Things To Do In Sintra Portugal – Just a Day Trip From Lisbon
Photos of castles and enchanted estates in Portugal had always intrigued me but always seemed like they were such far off places that I would only explore through the pages of National Geographic or other such magazines. You can imagine my surprise when I realized that I would be able to visit these magical sights on a short day trip while we were staying in Lisbon!
There are lots of enjoyable day trips from Lisbon, but for me, this one was on top of the charts! Our day trip from Lisbon to Sintra was filled with marvelous places to see and fun things to do. Here are our recommendations and tips on how to have an amazing time on a day trip to Sintra. Yes, it includes visiting castles!
Take a Day Trip From Lisbon By Train & Explore Sintra
Our day started around 11 am (it was nice not having to wake up too early!) on a Friday in late July. After enjoying a quick breakfast in our Airbnb, we set out on the 25-minute walk to the train station. We were staying in the Alfama District of Lisbon during our weeklong vacation there.
We highly recommend staying in this area for a cool experience of one of the oldest places in all of Europe!
Though Lisbon is a hilly city, we really enjoyed walking everywhere so the walk to Rossio Station was no big deal for us (actually it was a good way to go by some areas we had not seen before). Once we arrived at the station, we realized that the first floor had a Starbucks cafe, which is a nice option for grabbing something if you haven't had breakfast. It was also good to see that the train station has luggage storage lockers available for rent. We had been wondering about this since we had a lot of luggage with us and were trying to decide whether to visit Porto as well or not. Anyway, I didn't notice any toilets around the station, but there were some bathrooms once you enter the train boarding area with your ticket.
The ticket box offices are located on the second floor of the train station and this is also the area where you enter to board the train. Each of our round-trip tickets cost less than €5 ($5.43USD)!
I thought this was a great deal for a 40-minute train ride!
The train ride is decently scenic and pretty relaxing. Keep in mind, there are several other ways to get here from Lisbon.
Once you arrive at Sintra, it's a 10-minute walk to the Historic Town Center. There are also options to take a tuk-tuk or VW Bug if you don't feel like walking. It was an enjoyable walk in the warm Portugal summer sun.
The town center is a quaint space with restaurants, cafes, ice cream and wine shops. We grabbed a quick sandwich here from one of the cafes for lunch to fuel the rest of our day. The 434 bus stop is also located here. This is the bus for going around to all of the sightseeing spots in Sintra and makes it really easy and convenient to see everything in a single day as it is specifically designed for the day trippers!
Things To Do In Sintra Portugal
Our first stop was Quinta da Regaleira and, of course, we chose to take the 15-minute walk there. See below for details on this and the rest of our day in Sintra.
Get Enchanted By The Fascinating Gardens At Quinta da Regaleira
My only knowledge of Quinta da Regaleira was in reference to the Initiation Well. You may have seen photos of this spiraling well with moss-covered walls. Yep, that's located inside the 20th-century residence in Sintra. The grant mansion with its gothic exterior is an intriguing architectural sight to see.
What You Need To See Here:
The real cool stuff is in the back, though.
Pro-Traveler Tip: We took about 2 hours to walk around the grounds, so allow plenty of time for yourself to really take it all in here.
The gardens are where you need to go and spend most of your time in! We never bothered to enter the building itself, but admired it from the outside as we walked past to get to the "backyard."
The grounds at Quinta da Regaleira have the most fascinating features with secret tunnels running underneath the gardens and caves, along with mystical ponds and decorative fountains as well as towers with great views of the valley below. Explore the almost 10-acre "yard" and be sure to look for the hidden references to the Knights Templar, the Masons, and dark alchemy.
I have to say, our exploration of the grounds here was the most fun I had in Sintra that day!
Get Around Sintra In Style
After walking around Quinta da Regaleira we knew we wouldn't be abale to walk all the way up the mountain to the Castle Of The Moors (and we didn't want to waste any time in transit).
A guy in a bright yellow VW Bug caught our attention on the street and asked if we wanted a tour in his car.
We couldn't pass up the opportunity to ride in a convertible and get a fun tour guide along with it!
For 5 Euro (per person) we were given a nice ride up the hill with the fresh breeze through our hair. It was a great way to ride around in the warm summer day and we would highly recommend it! If you happen to see them in Sintra take the opportunity to hop on. I'm sure it beats the ride on the bus!
