The best Sintra itinerary for one, two, or three days

Best Sintra Itinerary for One, Two, or Three Days

In Europe, Portugal, Trip itineraries by JurgaTHIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS

Fairytale-like Sintra is a popular day trip from Lisbon, but there is so much to see and do in Sintra that you can easily spend a week in the area. In this post I share our best suggestions for a Sintra itinerary for one, two, or three days, as well as practical tips to help you plan you trip to one of the most visited places in Portugal.

We spent two days in Sintra during our 10 day road trip in Portugal, and could have easily spent one more. On the other hand, two days was enough time to see the main landmarks of Sintra. If you want to visit the very best places of Sintra, one day is really short. I advise to come for two or three days and spend one or two nights in Sintra. But don’t despair if you have just one day in Sintra. You can still see a lot. Find out!

Read also: How to see the best of Lisbon in one day.

 

How to see the best of Sintra Portugal in 1, 2, or 3 days - itinerary, suggestions, and practical tips

How to see the best of Sintra in one day

If you only have one day to visit Sintra, one of the best ways to do it is by taking a day trip from Lisbon. There are many organised day trips. Alternatively, you can take a train and visit the main Sintra landmarks individually.

You can find more practical information for visiting Sintra below. But first – what to see and do in Sintra in one, two, or three days.

What to see and do in Sintra in one day

If you have one day in Sintra, visit the Pena Palace and the Pena Park, the Moorish Castle, and either Palace of Sintra (Palacio Nacional de Sintra) or Quinta da Regaleira. Leave some time to explore the old town of Sintra and have a nice dinner at a local restaurant (avoid touristy places!).

I think that Pena Palace and Park, Moorish Castle, and Quinta da Regaleira and its gardens are the three absolute musts in Sintra! However, depending on how many hours you have and how long the castles stay open, you may only have the time to visit two of them in one day.

The most popular Sintra itinerary for one day includes the visit to Pena Palace with Pena Park and the Moorish Castle. Sometimes also Palacio Nacional de Sintra (in the old town, not to be confused with Palacio da Pena on top of the hill).

In my opinion, however, Sintra Palace is not as impressive as Quinta da Regaleira. If you have to choose between the Palace of Sintra and Quinta da Regaleira, go for the latter. On the other hand, you need more time to see Quinta, so it really depends on your schedule.

Sintra in one day – suggested itinerary

I advise to start your day in Sintra with a taxi ride to Pena Palace. This colourful castle is located on top of the hill, so it’s best to start here and walk your way downwards towards the town centre. After visiting the romantic Pena Palace, you can walk through the beautiful Pena gardens to the lower entrance of the park. Pena Park is huge and you could easily spend half a day here, but even if you don’t have much time, try to at least do this short walk.

TIP: Queues can be very long here, so it’s best to buy your skip-the-line tickets in advance or at one of the ticket machines at the entrance. If you are visiting more than one castle, you can get a combination ticket as well, but the price difference compared to two separate tickets is very minimal.

From the lower entrance of the Pena Park, it’s just a couple of minutes walking back up the hill to the entrance of the Moorish Castle. However, the actual castle is located pretty far from the main road, so it’s another 10-15 minutes walk before you get there.

Pena Palace as seen from the Moorish Castle - Sintra Portugal

Pena Palace as seen from the Moorish Castle

 

When you exit the Moorish Castle after your visit, you will see signs for Sintra historical town centre. The walk is well sign-posted, easy to do, and it’s a nice relaxing way to end your day in Sintra. Alternatively, walk back to the main road where you came from, and take a taxi, a bus, or a tuk-tuk.

A beautiful walk from the Moorish Castle to Sintra old town

The walk from the Moorish Castle to Sintra old town is really nice

 

The above was our Sintra itinerary for the first day. Keep in mind that we arrived rather late since we were driving from Porto that day, and also got stuck in the traffic in Sintra for more than an hour. After checking in at our hotel, we only started sightseeing around 1.30PM.

We visited the Pena Palace and Pena Park (however only shortly). After that we headed to the Moorish Castle, and took the stairs down to the centre of Sintra.

We asked our hotel for dinner recommendations and had a really good meal at Restaurante Tulhas, just a bit outside of the main tourist routes.

If we would have had 2-3 hours more, we could have easily added one more castle to our itinerary or spent more time in the gardens of Pena.

TIP: pack a picnic and spend the whole day on the mountain. Count at least 3 hours for Pena Palace and Pena Park and another 2 hours for the Moorish Castle. It will take you at least half an hour to walk back down to the old town of Sintra. You might still have the time to visit Palacio Nacional in the late afternoon. If you decide to visit Quinta da Regaleira on the same day, make sure that you have at least 2-3 hours for it.

If you want to see more than two major castles of Sintra in one day, make sure to arrive very early and plan to stay till the closing time in the evening. 

TIP: The best way to visit Sintra in just a day is by taking an organised tour from Lisbon. Half-day tours focus on just the main highlights of Sintra. The most popular day tours include not just Sintra, but also Cabo da Roca and Cascais. You can also opt for a private tour from Lisbon.

