I LOVED Sintra, so if you are staying in Lisbon you must spend one day in Sintra! It is very instagrammable and perfect for history lovers. Read on to see my top tips for spending one day in Sintra and what not to miss while you are here! I will also tell you how to get here and how to get around. Then I’ll also tell you about another great day trip from Lisbon to a great seaside town. To end, see what you should not miss in Lisbon and the best area to stay in!
How to get to Sintra?
I have actually been to Sintra three times now and all with different modes of transport! I would recommend going by car if you have one. This is because once you get to Sintra, all the places to see are very spread out and include hills! The only problem is parking, and in one place in particular. We had some trouble parking at Quinta da Regaleira, but where we finally found a spot was just a 10 minute walk away and we actually found some pretty places along the way.
From Lisbon it takes 30 minutes to reach Sintra by car. The road is very god until you reach Sintra. Here it is all one way, so make sure to plan your route well!
The bus will take at least an hour and stops not far from the train station. You may also have to take two buses. Once you arrive to Sintra there is also a tourist bus (434) that will take you around a few of the main sites costing around €6.50 each.
From Rossio Square in Lisbon, there is the Linha de Sintra that takes under an hour, 45 minutes to get to Sintra. At the train station you will be met by taxi drivers and tuk tuk drivers who will offer tours of Sintra. If you do not get transport, then be prepared for a serious walk. Pena Palace is 480 metres up the hill and a 50 minute walk.
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What to do in Sintra?
Visit the many palaces! I will list all the most beautiful and instagrammable palaces that you must visit here. Sintra is so magical and all the palaces are so different that you should try and see as many of them as you can! The one way system here can make it a bit tricky and there can be quite a bit of traffic down these narrow roads but see as much as you can!
Where to stay in Sintra? Check prices and availability here!
First stop on your One day in Sintra: Pena Palace
This is definitely the most beautiful palace to see here. Its unique colour and design is a real must see. I would definitely recommend making this the first stop of your day if you are taking a day trip to Sintra from Lisbon. It gets busy right away, and when I say busy I mean you will have people in every photo. We had to get a bit creative with the angles to get some of the people out! If you are the first person in the queue then you may just make it! It is like no other palace I have seen before. Pena Palace is also famous for its views.
The Palace is set high up above everything nearby on a hill, on a clear day you can see for miles and it is the perfect viewpoint. There will be some mornings where it is very foggy, so be sure to check the weather forecast before you leave. It is crazy, the weather seems to have a mind of its own up here!
I have always gone through the lower entrance. There is a main entrance at the top of the castle. However, lower down the hill there is an entrance not many people know about. This is not only better as it is less busy but the walk to the palace is beautiful. Once you enter this entrance, you start walking through a beautiful garden with a pond and bridges and small sculptures. This whole walk up to the palace is an experience in itself! It will probably take around 10 minutes to walk up to the palace this way. If you are able to walk up this path then I would highly recommend this route!
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What to do here – Instagrammable Spots
The outer walls of Pena Palace
With the beautiful view, all the way along the walls there are plenty of photo opportunities.
There are a few arches here that are like the windows out of Pena Palace which are just beautiful for a photo.
For a photo where you can get a good angle with no people in, then head up the stairs to the left of the ‘windows’ and arches. From here, the wall you sit on will cover up all the people below and you can get a lovely shot with the colourful palace.
How much does it cost?
An adult ticket to visit just the park around Pena Palace was €26 when I was here. Luckily they do student tickets! It was €49 to visit the inside of the palace also. If you like interiors then go for it, but the outside of the palace is the most beautiful part for me!
How much time to spend here?
You will need at least an hour to visit the whole of Pena Palace, if you would also like to walk around the inside of the palace. We probably spent an hour here just walking around the outside, with waiting for people to move for a photo!
Best Viewpoint of Pena Palace?
We can here early to see the sunrise and fly the drone to have a look around. This viewpoint is one of the best over Pena Palace!
Explore the enchanted Quinta da Regaleira: Second stop on One Day in Sintra!
This is in my eyes even more beautiful than Pena Palace. It has much more of an ancient feel to it and the architecture is so unique. It is also classified as a UNESCO site. The grounds really have a magical feel to them, like you are in a fairytale. I once went here alone and wandered around for at least an hour, getting lost and exploring this enchanted forest.
What to do here?
Wandering around is the best option! There are lots of beautiful fountains to see and benches that are intricately carved. You will be walking around for a while, so here are a few spots below that are not to be missed as you wander around.
Head to the Initiation Well
I would recommend heading here as soon as you enter, as it gets busy! As you enter, follow the signs to the initiation well. I got lost the first time, but essentially keep walking up and to the right. Here you will be able to walk into the initiation well and look all the way up and down. It is really an incredible well. As you can see, not easy to get a photo with our people in, luckily I just had an arm of someone else in the way. They were actually never used as wells but for spiritual purposes.
Visit the caves
Right at the bottom of the whole complex are a small labyrinth of caves. I would definitely recommend walking through but make sure to take a torch as it can get dark! There is a whole route of tunnels here and grottos. One of these is called the Labyrinth Grotto and there is also the Eastern Grotto.
Visit the main palace
This is just the most intricate architecture and a must for photos! There is a small walkway leading away from the main palace which is also beautiful. Just to the left of the main palace there is also a small cafe and toilet. You may need to take a visit here after an hour walking around here! The grounds actually cover 4 hectares!!
How much does it cost?
The entrance fee is €18 for an adult.
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Walk along the walls of Castelo dos Mouros
This is actually also a great viewpoint over Pena Palace and a great third stop on your one day in Sintra adventure! This castle is a bit more low key than the others. The main thing to do here it to walk the whole way around the extensive outer walls. The walls are high above the inside of the castle and provide stunning views over the edge. This is a medieval palace from the 9th century. Castelo dos Mouros was originally built as a watch tower, and it really does have an amazing 360 view all around.