You can also experience a full tour from Lisbon. See the tour below:
Hike The Walls At Castelo Dos Mouros (Castle Of The Moors)
Wanna feel like you're on top of the world? This castle on the hilltop will take your breath away and give you the most stunning 360-degree views!
Hiking the stone walls of this 9th-century castle with the breeze from the Atlantic Ocean swirling all around you is one of the most exhilarating experiences we have had on our travels. It's no wonder the Moors, who occupied Portugal at that time made this fortification on the hill. Not only did they have the ability to see all around them, they were also able to enjoy the cool weather in the summer!
We recommend hiking the length of the wall. You will have the chance to snap some incredible photos! Additionally, this castle didn't seem to be as busy as some of the other ones (maybe people are too lazy to get all the way up the hill??) Anyway, it was nice not to deal with a huge crowd and get photos just the way we like them: with the two of us together and no one else!
This castle, complete with its multi-colored towers, makes you feel like you're in a children's fairytale book.
To be honest, though, we only saw it from afar, but no regrets here! Originally, this was the castle I really wanted to visit, but one of our tour guides back in Lisbon had mentioned this one should be skipped if we were short on time. Considering we only had one day in Sintra, we preferred to spend more time at the Castle Of The Moors and the gardens at Quinta da Regaleira.
This may not be the case for everyone's tastes.
Don't get us wrong, Pena Palace looks cool and all, but it felt like it would be more of an attraction feel so we opted to skip it. If we had more time, we would certainly have visited. We just thought the other two options were more intriguing, so it's just a matter of personal preference.
Where To Eat In Sintra
As I mentioned before, we had a quick sandwich upon our arrival into Sintra, but after exploring Castelo Dos Mouros and Quinta da Regaleira we were pretty hungry again. We didn't really look up or do any research on the top places to eat in Sintra, but just happened to walk by Paço Real and thought it was a chill spot.
The location is right in the heart of central Sintra so during the summer this is a packed place. They had a lot of outdoor seating and we liked the energy and the buzz of the summer evening approaching.
I wouldn't say they had the best food, but it was good enough for us at the time. The best part was just taking a moment to rest our feet and people watch. This is a great spot for a dring as they have yummy sangrias, perfect for quenching your thirst after a long day of sightseeing.
This place isn't cheap! For two beverages and two entrees, our bill was almost €53!
If you want to check it out, here is the info:
Paço Real Address: R. Gil Vicente 7, 2710-591 Sintra, Portugal
Pro-Traveler Tip: As you stroll around the historic town center of Sintra, keep an eye out for Ginga tasting. There will be several places that let you taste this cherry liqueur, but look for the ones that give it to you in a tiny chocolate shot glass. You sit the Ginga and eat the chocolate cup afterward! YUMM!!!
Where To Get The Best Pastries In Sintra
Having a sweet tooth, I always need to know the best bakery or dessert place in town. Naturally, I had asked our tour guide from the tapas tour we had taken in Lisbon a couple of days before so I was prepared.
You have to be prepared for these things!
Though I had eaten plenty of Pasteis De Nata (an egg tart pastry famous in Portugal), I could always try more at a new place. We headed to the recommended pastry shop in Sintra called Piriquita. This place was super busy, but somehow we managed to snag a seat. After placing our order at the counter we couldn't wait to have some of these tasty looking treats!
The sweets were delightful here and went perfectly with one of those tiny (to our American standards) cups of coffee!
If you get a chance during your jam-packed day in Sintra, stop by this place and get a boost of energy and try their yummy pastries.
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About the Author
Hi! I'm just a California girl addicted to travel and adventure with a passion for art and dance on the side. Born in Iran, but I consider myself a citizen of Earth, adhering to the belief that "The world is but one country and mankind its citizen." I strive to make a positive impact on everyone I meet and learn as much as possible from them. My degree out of college is in Marketing. However, I entered the hospitality business at an early age and worked my way up to hotel management. After about 13 years in that industry (5 of which I was a hotel assistant manager), I made the decision to move to Thailand and leave the 9 to 5 grind behind. My husband and I set off for a life of living abroad and hopes to continue traveling the world, just 3 months after our wedding. It all started with the two of us, along with our cat, together in Thailand. Can't wait to see where life takes us next!