The Moorish Castle is not to be missed when in Sintra Portugal

Walking the walls of the Castle of the Moors

Discovering the charming old town of Sintra in Portugal

Sintra old town

Palacio Nacional de Sintra - Palace of Sintra in Portugal

The Palace of Sintra

 

Sintra two day itinerary

If you have two days in Sintra, in addition to Pena Palace, Pena Park and the Moorish Castle, you should visit Quinta da Regaleira, Monserrate Palace, and Palace of Sintra.

Don’t rush and take your time to discover the beautiful gardens of Pena, Quinta da Regaleira, and Palacio de Monserrate.

You don’t need a car to visit any of these places. Only Palacio de Monserrate is a bit further from Sintra, but you can get there by bus or taxi as well.

Monserrate Palace in SintraPortugal

Monserrate Palace

Exploring the gardens of Monserrate Palace in Sintra Portugal

Don’t miss the gardens of Monserrate Palace

 

Inside the Monserrate Palace in Sintra Portugal

Inside the Monserrate Palace

 

Three days in Sintra

If you have three days in Sintra and you have a car, you can visit several more places nearby. Some suggestions include Convento dos Capuchos, Palacio de Seteais (it’s also a hotel, so budget permitting, why not stay in this beautiful castle), Vila Sassetti, Santuario da Peninha, and the beautiful coast with Cabo da Roca, Praia da Adraga, etc.

Quinta da Regaleira castle and the chapel surrounded by beautiful gardens is one of the musts in any Sintra itinerary

Quinta da Regaleira

Explorig the gardens of Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra Portugal

The gardens of Quinta da Regaleira

Monserrate Palace in Sintra Portugal

Monserrate Palace is not to be missed!

 

Practical information for visiting Sintra

1. Organised half-day and day trips to Sintra from Lisbon

Organised Sintra day trips have several advantages: you can see more in less time, you don’t have to queue for the tickets (you can avoid this by buying your tickets online in advance too), and you don’t have to worry about getting from one place to another in Sintra itself.

Entrance tickets to the castles are included in your day trip rate. It’s the best option for those who are short on time or just want to take it easy.

On top of that, many of the organised tours also visit the beautiful coast and Cabo da Roca, and some even Cascais, e.g. this highly-rated popular tour.

2. Sintra day trip from Lisbon by train

If you rather visit Sintra individually, it’s not advisable to come by car. Traffic in and around Sintra is the worst we saw during our 10-day trip in Portugal. You will loose hours in the traffic! Instead, take a train from Rossio station in Lisbon and you will be in Sintra in less than an hour. Make sure you leave early in the morning, so that you have enough time to see at least two main castles of Sintra. Trains run every 10 minutes (in summer) and cost less than 5EUR return.

Note that Sintra train station is located far from all the castles and from the old town. You can either take a bus (5 EUR), a tuk-tuk (5-10 EUR/pp depending on the distance), or a taxi. In my opinion, taxi is by far the best option. It’s cheap, it has airco, and it’s quick.

Tuk-tuk is fun to do if you are visiting Portugal with kids, but with a family it’s quite an expensive option since they charge per person. On top of that tuk-tuk is really slow going up the mountain and is extremely noisy. We took tuk-tuk for a short ride from Sintra old town to the upper entrance of Quinta da Regaleira. The kids loved it, so it was worth it for the experience, not so much for being the most practical solution…

3. Avoid summer weekends

Sintra is popular with Portuguese as well, so try to avoid visiting on weekends and public holidays.

4. Getting around in Sintra

Although Sintra can easily be reached by train from Lisbon, the main attractions of Sintra are located pretty far from each other. So you will need to use public transport to get around.

The Palace of Sintra is the only castle that is located in town itself, and even then it’s about 20min walk from the station. Pena Palace is located high on the hill (it’s a steep climb –  I wouldn’t advise doing it on foot), and the Moorish Castle is half-way on the same road as Pena Palace.

Quinta de Regaleira is not that far from the old town, and you can walk there (10-15 min), as is Villa Sasetti. Palacio de Monserrate, Convento dos Capuchos, Santuario de Peninha, are all located further away, and are best reached by car or public transport.

Pena Palace can be reached by car, and there is some limited parking nearby, on the side of the road. We were in Sintra by car as part of our Portuguese road trip, but after all the traffic chaos in town, we gladly left the car at our hotel. We took a taxi to Pena Palace, and for the 5 of us, the cost was just over 5 EUR. It’s really not worth all the hassle to try and drive up the hill in your own car. On top of that, if you don’t have a car, you can better explore the area without having to return to the spot where you parked it (which is high on the hill, if you start at Pena Palace).

5. Entrance tickets for the castles of Sintra

Sintra is probably the most expensive place you will visit in Portugal. Having said that, the entrance tickets for each castle individually are not that expensive, but it quickly adds up if you visit three or four castles with a big family.

