A trip to Sintra is a must. Only half an hour away from Lisbon is this municipality presided by the Pena Palace, one of the most important centers of European romantic architecture.
There are different alternatives to go to Sintra. Choosing one or another will depend on what you want to see or the time you have. Here are the best options:
The most popular and complete tour, at the best price
If you want to enjoy the charm of Sintra, Cascais, and Cabo da Roca visiting also the Pena Palace, this is the most complete option at the best price
A visit to Sintra during our trip to Lisbon will allow us to know a little more of the neighboring country and leaving the Portuguese capital, we can enjoy landscapes with a unique charm. But since we are determined to leave Lisbon for a few hours, it is best to make the most of the visit and make the most of our journey through Portuguese lands.
To begin with, in the surroundings of Sintra there are tourist sites that are worth a visit. This is the case of the municipality of Cascais or the impressive Cabo da Roca from where you can contemplate wonderful views of the Atlantic Ocean. This day trip to Sintra, Cabo da Roca, Cascais, and Estoril is designed to enjoy the contrasts of the Portuguese landscape.
And of course, high in the Sintra mountain range is the spectacular Palacio da Pena built in the 19th century by a German architect for Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. This is one of the most romantic palaces in Europe and therefore the main attraction of this small town. On this tour excursion to Sintra, you will be accompanied by an expert guide who will reveal its history and guide you through all its rooms. On the way back you will also pass through Estoril.
Meals and drinks are not included in this tour, but you will have free time to eat at one of the places recommended by the guide. You can also take some food with you, but I recommend you to try the local food.
Why I like this option: The best thing about this tour is that it is the most complete I could find at the best price. Plus, it also includes pick up and drop off at your hotel - it couldn't be more convenient!
Recommended if... you are looking for an economical and quality option to spend a different day during your trip to Lisbon, getting to know the highlights of the region.
Tour Sintra, Cascais, and Cabo da Roca with an expert guide just for you
If you don't like to join organized group tours but you don't want to give up the comfort and explanations of having a guide, with this option you and your group will go alone.
By now you must be convinced that Sintra is a must-see during your trip to Lisbon, so you just have to choose the option that best suits you. If you are one of those who do not enjoy organized tours with too many tourists around you, the best option is this private option, which allows you to do the same route as other guided tours, but with the difference that here you and your companions will be alone.
You will start the day in Sintra, where in addition to visiting the historic center, you will visit the Town Hall (also known as Palacio de Queluz) and stop at Casa Piriquita, a mythical pastry shop where you can taste the typical sweets of the area, the Travesseiros, and Queijadas.
You will also pass by Cabo da Roca to enjoy spectacular views of the Atlantic and head to the famous Pena Palace, where you will have an hour and a half to explore it in depth. Later, on your way back home, you will pass through the Estoril Coast.
Why I like this option: for a slightly higher price than other tours you can have an expert guide and private transportation just for you and your companions, which will give you a much more intimate experience and allow you to connect better with the guide, ask more questions, ask for suggestions or recommendations...
Recommended if... you want to enjoy a more premium experience than large groups can offer but enjoy the same tour.
In summary, we compare the two options
The most popular and complete tour, at the best price
If you want to enjoy the charm of Sintra and also know its famous Pena Palace, this is the most complete option at the best price. It also passes by Cascais and Cabo da RocaFrom $ 81 at Hellotickets
Sintra, Cascais and Cabo da Roca with a guide just for you
If you do not like to join organized group tours but you do not want to give up the comfort and explanations of taking a guide, with this option you and your group will go aloneFrom $ 81 at Hellotickets
Any guided tour will cover the main points of the visit to Sintra; some will focus more on the historic center, some on the surroundings, and some on the scenery. If you visit Sintra individually this is the list of sites you have to see (I recommend leaving Lisbon early to see them all).
The Pena Palace
It is the main attraction of Sintra and the greatest architectural exponent of the romanticism of the nineteenth century that Portugal has. It is located on top of a hill and you will distinguish it by its yellow and pink walls. You can find all the information you need to visit it in this other article about the entrances to the Pena Palace.
The National Palace of Sintra
In addition to the Pena Palace, Sintra has this other palace with white walls and orange roofs that is well worth a visit both inside and out. Architecture lovers will delight in analyzing the medieval, Gothic, Romanesque, Manueline, and Renaissance elements present on its facade. Although the opening hours change according to the season, you can visit it every day of the year for an approximate price of 12 dollars.
The Quinta da Regaleira
Palaces are the main attraction of Sintra, but this one is different from the rest. The Quinta da Regaleira palace looks like an enchanted castle full of turrets and sculptures adorning its brick-colored walls. The entrance fee ranges from 10 to 20 dollars depending on whether you want to visit with or without a guided tour and the schedule changes according to the season (although you can usually visit every day of the week throughout the year).
The Moorish Castle
On the top of a mountain is located this enclave also known as the Castle of Sintra. To get there you have to climb a stone stair and from the top, you will have breathtaking views of the Atlantic if the day is clear.
Ana's Traveller Tip
If you like gastronomy, in Sintra, you will find chef Sergi Arola's Bristol restaurant, but you will have to book well in advance.
When to go to Sintra
Like Lisbon, Sintra receives tourists all year round. In the high season (June to August) you will find the town more lively, but there will also be more queues to visit the Pena Palace and the entrance fees to the tourist sites will be higher.
As for the weather, it is good at any time of the year as there are no low temperatures that prevent you from visiting the city, and in summer in Sintra will always be less hot than in Lisbon. The ideal month to visit the city is September as the weather will be ideal and you won't find the summer crowds in the tourist spots.
How to get to Sintra from Lisbon on your own
If you are not a fan of guided tours (although it is something I always recommend both when it comes to sightseeing and visiting the most emblematic points of a city) you can also get to Sintra on your own easily and quickly.
The train to Sintra departs from Lisbon's Rossio station, located in the city center between the botanical garden and the Santa Justa elevator. The journey takes approximately 40 minutes, trains leave every half hour and cost approximately six dollars (with the Lisbon tourist card you will not pay for the train).
You can also get to Sintra by rental car from Lisbon, but the train works so well that I do not recommend it unless you are going to follow the route around the capital. Once you arrive in Sintra, you can move around the town on foot or by bus 434 that connects the historic center with the Pena Palace.
Ana's Traveller Tip
Ask for queijadas or travesseiros in Sintra's pastry shops; they are the typical sweets of the region.
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Sintra is not the only attractive place you can visit during your trip to Lisbon without having to travel long distances. The surroundings of the Portuguese capital are exciting and if you have not yet booked your plane ticket, I advise you to add a couple of extra days to your vacation to be able to visit them all.
The Algarve, Fatima, Sesimbra, Nazaré, Óbidos, Arrábida, Evora... if you haven't heard of these places after visiting Lisbon you will definitely be familiar with them. In this article about Best Tours and Day Trips from Lisbon you will find all the necessary information about what you can see during your trip.