How much does it cost?
This is the cheapest place here I think! At only €8, it is fairly priced, as there is much less to do compared to the other palaces around.
Sintra National Palace: If you have time during your One day in Sintra!
The National Palace of Sintra is right in the centre of the town, before you head up to see the rest of the palaces. This is one of the best preserved medieval palaces in Sintra. It is easily noticeable due to the two large white chimneys that come high out above the palace.
How much does it cost?
It costs €10 to enter the palace.
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This is one I wish I had gone to and it looks beautiful! It is a complete mix of styles and looks Arabic, at the same time gothic with some Indian architectural touches. The palace used to be a Sumer residence of the Englishman Sir Francis Cook, so it also has some English touches. It will take around an hour to see the whole palace here.
How much does it cost?
An adult ticket here is €8. The 435 bus does a route to this palace and back from the train station and costs €2.50.
How to get around Sintra?
As you leave the train station you will see a line of taxi drivers and tuk tuk drivers who will offer tours for one day in Sintra. For a few hours trip expect to pay around 30-40 Euro. If you do not get transport, then be prepared for a bit of a hike. Pena Palace is at the top of a 480 metre hill and a 50 minute walk from the train station. I would recommend getting the 434 tourist bus for €6.50 that will take you to a few of the best palaces! They all take around an hour to see so realistically, you wouldn’t be able to do all the ones I have listed in one day but see which ones you want to visit the most! With a car you are free to roam, just remember it’s all one way up the hill!
Take a few layers! I was here once in summer, where in Lisbon it was boiling. I reached Sintra and it is like a different country! I had to put on a pair of jeans. Luckily, we were on our way to the airport in the evening so had our belongings on us! Take some layers for sure, as also the higher you go the windier it will be, so I guess another tip is don’t wear anything flowy or you will be flashing someone for sure! Hope that helps for your onw day in Sintra, don’t want to spend it cold!
Other day trips from Lisbon:
The beach town of Cascais
This lovely seaside town is a great escape from the busy city! Stay overnight if you can, but a day trip is also perfect! There is a perfect old town here with tiled floors and Portuguese architecture. There are also some of the best places to eat seafood at here. You will also find some beautiful murals. The beaches here are great, with some shaded from the wind. However, the water in Portugal I always freezing so be warned! Even in summer I struggled to get into the water here.
How to get here?
It takes around an hour to drive here from Lisbon and also an hour by train. I went by train and it is very easy!
How to get around?
I would recommend hiring a bike to get around here! There is so much to see and lots of coastal walks, much faster by bike! There are also not many parking spaces so its much easier by bike.
What to do here?
Explore the old town
Portugese tiles galore, there are lots of lovely spots to explore here. You must also head to the nice restaurants to try seafood at.
What to eat?
My favourite Portuguese snack is Bacalhau – you HAVE to try this! This is a cod fish ball and it is divine.
Head to the beach!
Praia da Riberia
This is one of the largest beaches here and the most popular! It is right in front of a hotel and some nice restaurants and very close to the old town.
Praia da Rainha
This was my beach of choice here! A bit smaller but also shaded from the wind, here you can get warm enough to tempt yourself to go for a dip even! It is also right in front of the old town.
See the sunset from Boca do Inferno
This is a huge chunk of rock that is missing to form an impressive archway above the water. You can cycle here easily from Cascais centre. Also just down the road from Boca do Inferno is an amazing beach which does say no entry. However, once you go down there are lots of beautiful rock pools to see!
Watch the sunset at Cabo da Roca
This is the most western point of Europe! It is also the windiest place I have ever been to so make sure to wrap up even in summer!
How to get here?
Cabo da Roca is an hour drive from Lisbon. I would say its best to head here after a day at Sintra as it is much closer to Sintra! After a day of exploring head to Cabo da Roca for sunset.
Visit Praia da Ursa
Right by Cado da Roca is Praia da Ursa which has some incredible rock formations. Make sure to stop by here! You can either lookout it from above or you can do the whole walk down. It is well worth it as you may have the beach to yourself!
What to do in Lisbon?
Explore the Alfama Area
Castelo de Sao Jorge
These are beautiful castle remains set high up on a hill. Incredible views all around especially at sunset! The views over all the orange rooftops below are just magical!
Miradouro Santa Luzia
This is my favourite ‘miradouro’ here which means viewpoint. In summer this viewpoint has a pergola which is covered in purple flowers and is so so pretty!
Visit the Belem Area
This is a bit further out of the centre of Lisbon so you may have to take a bus or a taxi here but it doesn’t take too long!
Head to the Belem Tower
This is one of the most instagrammable spots here! I would recommend coming at sunrise or sunset for the best light and hopefully fewer people around.
The beautiful ancient monastery is a must see. It has a real Sintra feel, so if you enjoy Sintra then you have to head here too!
Explore Bairro Alto
This is an incredible ruin right in the centre of Lisbon. There isn’t a lot to see here but the old archways are just amazing and a must see while you are in Lisbon.
Elevador da Bica
One of the most Instagrammable spots here! This is the tram that goes up and down the hill. It is actually quite useful as the tiles up and down are quite slippery, so feel free to take the tram!
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Where to stay in Lisbon?
I would definitely recommend staying in the Alfama area as this is the prettiest!
I hope you enjoyed this post on the perfect one day in Sintra! Make sure not to miss Pena Palace and Quinta da Regaleira. Then for sunset go to Cabo da Roca and go and see the rock formations as Praia da Ursa. If you have any questions at all feel free to pop them in the comments!
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