Some of the castles belong to the same foundation and you can buy combination tickets (e.g. Pena Palace, Palacio Nacional, Moorish Castle, Palacio de Monserrate..). Combination tickets save you just a couple of euros, but you need to decide which places to visit before you buy the ticket. Quinta da Regaleira is not part of the same group and requires a separate ticket.

TIP: As already said before, if you want to avoid long queues, buy your tickets online in advance. However, families with children are better off buying family tickets at the entrance (at the time of our visit these were not available nor mentioned online). Family tickets will save you a lot of money, especially for bigger families, but be prepared to queue.

For more practical information on opening times and ticket prices check these websites: Parques de Sintra and Quinta da Regaleira.

6. What to pack for Sintra

No matter the season, sensible shoes are a must in Sintra. Cobbled streets, steep walkways, and the gardens of the palaces require sturdy footwear. I would suggest carrying a day backpack with picnic lunch and a reusable water bottle. If you are visiting Sintra in summer, don’t forget sun protection.

7. Where to stay in Sintra

Sintra is an extremely popular destination and has limited accommodation options, so it is advisable to book well in advance. There isn’t really a good or a bad area to stay. If you have lots of luggage, you may want to stay close to the railway station. We stayed in the old town and found this location excellent for sightseeing.

There are no really big hotels in Sintra, rather smaller hotels, B&B’s and guest houses. You can find accommodation in all price ranges, just make sure to book in advance. Sintra is one of the most popular places in Portugal, no matter the season. If you are coming by car, parking might be tricky, so it’s best to check if your accommodation has private parking. Ours didn’t and we were lucky to find one free spot nearby, but we saw many people driving around looking for a parking place. Sintra is really not the best place to visit by car.

Here are some really nice accommodation options in Sintra:

Here are some more affordable highly-rated accommodation options close to Sintra centre:

If you are coming by car (or don’t mind taking a taxi a bit more) and want to stay outside the busy tourist areas check these options:

Find all best deals for Sintra accommodation here!

Have you been to Sintra? Feel free to share your experience by leaving a reply below! Our readers will appreciate all recommendations that help them plan the trip. Thank you!


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Sintra itinerary for 1, 2, or 3 days including all the must-see landmarks and practical tips for planning your trip to one of the most popular places in Portugal

Best itinerary suggestions for one to three days in Sintra Portugal
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Comments

  1. Hi there! This was very helpful, and I’m hoping you wouldn’t mind my asking a few questions. Planning a visit to Lisbon in February and was hoping to make it to Sintra while there. My husband and I are debating between doing our own day trips from the city (probably 2 separate days) or actually doing a 2-night stay in Sintra in the middle of our vacation (and then going back to Lisbon after). One of the things we want to visit/see in Sintra is Azenhas do Mar, so for sure we can’t do it all in one day trip. But, in February, is it worth staying in Sintra–are enough restaurants/bars/sites open or is it too off-season? On the flip side, is the public transport to/in/around Sintra not great during that time of year (making staying in Sintra perhaps better)? Thank you so so much in advance!

    1. Author

      Hi Lauren, honestly, I don’t know how Sintra is in February. My guess is that it’s indeed really low season. I think during the day it will be busy enough, but not sure how it looks like in the evening and what’s open or closed…
      The same with public transport – no idea if you can easily get to Azenhas do Mar. I guess, you can always take a taxi as well. Or you should inquire locally. Maybe just try calling the tourism board or one or the other hotel in the area?
      Alternative is indeed to stay in Lisbon and travel to Sintra for a day, or two separate days. Or you can take an organised tour that brings you to all these places (like this small group day tour, for example. It will be more rushed of course, but it’s an easy and simple way to get there from Lisbon. You can always go back to Sintra again to visit the places that were not covered by the tour, so you get the best of both worlds and little organising to do.
      Hope this helps. Enjoy your trip!

      1. Yeah, perhaps I’ll investigate more with some local resources. Thought it couldn’t hurt to ask in case you had the scoop! Regardless, your info has been rather helpful. Thanks so much for posting and answering me 🙂

  2. Oct 7, 2018 Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences. I am using your suggestions in my plans to visit Sintra in May 2019.

    1. Author

      Glad to hear that. You’ll love Sintra, just take your time to explore the beautiful gardens of the castles!

  3. Your blog was very useful, thank you. We managed to squeeze Palace Pena, Moorish Castle and Quinta da Regaleira in from 11.00 to 4.30. Pena Palace was mostly viewed externally. The long queue to gain entry internally continued inside the palace, spoiling the experience so we left a third of the way into it. The Moorish Castle was awesome! We walked up to the highest tower and then down through the beautiful garden paths to the streets. Views from the tower and of the Moorish Castle from Sintra are breathtaking. The Initiation Well and Unfinished well made visit to Quinta da Regaleira a must and we weren’t disappointed. Sintra is a definitely a must do on anyone’s itinerary to Lisbon and we agree that 3 days would be ideal so you may see it at your leisure. Free parking is available in Sintra but tricky to get.

    1. Author

      Thank you for sharing your experience in Sintra, Pele. I’m sure it will be helpful to our readers.

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