Sintra is a historic town in Portugal full of palaces and incredible medieval architecture. Because we had such limited time in Lisbon, we really debated on whether or not to devote a full day to a popular tourist attraction, but in the end were so glad we did. Even though we aren’t really big on waiting in long lines with thousands of other people, we felt like the trip was very worth our time. We were also able to see a lot in five and a half hours from end to end—making it the one of the best day trips from Lisbon.
Getting from Lisbon to Sintra
There are several ways to get from Lisbon to Sintra, but the easiest way we found is by Uber. It takes about 45 minutes by car, and though you can drive yourself, parking is a nightmare and something I don’t recommend. You can also take the train, but you will be at the mercy of the train schedule and also have to walk step hills from the train station depending on what castle you choose. Pro Tip: Buy tickets in advance (see below) and have your Uber drop you off directly at the first castle you want to see. Otherwise, you will have to walk from the main ticket area, which can be quite far.
What to Wear in Sintra
The weather in Sintra drastically changes from one moment to the next, so you need to be prepared with layers. We were there in early May and at times it got really warm and then really cold—cold enough for a heavy sweater or coat. You will do a ton of walking up hills and standing in line, so wear comfortable shoes with a lot of support. I recommend bringing a lightweight backpack with sunscreen, water, bandaids (in case of blisters), and a camera. Just keep in mind that you don’t want to have to carry around a lot since you’ll be walking so much.
Planning Your Day in Sintra
There are many castles to visit in Sintra, but lines can be very long to get inside once you have tickets, so realistically, you’ll be lucky to see two-three castles in one day. You do not want to miss Palácio da Pena, as it is one of the most fairytale like castles you will ever see, with bright colors and incredible views. We also visited the The Quinta da Regaleira. I highly recommend that you buy tickets in advance so that you don’t have to waste time waiting in line for tickets.
While there is enough to see that you could spend the night and spend two days completely immersed in this enchanting place, we arrived in Sintra around 10:30a.m. and were back in Lisbon by 4:00p.m. Below is what we saw and the order we saw it.
Palácio da Pena
National Palace of Sintra
That National Palace if Sintra is located in the town centre. It’s hard to miss if you walk into the city center. We did not go inside, but it is the best perserved medieval royal residence in Portugal and was occupied by kings from the 15th-19th centuries.
The Quinta da Regaleira
An incredible gothic palace that was a private residence built in 1904-1910. The property is extensive, consisting of a palace, chapel, lakes, grottos, wells, and fountains.
Where to Eat in Sintra
After we had seen all the castles our feet could take, we had a relaxing lunch complete with wine at Incomum, which I highly recommend. I would suggest making a reservation, as it gets really busy—we waited 30 minutes without one.
Back in Lisbon with time to rest before dinner, we both agreed that Sintra is definitely one of the best day trips from LIsbon you can make.