The Complete Guide to Visiting Sintra

Getting around Sintra

There are no words to describe how much I love Sintra! I have been there every time I went to Portugal and I am definitely planning to go again. Sintra is located just 30 km away from Lisbon and is easily accessible by car or public transportation. The beauty and the history of the place is something that brings a lot of tourists there every year, but it’s not just another touristy destination. Sintra has an incredible energy, interesting history and is definitely a spot for photographers. It is a place that makes me dream away. Sintra is a must when in Lisbon, and I am going to help you to make the most out of your trip. 

Main sights of Sintra

I remember that before my first visit to Sintra it wasn’t easy to get an overview of what there is to see and decide what I want to see. I have to admit that the many existing guides don’t make a time estimation for every sight and also don’t say how to structure your visit depending on how much time you have. 

1. Monserrate Palace

The Monserrate Palace

Monserrate Palace is a gorgeous estate with a wonderful park around it. It may be not the most famous site in Sintra, but it is definitely my favourite place there! The delicacy of the intricate details of the  interior, the charming appearance of the building itself and the beautiful park around it — I could wander around there for hours and hours. After visiting the main building, make sure to explore the park that has a lot of hidden gems, like the ruins of an ancient chapel.

2. Quinta Regaleira

I have missed the Regaleira Estate on my first visit to Sintra. I have heard from someone that this place is nothing special, so I decided to skip it. I realised how wrong I was two years later on my second visit to Sintra. I absolutely adored the Estate and its somehow gloomy and at the same time romantic atmosphere. The Regaleira Estate is home to the famous Well of Initiation and the tunnels that connect different parts of the area. It is super fun to explore it and stumble upon stunning discoveries every time!


3. Moorish Castle

The Moorish Castle

The Moorish Castle is an absolutely incredible place! First of all, it’s old — really old. It dates back to the 11th century. Second, it is located on one of the hills in Sintra and you get amazing view from up there. Third, you keep on asking yourself: How did they manage to build it up here back then? So much history and such great views — you will love it! Make sure to visit the Moorish Castle when in Sintra.

4. Pena Palace and Park

The Pena Palace

It looks a bit like a princess castle that was designed by kids who love colors and funny forms. It fact, it was built in the 19th century and is a great example of the interior that royals of Portugal preferred. The Palace is built on the top of the hill, so the view from there is fantastic. Pena is considered one of the main sights of Sintra, and, yes, it is pretty. However, the Pena Park is the best part of the complex! It is really big, beautiful and has so many romantic corners with ruins, chapels and small ponds. If you are limited in time, you can easily skip going inside the Palace, but don’t even think about missing the park! With the park ticket you can go into the inner court of the Palace and take some really nice pictures.

5. National Palace of Sintra

The National Palace of Sintra

It is located in the very center of Sintra and is probably the first Palace you will see upon arrival. I thought it was quite interesting to go inside there and see how the Portuguese royals used to live. I was especially impressed by the amazing kitchen, which for the times was really well equipped. If the time is limited for you in Sintra I would recommend either going inside the National Palace or inside of the Pena Palace, but not both. Of course, if you are very much into castles and palaces, feel free to do both. :)

6. What else is there in Sintra?

  • Chalet and Garden of the Countess of Edla — I haven’t made it there, because I didn’t know about it on my first visit. On my second visit I didn’t go to Pena Park, so I missed it again. But you shouldn’t! You can buy a ticket for €2 as a supplement for Pena Park.
  • Palace of Seteais — I am really torn about this one, because it is a really modern building, but the interior inside must be very beautiful. I have skipped it both of the times, so I am not sure if I should recommend it or not. If you have been there, please let me know in the comments, how did you like it!
  • Capuchos Convent — looks like a very abandoned place nowadays. It is certainly not the main attraction in Sintra, but if you are into a Gothic romanticism, vampire stories and magic, as well as photography in this style, you may find this place very interesting. 

7. Cabo de Roca

Cabo de Roca

Technically, Cabo de Roca is not Sintra, but it has a great connection with public transportation or if you are driving yourself. Cabo de Roca is a westernmost point of the European continent and is definitely a cool place to visit. The view is simply amazing and it’s a great place for pictures. Be careful not to come close to the edge, because the cliffs are high and the winds are strong. If you feel like spending some money, you can get a certificate of your visit to Cabo de Roca.

Getting around Sintra and planning your route

Pena Park
Twisted tree in the Pena Park

Every palace or castle in Sintra is unique and gorgeous, but what makes each place really special are the parks surrounding the buildings. I do recommend you to take Sintra slow and enjoy every moment of it. If you are visiting for the first time ever, I recommend you taking two days to explore it. If you can plan in only one day for Sintra, make sure to get up really early and prepare for a day full of excitement!

