O zi in Sintra, Portugalia – tinutul castelelor din povesti – obiective turistice

Sintra is one of the most attractive tourist destinations in Portugal, and once you get there, you'll understand why. It is the land of palaces and castles, exactly as described in childhood story books. It is an absolutely fascinating place, with many grand buildings, all gathered in one city.

If you arrive in Portugal, namely in Lisbon, it is worth having this place on the list to visit, you will definitely not be disappointed. We really liked it, that's why we recommend it to you too.

About Sintra

Sintra is a city in the district of Lisbon, located approximately 25 km from the capital of Portugal, with a population of almost 400,000 inhabitants. Sintra is a major tourist destination in Portugal, being inscribed on the UNESCO world cultural heritage list since 1995, due to its rich architectural heritage, beautifully harmonized with the natural environment of the area.

Sintra is a charming city, being located in a setting of unique beauty: hidden between pine forests, with breathtaking views over the ocean. Over the centuries, the natural charm of Sintra has also charmed kings and intellectuals, becoming very popular among the nobility.

Sintra is a perfect destination for a day trip from Lisbon or from the resort towns of Cascais or Estoril, and offers a lot of interesting sights: Pena Palace, Castle of the Moors, Quinta de Reguilera or the historic center.

Organizing a day trip to Sintra can seem a little overwhelming. The castles are not located at a short distance from each other, and to get from one place to another you have to change means of transport or walk. The road is not flattened, so expect to go up and down steep slopes and hills. But if you know before what you want to visit, you can organize your route so that you feel at the end that you have made the minimum effort. For example, the Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle are located quite close to each other and are worth visiting together. 

Sintra has several interesting castles, but for a one-day visit, I recommend visiting the most beautiful and attractive ones: Pena Palace, Moorish Castle or Quinta da Regaleira.

An itinerary idea for a day trip can be:

  • You arrive early in the morning in Sintra by train (or bus, if you come from Cascais, for example)
  • Visit Pena Palace and Moorish Castle, located next to each other
  • You return to the old center, where you can have lunch, and then you can explore the historical center of Sintra
  • Visit the Quinta da Regaleira (or the National Palace, your choice)
  • If you still have time, go visit Cabo da Roca and Cascais, and finally return to Lisbon from Cascais

How to get to Sintra

From Lisbon you can easily get to Sintra by train. There are regional trains, which depart from Rossio or Oriente stations, run at a frequency of 20 minutes, and a trip lasts 40 minutes. A round-trip ticket costs 4.6 euros, but you will also have to pay for the physical travel card, which costs 0.5 euros. With the Lisbon Card this trip is free.

Card de calatorie
Travel card used on regional trains (to Sintra or Cascais)

If you leave from Cascais or Estoril, you can get there quickly by bus 417 or 418.

However, it is not recommended to go by car. Sintra is not a destination to visit by car, the roads are very narrow and crowded, and most likely you will not find a place to park.

If you want to get rid of the stress of organizing your own trip to Sintra, a guided tour from Lisbon could be an option: Lisbon: Pena Palace, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, & Cascais Daytrip.

Ho to get around in Sintra

If you come to Sintra by train, you will arrive at the train station in the city. This can be one of those moments when you don't know which direction to take: with so many people getting off the train, you will be attacked by many taxi/tuk-tuk drivers who want to take you to the palaces at an overpriced price.

After you leave the station, if you turn right, you will reach the bus station where bus 434 departs. Attention, it is not the first bus station you see, you have to walk another 50-100 meters, until you see the station with many tourists waiting.

This is the starting stop for bus 434, the tourist bus that goes to all the main sights in Sintra. We traveled with it all day. Being off-season, it was not very crowded, but during the summer it is possible to form big waiting lines. This bus has only one direction of travel and is circular.

bus 434
With bus 434, you can quickly get from the train station to the Pena Palace or the Moorish Castle

There is a one-day ticket that costs 11.50 euros, with which you can travel on all the buses of the network in a hop-on hop-off mode, for 24 hours. You can purchase the ticket directly from the driver, paying with cash or card. You can get on and off the bus as often as you need. Besides 434, there are other lines that you can take, for example you can get to Cabo da Roca with bus 403. Below is a map of these buses.

Sintra bus route

There is also a single trip ticket, if you don't want to buy the one-day ticket, and a trip costs almost 4 euros. If you consider that you will not need to travel often by bus, it might be cheaper to buy single travel tickets. Where you will necessarily need transport is up to the Pena Palace and Moorish Castle (these two are close to each other).

In addition to the bus, you can also choose to ride a tuk-tuk or taxi. A trip by tuk-tuk to the top of the hill, to the Pena Palace, costs around 5-10 euros per person (must be negotiated). For taxis we have heard prices of 20 euros, to get from the center to the Pena palace.

I do not encourage you to walk to Pena Palace! The road is long and very steep, you will have a lot to climb, and it is better to save your energy and time to actually visit the attractions for which you came to Sintra in the first place.

Palatul Pena
Pena Palace

What to do in Sintra

Our itinerary for the day trip to Sintra was as follows:

  • We took the train at 8:10 from Rossio train station, Lisbon, and at 8:50 we were already in Sintra. We caught the first bus 434 leaving from Sintra bus station and went up to the Pena Palace.
  • We arrived at the gates of the Pena Palace around 9:30, but we still had to walk about 15-20 minutes to the entrance of the palace.
Palatul Pena
Pena Palace - from the gate you have to climb another 15-20 minutes to the palace
  • After the Pena Palace, we visited the Moorish Castle
Castelul Maurilor
Moorish Castle - From Pena Palace we walked to the castle
  • Then we went back with bus 434 to the old center in Sintra, where we had lunch and admired the center
  • We then visited Quinta da Reguilera

Sintra Tourist Attractions

1. Pena Palace (Palácio Nacional da Pena)

The most famous image of Sintra is that of Pena Palace, the colorful and cheerful symbol of Portugal. Built in the 19th century by King Ferdinand II, the eccentric palace combines different styles, such as Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance and Arabic.

