticket included, so bought the full 14 euro ticket. Although touring the inside of the palace was interesting, if you’re in a rush or want to save some money, you could probably skip it.
Many of you have commented or messaged me on Instagram asking how I got a photo at Pena Palace without anyone else in it. If you’re hoping to snap some photos without the crowds, I would recommend visiting either early in the morning, or late in the afternoon near closing (which is what we did). It also helped that it started lightly raining when we arrived, so the few people out in the courtyard went inside for cover.
After finishing up at Pena Palace, we grabbed an Uber to Piriquita for some travesseiros. From there, it was a short walk over to the train station, where we caught the 5:50pm train back to Lisbon.
I hope this guide inspires those of you visiting Portugal to make a trip out to Sintra! If you’re visiting Lisbon, be sure to also check out my Lisbon travel guide and itinerary for more tips. Happy travels!
Through Kelsey’s Lens