Sintra is quite simply the closest town to a true life fairytale! Nestled amongst rolling hills and storybook like settings, this is a town you have to visit if you ever find yourself in Lisbon.
Being Portuguese and growing up with Portuguese grandparents that lived in Lisbon meant many a holiday were and still are spent abroad. Lisbon is basically second home and yet after a lifetime of wonderful trips, there is still something new to experience everytime.
Each trip I find my heart tugging to find another gem that Sintra holds. Whether it’s a historic palace or just a quaint little coffee shop to sit and take in “pinch me is this real?” moments.
How to get to Sintra from Lisbon?
Getting to Sintra can take around 30-40 minutes by train and just about the same time if you were to self drive on the A37. The train leaves from the Rossio station in central Lisbon and leaves every 20 minutes on weekdays and hourly on Sundays. This trip costs around as little as €2.50 return. From personal experience, I would highly recommend this just so you can experience the beautiful scenery that passes by and you also get to arrive at a very ornate tiled station. Parking in Sintra is also a little tricky and the roads can be very narrow. We may or may have not scratched a few car mirrors against walls
I’ve arrived, now what?
From the station you can decide whether you want to walk around or catch a tuk tuk which will take you around to all the major sights. This is such a fun way of getting around. You get to experience the crisp air, forest smells and it saves your legs. There are like a million stairs (maybe an exaggeration) but if you are wanting to give your glutes a serious work out, walking may be the option for you. Don’t forget to wear comfy shoes that you can walk in.
There are various palaces to visit which are all so different and worth seeing. To see all of them in one day may be a bit of a rush but as Sintra is an easily accessible day trip from Lisbon you can always plan to go back on another day. Below I have suggested two different palaces which you can do in a day and then still have time to enjoy the quaint restaurants and coffee shops in Sintra town before heading back into central Lisbon. Palacio da Pena is a breathtaking Romanticist castle which was built at the highest point of Sintra and is surrounded by the most incredible gardens. I would recommend buying a full pass to explore both the inside of the palace and the grounds. Quinta da Regaleira is an intricate palace which boasts an incredible system of tunnels that you can enter at multiple points and is home to the Initiation Well you see all over social media – trying to get the perfect picture was almost near impossible as people flock to this part of the palace. So those who manage have some serious skill. This palace is walking distance from the town, so it tends to get busier than the other palaces. Try aim to get there either early in the morning or later on in the afternoon after lunch.
Best Time to Head to Sintra
Most visits to Sintra have entailed rain, dreamy mist or the most glorious sunshine. But you just never know what the weather is truly going to be like. The climate differs from Lisbon and is usually 2-5 degrees cooler. In summer try aim to get to Sintra in the morning or in the afternoon after lunchtime as it can get really hot. Hats, sunscreen and all the sun protection you can think of is probably necessary for you to be prepared for summer here. Then the total opposite in winter – think umbrellas, warm coats and waterproof shoes.
If you wish to spend a night in Sintra, you can either find yourself an airbnb or book into a hotel. Just do so in advance as they tend to book out ahead of time.