Spending one day in Sintra is one of the top Lisbon Day trip ideas. Sintra is one of the most unique architectural monuments in Europe that everyone should consider visiting at least once.
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Where is Sintra?
Sintra has been on my travel bucket list for a long while. So, the recent weekend in Lisbon was a perfect excuse to spend one day in Sintra.
Sintra is a charming little town full of unique castles, located only 30 km from Lisbon. It´s a popular stop on every traveler´s agenda while visiting Portugal. Yet, most people visit Sintra as a day trip from Lisbon. However, if you are not into fast-paced trips – Sintra has enough historical sites for a few days.
The first notes about the Sintra castles can be found in the works of the Arab geographer Al-Bakri in the 19th century.
The Sintra Palace was a residence of the Moorish rulers till the Reconquista in 1147 when the Christians took over the control of the city. After this, Sintra was a safe haven for the Portuguese aristocracy for centuries. Nowadays, it´s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as an ultimate touristic destination in the region.
It is unbelievable, how Sintra´s palaces and gardens still combine both Arab and Christian decoration styles.
You walk through the halls of the Palace of Pena and feel you´re inside a mystical castle somewhere across the Middle East. At the same time, the statues, icons, furniture, and paintings around, clearly point at the European aristocracy.
Hot to get to Sintra from Lisbon
You can visit Sintra by car (1 hour) or take a train from Lisbon´s Rossio Station (40 min).
We didn´t want to have issues with the parking, so we opted for the train. Although our visit to Sintra took place in October, it was still touristy. If you choose to go by car – get to Sintra earlier in the morning. Another option is to order a private Sintra transfer.
If you want a laid-back experience, consider booking one of the top-rated Sintra tours:
- From Lisbon: Pena Palace, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, & Cascais Day trip (check availability)
- From Lisbon: Guided Day Tour of Sintra, Pena, Regaleira & Cascais (check availability)
Back when we visited Sintra, getting the online ticket was cheaper than buying one at landmarks. Plus, with the typical waiting lines, a fast-track ticket is such a game-changer:
- National Palace of Sintra and Gardens Fast Track Ticket (book it now)
- Monserrate Palace and Park Skip-the-Line Ticket (book it now)
- Biester Palace and Park Entry Ticket (book it now)
- Castle of the Moors Fast Track Ticket (book it now)
Transport in Sintra
All the major sights of Sintra are quite spread out. Therefore, there´s a public bus service across Sintra. Besides, you have other alternatives as Uber and Tuc Tuc.
In the beginning, we walked almost everywhere. However, walking from the Palace of Sintra to the Palace of Pena was actually similar to hiking. But since there was quite a waiting line for the buses we decided to try.
Also, since we only had one day in Sintra, and I aimed to see all the castles, we ended up taking Uber for the last two.
Why will you fall in love with Sintra?
Sintra lies at the edge of different civilizations and cultural influences.
Magical castles, unique art pieces, stunning decorations, beautiful Portuguese mosaics – the diversity of shapes and colors in Sintra makes this place a must-stop for any art lover.
One day in Sintra: Must-see places
Sintra has several must-see places: the Palace of Pena, the Sintra Palace, the Monserrate Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, and the Moorish Castle.
1. Palace of Pena
The Palace of Pena is Sintra´s visiting card and also its most popular palace.
We actually visited it after the Sintra Palace, so it was already quite crowded. But waiting (40 min) to get inside was still worth it for me. I wish I could have unlimited web space to share all of the pretty details and decorations with you. The Palace of Pena was like a little splash of colors to brighten up our day.
2. The Sintra Palace
Our morning in Sintra started at the Sintra Palace. This palace is the closest one to the train station. We were by the entrance around 9.30 a.m. So, had enough time to explore everything without the crowds, which was one of the best parts of this one day in Sintra.
Afterward, we headed all the way up to the Palace of Pena. And I should say – it was quite a walk. I think the hiking trail connecting the Palace of Sintra with the Palace of Pena is called Ruta de Santa Maria (it is more or less 2 km long). If you decide to walk – it´s the best way, cause walking along the road, where buses and cars drive, is super uncomfortable. Keep in mind that you will walk upwards. So you might want to head to the Pena Palace first, then move downwards to the Sintra Palace.
On the plus side, the trail itself was beautiful, full of trees and plants. Besides, people mostly go by bus and it was such a serene moment of peace after all the hype around the other Sintra castles.
P.S. If you noticed an outfit change – yes! I´ve switched to the dress after the Sintra Palace. At this point, I still thought we´d have time to see it all and take some nice pictures, but after The Pena Palace, I really couldn´t care less for my Instagram, as I realized we were running out of time.
3. The Moorish Castle
We did not visit the Moorish Castle, only walked by it on our way to the Palace of Pena.
I read it would be more about the views, so we skipped it in order to visit the Montserrate Palace and Quinta da Regaileira. We also took an Uber from here on.
I actually loved walking in between the castle, but since we only had one day in Sintra it was impossible to see it all without an Uber ride. We also bought two sandwiches and skipped that nice lunch in Sintra we had planned initially.
4. Quinta da Regaileira
This beautiful corner of Sintra is famous for its mystical-old-ruins look, gothic style, and lush gardens. The top sight of Quinta da Regaileira is its Initiatic Well. It often gets pretty crowded, but the whole area is quite spread out. You could easily spend hours wandering around.
5. Montserrate Palace
You can´t miss this extremely pretty summer villa of the Portuguese court because of its absolutely stunning cultural blend of architectural styles. Montserrate Palace is often the last spot on the list of Sintra´s visitors, so I guess many people just run out of time and never get to see this hidden gem. It was one of my favorite places during this one day in Sintra.
Montserrate Palace was once a chapel, but it was ruined after the earthquake. The property was later bought by Thomas Cook and completely redesigned. But despite all the rush, the pastel hues and delicate ornaments have completely stolen my heart.
Do you remember my Mexico post where I got a gorgeous Chichen Itza photo with no soul around? Everyone was asking me how I managed to do that. Well, the two guards we already heading my way that day, since it was 2 minutes before the sight´s closure.
With the Montserrate Palace, it was a bit of a similar story. We were one of the last visitors to leave. That´s the price you have to pay if you want to see most of Sintra in one single day.
To sum up
Visiting Sintra in one day is possible, but due to the crowds, it can not be considered an easy travel task. I guess, during the summer peak season it´s entirely impossible. We visited in October, but our initial plans were still slowed down by the waiting lines.
Sintra is a popular travel destination, you can´t expect to have it all for yourself. Yet, it is absolutely worth visiting!
Want more Portugal travel tips, stories, and secret places? – Check my Portugal Travel board on Pinterest.
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