Sintra is a resort town in the foothills of Sintra Mountain in Portugal, it is a UNESCO site with hilltop castles and exotic gardens. It is so easy to get to Sintra from Lisbon by simply taking a 40 minute train ride, which is why it is easy to include it in things to do in Lisbon. You can spend half a day in Sintra and it would be enough, but if you want to stay for more time there are accommodation available there, you can easily find restaurants as well as transport to the castles and palaces there. It is better to buy tickets prior to going there as the ticket booths will be busy, you can either buy tickets for each palace or castle separately or you can simply book a day tour with a guide. You can buy tickets or book a tour through GetYourGuide.
As I said, half a day to explore Sintra is good enough if you don't half time but you still want to go, but if you have time you can stay up to 3 days in Sintra as Sinta-Cascais Natural Park is huge as it is 142 square kilometre which is stretched across the coastline. So the ideal time to spend there is from two to three days if you have time.
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How to Get to Sintra
You can take a train from Lisbon's Rossio station, you can find a train that departs every 20 minutes from there, and the train ride only takes 40 minutes. Keep in mind that on Sundays the train leave every 1 hour instead. A one-way ticket from Lisbon to Sintra costs 2.25€ and it can be easily bought from a machine or a ticket booth or counter.
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How to Move Around Sintra
Once you arrive in Sintra, there are two bus lines that pass by the palaces and castles, these are line 434 and line 435. You will need to decide which bus line to take prior based on the sites you want to visit. If you are going on a day trip from Lisbon where you will spend half a day, then chose one bus line, but if you plan on staying longer then you can take both to explore more sites.
You can buy bus tickets at the bus itself or at the train station, buses run every 15-20 minutes starting from 9:15 am. You can return on a hop-on hop-off bus which would cost 6.90€.
Train Station - National Palace – Moorish Castle – Natural History Museum – Pena Palace
Train Station – National Palace – Quinta Da Regaleira – Seteais Palace – Monserrate Palace
Best Time to Visit Sintra
In comparison to Lisbon, Sintra is a little bit cooler as it has its own microclimate. The best times to visit is from April to June, and from September to November, but keep in mind that Sintra will always be busy and crowded as it one of the best places to visit in Portugal.
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Accommodation in Sintra
If you are planning to spend more than one day in Sintra, you can stay in Sintra if you want or you can simply stay in Lisbon as it would be the cheaper option and as mentioned it is easy to get from Lisbon to Sintra.
Best Cafes & Restaurants in Sintra
Saudade (Gluten-free options, vegan friendly cafe)
Espaco Edla (Vegan friendly cafe)
A Praca (Gluten-free options, vegan friendly)
Bacalhau Na Vila (Gluten-free options, vegan friendly, Portuguese cuisine)
7 Top Things to Do in Sintra
1. Palácio da Pena (Pena Palace)
Palácio da Pena is located at the highest point overlooking the entire region, it is red and yellow and was designed back in 1854. Trees from all over the world have been imported to it to make it look exotic with the mixture of the beautiful architecture there. Since Palacio de Pena is the most famous destination in Sintra, it will be the busiest one there of course, so arriving there early is key to avoid the crowd. Entrance ticket to the park and castle cost 13.30€, the tickets can be bought at the door but it is best to buy them in advance. This should take you at least 45 minutes.
2. Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira is classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO within the cultural landscape of Sintra. It was essentially designed to hide network of tunnels, passageways, and even towers. The inverted tours there look like a well which is accessible by a spiral stair which goes down to one of the tunnels. Entrance tickets cost 8€ which can be either bought at the door or online. This should take you between 1.5 and 2 hours.
3. Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors)
Castelo dos Mouros is a hilltop medieval castle, it was once a military fort. Taking the stairs up to the top for an impressive view is a must, the entrance ticket to the castle cost 7.60€. This should take you between 1 and 1.5 hours.
4. Palácio Nacional de Sintra (Sintra National Palace)
Palácio Nacional de Sintra or Sintra National Palace, which is also called Town Palace is a present day historic house museum. This palace is in the heart of Sintra with two huge chimneys which became the iconic view of the town. You can buy an entrance ticket to visit the rooms inside the palace for 9.50€. This should take you at least 45 minutes.
5. Palácio de Monserrate (Monserrate Palace)
The Monserrate Palace is a palatial villa, which is gothic, Arabic, and Indian in design with an exotic garden. People who visit Sintra often skips it as it is slightly off the route so it is not as crowded as other locations in Sintra. An entrance ticket cost 6.80€. This should take between 15 and 30 minutes.
6. Museu de História Natural de Sintra (Sintra Natural History Museum)
The Sintra Natural History Museum is located in the historic centre of Sintra, the museum is known for the quality and rarity of its exhibits. Admission is free for the museum, and besides the permanent exhibits there, you will find a room for temporary exhibits that is equipped to host different types of shows and events. This should take you at least 1 hour.
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7. Visit Cascais
Cascais is a coastal resort town near Lisbon, it can be easily reached from Sintra you simply will need to take a hop-on hop-off bus line and it will only take a few minutes to reach Cascais.