Going to Sintra with public transportation

Getting to Sintra from Lisbon is super easy and cheap. The round-trip with a direct train will cost you just €4,30, one-way ticket €2,15. After getting to Sintra you can either walk to the historic center or take a bus. 

There are two buses that operate in Sintra and they cover all the places you might want to go. You can take the bus 434 from the train station to the historic center where the National Palace is located, and also to the Moorish Castle and Pena Palace. This bus has a circle route, so it takes you back to the train station in the end. Another bus operating in Sintra is 435. It takes you to the Monserrate Palace and Park, Seteais Palace and Regaleira Estate. The start and end point is at the historic center. The tickets for both buses can be purchased directly from the driver and you only need to pay once for each route.

Bus 434 circular route: Sintra Train Station - Historic Center - Moorish Castle - Pena Palace and Park - Historic Center - Sintra Train Station

Bus 435 hop on - hop off route: Sintra Train Station - Historic Center - Regaleira Estate - Seteais Palace - Monserrate Palace - Seteais Palace - Regaleira Estate - Historic Center - Sintra Train Station

Still confusing? Don’t worry and just continue reading to get my recommendations on the route. And also check the timetable on the official website to make sure about the times. 

Going to Sintra by car

The first time I went to Sintra I went by car. It’s definitely more convenient and you are more flexible in comparison to using public transportation. It’s also true that the parking spots are easy to find and you are pretty much independent from the schedule of the buses. What you should keep in mind though is that driving in Sintra can be a bit challenging: the roads are narrow, there is a lot of going up and down, and quite a few sharp turns. 

What is the best route for Sintra?

Let’s assume that you want to to a one-day trip to Sintra and see as much as possible. I really recommend you to wake up early and, in case you are using public transportation be at the Sintra train station by 9:15. This is when the first bus 434 is starting the route. If you are there earlier, you can simply walk — it will take you about 20 minutes.

Anyways, take the Historic Center as your starting point. Here you can go to the tourist information office, find out about prices and inquire about the combined ticket to the Pena Palace, Moorish Castle and National Palace, if you plan to visit them all.

Even though the National Palace is right there, I don’t recommend starting with it, because most of the tourists will be there in the morning. There are two possible strategies you can have for the day:

  1. Take the bus 434 directly to the Moorish Castle, then visit the Pena Palace and the Park and optionally the Chalet and Garden of the Countess of Edla, come back to the Historic Center. Here you switch to the bus 435 and go straight to the Monserrate Palace, then you hop off at the Seteais Palace (the visit is optional), walk pass it 50 meter and visit the Regaleira Estate. After that you may walk or take the bus 435 to the historic center, visit the National Palace and take any of the buses back to the train station.
  2. This would be my preferred route. Take the bus 435 and go straight to the Monserrate Palace, then you hop off at the Seteais Palace (the visit is optional), walk pass it 50 meter and visit the Regaleira Estate. After that you may walk or take the bus 435 to the historic center, visit the National Palace or skip it, and take 434 directly to the Moorish Castle. After take the bus 434 to visit the Pena Palace and the Park and optionally the Chalet and Garden of the Countess of Edla. And, finally, take the bus 434 back to the train station.

If you are still alive and well after that (just kidding), and it’s not too late, you may consider visiting Cabo de Roca. However, I wouldn’t recommend it, if you are exploring Sintra in one day without a car.

View on the Pena Palace
Pena Palace

The route that I would recommend if you are visiting Sintra by car for one day: 

Historic Center and the National Palace (optional) - Monserrate Palace - Seteais Palace (optional) - Regaleira Estate - Moorish Castle - Pena Palace and Park and Chalet and Garden of the Countess of Edla (optional) - Cabo de Roca

If you can dedicate two days for a trip to Sintra and Cabo de Roca, this is the route I recommend you to take:

Day one. Head Straight to the Monserrate Palace (bus 435) and also spend there some quality time in the gorgeous park. After that visit the Seteais Palace, or skip it, and take your time exploring the Regaleira Estate. Come back to the Historic Center and pay a visit to the National Palace.

Day two. Head straight to the Moorish Castle with the bus 434 and explore the Pena Palace and Park afterwards. If you are driving, head straight to Cabo de Roca. If you are using public transportation, come back to the train station and take the bus 403 to Cabo de Roca.

No matter what route you choose, take it slow! And if you find a spot in Sintra that you especially like, allow yourself to spend a bit more time there. I have fallen in love with the Monserrate Palace and I was so happy to come back there last year. Sintra is wonderful and you will definitely adore it!


About the author


Hi, I am Maria, blogger and founder of Globalmary.com.

I was born and grew up in Russia, studied in Sweden and now live in Hamburg, my most favorite city in Germany. I travel a lot and write about places I've been to. I share my best travel tips and experience about what it means to live a global life!

 

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