Palatul Pena

It looks like a castle out of a storybook, with yellow, pastel pink and purple walls, located on top of a hill with a gorgeous view of the ocean. It is said that Walt Disney was inspired by this castle when he created the Disney world, and it is easy to understand why.

Palatul Pena
Palatul Pena

An entrance ticket to the Pena Palace costs 14 euros, and it is recommended to buy it online. On the spot, there is the risk that you will not find any tickets, or you will have to stand in long waiting lines. You can buy the ticket online here: Sintra: Pena Palace and Park Entrance Ticket. There is also a ticket just to visit the park and the outside of the palace, without entering the castle, which costs 7 euros.

2. Castle of the Moors (Castelo dos Mouros)

Right next to the Pena Palace, at a distance of about 400 meters, there is the Moorish Castle, another fascinating monument in Sintra. It is another castle located at the top of the hills, with a wonderful view of the Atlantic Ocean, the city and the Pena Palace.

Castle of the Moors

This castle is much older, dating from the 8th century, being built by the Moors. Today only a few ruins remained, but it is a pleasure to walk on the walls of the old castle. The feeling is unique, at this height, and the panoramas are spectacular. By far, this castle was my favorite in Sintra.

Castle of the Moors

3. Quinta da Reguilera

Quinta do Regaleira is a 19th-century Manueline-style villa surrounded by extravagant gardens, with elements of mythology and a mixture of the most bizarre styles: mystical, romantic, gothic, medieval and renaissance. The facade of the palace is completely covered with symbolic sculptures and looks like something out of a dark gothic novel. But what is more attractive for tourists here are its gardens. Walking there, I felt a little like Park Guell, in Barcelona. A garden with many paths, on the hill, where at every corner you met a surprising element: a fountain, a statue or a secret passage.

Quinta de Regailera
Quinta de Regailera, Sintra

The best known is The Initiation Well. It is a fountain with a depth of 27 meters, into which you can descend on foot, and at the end you will reach an underground labyrinth. However, it was never used as a fountain, having more of a secret ceremonial role. Symbolically, the fountain represents the road to Paradise, if you start from the bottom, from Hell. Or the descent into Hell, if viewed from the other direction.

Quinta de Regailera
The Initiation Well

The entrance ticket to the palace and its gardens costs 10 euros.

4. Sintra Old Center

If you come to Sintra, don't miss the historic center. A labyrinth with winding pedestrian streets and cubic stone on the floor, the old center offers a lot of restaurants or cafes. It is a place full of tourists who relax drinking a coffee or serving a meal, during a break from visiting the castles of Sintra.


5. Palatul National (Palacio Nacional de Sintra)

The first historical building I noticed in this town was the National Palace of Sintra, a former medieval palace. It is very easy to spot by the two 33-meter chimneys, built in the palace kitchen, and which seem to rise above all the buildings in the center.

We did not get to visit this palace, we only admired it from the outside, but it is one of the main attractions of Sintra. If you have time, it is a spot that should not be missed. An entrance ticket costs 10 euros: National Palace of Sintra and Gardens Fast Track Ticket.

Tips & Tricks – Travel tips for visiting Sintra

  • Buy tickets online, at least at Pena Palace. Here, if you don't buy them in time, you risk to be left without tickets. And on the spot, the waiting lines are quite long.
  • Start the day visiting the Pena Palace. It is the busiest tourist spot in Sintra, and in the peak season the queues are very long, with many tourists. The earlier you arrive in the morning, the less busier you will catch the place.
  • Do not walk up to the Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle! It is a very long distance, and you have to walk on a very steep cliff. I recommend you to save your energy and time to visit the palaces and castles.
  • Arrive at the gates of the Pena Palace at least half an hour before the entrance time indicated on the ticket. From the gates to the palace you still have a section to climb, about 15 minutes. And if you exceed the entry time on the ticket, you may come across some intolerant employees, that will not let you go inside the palace, because you were late.
  • Between the Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle there is a small distance of about 400 meters. Don't wait for the bus to get from one castle to another, you can easily walk.
  • Visit the Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle one after the other. There is no point in visiting one, returning to the city, and then going up the hill again to visit the other one. Be aware that bus 434 is circular and has only one direction of travel, so that from Pena, if you want to get to the Castle of the Moors, which is one stop ahead, you will have to redo the entire route of 434. The first bus station is at the Castle of the Moors, then comes the Pena Palace.
  • Do not take the return bus to center from Pena Palace! Go to Castle of the Moors, which is one stop ahead, and get on there. At the Pena Palace, the queue for the bus is always longer, but at the Moorish Castle it is less crowded and you can get on the bus faster.
  • Avoid going to Sintra by car. The roads are very narrow and steep, and you will not find parking spaces at the tourist attractions. Sintra is not a destination to visit by car.
  • If you move quickly, you can visit Cascais and Cabo da Roca in the same day - although perhaps these destinations deserve a day of their own to be visited leisurely. We finished visiting Sintra at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, but because it was getting dark early, we had no way to get to Cabo da Roca, and so we left this location for the next day (1 zi in Cabo da Roca si Cascais, Portugalia: Cum Ajungi In Cel Mai Vestic Punct Al Europei). But in summer, these places can be visited in one single day.