When you are in Lisbon – the capital of Portugal, Sintra is definitely going to be on your list of popular places to visit. Sintra is UNESCO heritage site and indeed a beautiful place which must not be skipped. But having said that, the place has become so much popular that it is jam-packed with tourists all day during high season. Visiting Portugal during offseason can be one of the options to avoid this crowd. But how about when you are in Sintra during high season? Keep reading this insider guide to know how to make your visit most enjoyable and to make use of as much time as possible. By the end of this article, you will be able to plan your day trip to Sintra more efficiently.
How to visit Sintra in one day?
I am sharing some facts about Sintra- one of the most popular places in Portugal and some insider tips to explore it wisely in one day.
The most important tip for visiting Sintra as a day trip from Lisbon is to start your day as early as possible. By car, it takes about half an hour and by train about an hour. I would suggest taking a train over car even though it takes double the time. Why? wait…I have explained this in the next point.
If you can start early, obviously, you will get more time in Sintra. In addition to that, you will be able to avoid crowded trains as well. Believe me, later you go, more crowded the train will be. The journey between Lisbon and Sintra is nothing like scenic. So, grab a seat, take a nap in the train and arrive fresh in Sintra.
Use public transport
As I said above, a car is the fastest way to reach Sintra from Lisbon. But do you know, this is the only positive point for taking a car to Sintra. Let’s understand the location of this place. Sintra is located in the scenic lush green hills. The roads are narrow, demanding some skillful driving. As you will be visiting Sintra during peak season, you are most likely to get stuck in the traffic jams. In addition to that, you may not be always lucky to find parking at all of the sites. Therefore I would prefer to take a train from Lisbon to Sintra.
You may read sometimes that Sintra is a comparatively small place and can be explored on foot. That is true but think about how much more time will you need to walk everywhere? The best option to reach all the tourist places in Sintra is to travel by public transport. Public bus in Sintra is the cheap and convenient mode of transport. Now you may get a question in your mind that how to avoid crowded public transport? This takes us to the next point, so let’s see it.
This bus starts from the Sintra train station and follows a circular route covering most of the popular sites. Read more about this bus 434 route here.
Bus 434 starts from 9.15 in the morning. During high season, this bus gets long lines and thus long waiting time. Try to get the first bus so that you can cover as many places as you can in Sintra. In the next point, I have explained some facts about different sites.
If you can reach Sintra much before the first 434 bus, that will be like a big step to the accomplishment of your successful one day in Sintra. Most of the attractions in Sintra open by 9.30. Before that, you can walk around the lanes of Sintra center or enjoy some local delicacies for the breakfast. If you wish, you can pack your lunch from some bakery (This is not mandatory, there are one or two restaurants at each attraction). Plan your day and purchase the entrance tickets and get ready for the day. Where to buy your tickets? read the next point.
Most of the monuments in Sintra can be visited only with the entrance fees. You can buy them at the entrance of each site. In order to save time and to skip long lines at the ticket offices, I suggest you buy all your entrance tickets at once at the tourist office in the Sintra center. They sell entrance tickets to all tourist sites and guided tours as well. Plan your day with the help of some tips and facts listed in this article and purchase your tickets in advance and you are all set to enjoy your day. This way, you can at least skip the lines for entrance tickets at each place.
Watch a video of our visit to Sintra
Prioritise the places
Even though Sintra is a small place, there is a lot to see. There are palaces, museums, Moorish castle, Vilas etc. Each site requires considerable time to explore. If you are visiting Sintra as a day trip from Lisbon, it will be just impossible to cover all these places. Therefore I suggest you listing these sites as per your interests. It’s ok to skip something even if it is a much popular site but you have no interest at all. You can choose to visit only one or two of the palaces and museums as per your interests. This will ensure that you will get sufficient time to enjoy the site rather than just running all around the places.
I would like to mention some facts about important sites in Sintra. This will help you filter the list of attractions to visit as a day trip to Sintra.
- The Pena Palace is the most popular place in Sintra. Its location, gardens and the palace interiors are the most attractive.
- The entire Pena Palace complex is spread over a large area. One can even spend the entire day in this palace itself.
- There is a shuttle bus service from the entrance to the palace but at an extra cost.
- There can be a long waiting line to enter the palace.
- The garden around this palace has various elements. One needs to walk around the hilly terrain to explore it.
- There are only a few ruins in the castle. The castle wall is the main attraction here.
- Again, it involves lots of walking along the walls.
- The views over various small towns around Sintra and up to the Atlantic Ocean are mesmerizing.
- This castle is the photographers’ paradise. There are lots of spots for landscape photography. Check out this photo we clicked during our visit to the Moorish castle. Isn’t it stunning?
Quinta da Regaleira
- This is another famous palace in Sintra. It is mainly popular for its architecture, underground passages and museum.
- It is located a bit away from the other attractions. You can walk there from National Museum and it will take about 20 min and all up-hill walk.
As per my opinion, these three places are the ‘must visit’ sites in Sintra. I just want to emphasize that all these places involve lots of walking on hilly terrain. If you are comfortable with this much exercise, definitely go there.
To make your Day trip to Sintra more efficient and to cover all three sites, I will say, go to Quinta da Regaleira first, then return to National Palace of Sintra (it is also worth visiting) and take a bus 434 to the Moorish Castle and then, visit Pena Palace.
You can end your day by taking a direct bus from Pena Palace to Sintra train station and then by train back to Lisbon.
I hope this insider guide to one day visit to Sintra from Lisbon will help you plan your day wisely and get most out of the visit.
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