An alluring gem just half an hour away from Lisbon, Sintra is best known for its historical and beautiful castles that attract tourists from around the world. Although the castles are most definitely must-see attractions, there’s more to the region to experience, and to thus create the perfect day trip! Here’s everything you need to know about planning a day trip from Lisbon to Sintra.
Getting There – How to Get from Lisbon to Sintra
Assuming you’re coming from Lisbon, there are a few different ways to get from Lisbon to Sintra: train, car rental, Uber, or hired car.
The train goes back and forth multiple times per day from Rossio station in downtown Lisbon to Sintra, but it will still require you to hop on a bus or grab an Uber to get to the castles. There is a Sintra Green Card that will get you all the transportation you need, but you’re still at the mercy of their schedules.
Renting a car gives you the flexibility to go where you want when you want; however, we would advise staying away from renting a car to get from Lisbon to Sintra because of the lack of parking at many of the castles, as well as the tight, winding roads that you’ll have to navigate.
We recommend leaving the driving to someone else! Either hire a driver for the day or Uber from location to location. This gives you great flexibility with your itinerary, while also not having to worry about any of the driving or parking yourself.
We opted to take Ubers throughout the day, which worked out great! We were able to travel easily from downtown Lisbon to Sintra and get directly to each of our castle destinations, while also doing it very affordably (Ubers are fairly inexpensive in Portugal, and we were splitting each ride between three people). See below for a breakdown of our itinerary, with times and costs included.
We also recommend packing a picnic and lots of water for your day trip from Lisbon to Sintra as there are not a ton of good food options available at the palaces.
As mentioned above, we recommend using Uber to get from Lisbon to Sintra, and to get to all the different spots you want to hit. Here’s our itinerary, with the total prices of our Ubers included.
Lisbon to Sintra’s Pena Palace – 35 minutes – € 36.30
Pena Palace to Moors Castles – 15 minutes walking
Moors Castle to Monserate Palace – 15 minutes – € 7.27
Monserate to Adraga Beach – 20 minutes – € 8.56
Adraga Beach back to Lisbon – 50 minutes – € 37.24
Total travel cost – € 89.37 (€ 30 per person in our case)
Which Castles You Should Visit
Named one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal, Palacio de Pena, or Pena National Palace, is not to be missed. It is truly spectacular. However, be forewarned that its wonder is no secret and that by midday it can feel like every single tourist in Portugal is at the palace. For that reason, we recommend being among the first ones there in the morning.
The palace opens at 9am daily, so buy your tickets ahead of time (more on this below) and make sure you’re there for 8:45am. Once inside the gates, the uphill walk to the palace takes about 10 minutes. There is also a bus that will take you right up to the palace if you or anyone in your group can’t do the walk, but the line for this grows quickly and you have to buy extra tickets for the bus, so we’d really suggest walking if you can.
We recommend that instead of going inside the palace first, you go through the archway to the back courtyard first. From there you can do the wall walk and have the whole outdoor area to yourselves before the crowds start to come. However, if you’re hoping to see the inside of the palace as well, don’t dilly dally as by the time 10:30-11am rolls around, the lineup to get into the castle can be an hour or so long.
Castelo Dos Mouros, also known as Moors Castle, is a 5 minute walk from the entrance/exit of Pena Palace. A hilltop medieval castle from the Muslim Iberia era, we would definitely recommend taking an hour or so to explore the ruins of this unique fort.
There are many pathways through the ruins. Be sure to walk along the wall of the fort where you’ll get great views of Pena Palace across the ridge, as well as the Sintra region down below.
If you’re trying to grab an Uber from Moors Castle, we recommend walking 5 minutes back up to the Pena Palace entrance gates. This will give you a better chance of catching one since there are ones dropping off here all the time.
A short drive down the hill from Moors Castle and Pena Palace is a palatial mansion called Palacio de Monserrate, or Monserrate Palace. This palace was restored a couple decades ago and is immaculate. Though the actual palace is much smaller than Pena Palace, the grounds here include several beautiful gardens that you can walk around and explore, and some great green spaces where you can enjoy a picnic.
How to Skip Lines in Sintra and Save Money on Tickets
Buy your tickets online ahead of time to skip the lines and save money! Don’t waste your time standing in line to buy tickets at the castles, that can be a huge buzz kill and can throw off your plans. Make sure to buy tickets for all of the castles you want to see online the day before and you’ll be able to walk right in using the PDF tickets on your phone. Plus, you’ll save 5% versus the gate prices!
You can buy all the tickets you’ll need here.
After Checking out the Palaces, Head to the Beach!
If you do it right and start your palace tour first thing in the morning, you should have a wide-open afternoon to hit the beaches. The palaces are incredible, but they’re also a lot of walking and a lot of crowds, so combining a morning of palaces with an afternoon at the beach is the right way to do it!
There are three beaches (or “praias”) that we would recommend in the Sintra region: Ursa, Adraga, and Ribeiro do Cavalo. All are a 15-20 minute drive from Monserrate Palace.
Ursa beach is spectacularly rugged, however, it requires a bit of a hike to get down and back up to it, so if you’re tuckered from palace-ing all morning, maybe take a pass on this one.
Adraga Beach also features some rugged beauty, while being much more accessible. There is a basic bar/restaurant located at the beach where you can grab a beer for €1.50 and grab a spot on the soft sand. Although not always perfect for swimming, the waves here are often spectacular as they crash into the cliffs that bookend the beach.
Heading back to Lisbon for dinner after a long day of exploring and wondering where to eat? CLICK HERE to check out our Lisbon restaurant guide!