I highly recommend visiting Sintra from Lisbon Portugal. But don’t just take a day trip from Lisbon! Stay overnight in Sintra and explore more of the area. Sintra is a collection of unique nature, out-of-this-world fairy tale palaces mixed with a cute small-town vibe. I give you the perfect 2-day Sintra itinerary to enjoy the best that Sintra has to offer.
I share my practical tips on where to stay and the best things to see in Sintra if you have 2 days to explore. Continue reading if you plan to spend some time in Sintra Portugal.
The Parques de Sintra offered me entrance tickets to see the different sites in Sintra. As always, all opinions and experiences are my own.
This post contains affiliate links, if you decide to make a booking via the link I receive a small percentage as commission. This will come at no extra cost to you.
What is Sintra Portugal?
Sintra in Portugal is a small village, only 30 km (18 miles) from Lisbon. The town of Sintra is the gateway to the National Park of Sintra and Cascais. Many people visit Sintra on a day trip from Lisbon. As it is fairly close, this is a good option if you have little time. If you can spare a bit more, I definitely recommend to stay overnight at Sintra because the park and the surrounding area is packed to the brim with Unesco World Heritage Sites, amazing scenery and ‘never seen before’ sights.
How to get to Sintra from Lisbon Portugal?
The best way to travel to Sintra from Lisbon is by train. It is fast (40 to 50 minutes), it is cheap (€2,5 per journey) and you don’t have to worry about driving in Lisbon or parking in Sintra. You can catch a train from the Rossio Train Station in Lisbon to Sintra train station.
The Sintra train station is located at the bottom of the hills surrounding Sintra. From the train station, you can easily walk into the old town or take a bus (bus 434) that takes you around the main sites in Sintra. Read more about travel from Lisbon to Sintra.
Driving to Sintra
I don’t have any pictures of the railway station, as we didn’t take the train to Sintra. What?? I know. As a notorious train lover, it is a bit weird. But we were on a 11 day road trip through Portugal, so we returned back to the airport of Lisbon and picked up our rental car before driving to Sintra. It was a monday morning in March and traffic wasn’t that bad.
I didn’t want to drive in Lisbon, so we rented a car from the airport. Once on the main IC19 road to Sintra, things were pretty straight forward. We programmed our navigation towards our hotel in Sintra. Once there, we asked the owner where we could park and he showed us the free parking spots in Sintra.
Parking in Sintra is a bit of a challenge. So is driving. The old town of Sintra is not made for heavy traffic and the twisting and turning roads up the hills are challenging. Parking is limited in the old town of Sintra and also limited at the Pena Palaces and at the Quinta da Regaleira. The car proved to be very useful when we wanted to visit the Monserrate Palace in Sintra, which was further away.
Where to stay in Sintra?
One of the main reasons to stay overnight in Sintra was so we could explore more of the region than on a day trip from Lisbon. Another reason was, that accommodation in Sintra was much cheaper than in Lisbon. There are several options in Sintra town, but as always: book ahead to make sure you have a bed for the night. I give you my recommendations for places to stay in Sintra.
Moon Hill Hostel: Don’t let the name scare you away. This hostel slash hotel has dorm rooms with shared facilities but also private double rooms with en-suite bathrooms. Located between the train station and the old town of Sintra, this is a perfect base to explore Sintra. For prices and availability, check here.
Casas de Bequinha: Located in the heart of the old town of Sintra, it doesn’t get more central than this. The Bequinha offers apartments, studios and rooms for rent. It is self-catering, so you can either cook or eat out. Choose the best apartment for your family here.
Casa da Pendoa: Unfortunately, they didn’t have any rooms available when we visited Sintra, otherwise I would have loved to stay here. Luxury apartments and rooms in the center of old Sintra. Dream away at these apartments with mountain views! Take a sneak peek here.
Casa Azul Apartments and Hostel: We stayed at the Casa Azul Apartment in Sintra. It is run by the same owner as of the Casa Azul Hostel and the apartment is located not far from the hostel in the new town of Sintra. This proved to be perfect for us as we were able to park the car for free without any problems. We did some grocery shopping at the local supermarket and cooked dinner at our own apartment! A lovely experience to live in Sintra for a day! Check availability of the Casa Azul Apartments here, or book your dorm room (for €18 a night!!) at the Casa Azul hostel here.
6 Reasons why you should stay overnight in Sintra
From the above information, you might have caught some reasons why an overnight stay at Sintra Portugal is a good idea. To refresh your memory, I list the 6 best reasons to stay in Sintra here:
- There is so much to see in Sintra, you’ll need more than 1 day. This could be reason 1 to 12 as Sintra literally has a dozen of unique sites to see and things to explore. I’ve never seen so many Unesco World Heritage Sites together. I honestly think Sintra should be THE reason for you to book a trip to Portugal and it is packed to the brim with unseen sites.
- Enjoy quiet Sintra when all the day trippers have gone home. The good thing about a place that attracts a lot of day trippers, is that it usually is quiet before they arrive and after they’ve gone home. We enjoyed a quiet breakfast in Sintra, strolled the streets before the first bus arrived and enjoyed a silent sun set without too much hassle.
- Be the first to see Pena Palace and take selfies without other people. When you rise early, you can be one of the first to visit the most visited sites in Sintra. For example the Sintra Pena Palace. This colorful palace is the perfect back drop for those Instagram selfies. But a bit hard with hordes of other people in it. When you stay overnight in Sintra, you can be the first to arrive at the gate at 9.30 am.
- Sintra is cheaper than Lisbon in terms of accommodation. Budget wise, staying overnight in Sintra is a good idea as accommodation in Sintra is cheaper than Lisbon. In Lisbon, I had a hard time to find a budget hotel room in the centre but in Sintra, the options were plentiful! We booked a whole apartment for only €45 ! We were able to cook dinner and had breakfast at our apartment, so we saved money eating out.
- Support the local community by spending your money in Sintra. I like to keep my money for myself, but if I have to spend it, I like to make sure to divide it and spend it where it is needed. When you visit Sintra on a day trip from Lisbon, the local shopkeepers and accommodation owners might not benefit from it as they should. Their town is used as a major tourist attraction but they cannot profit from the benefits when everyone has breakfast in Lisbon or takes lunch from Lisbon. We did our grocery shopping at 3 different stores in Sintra. We had coffee and cake, bought souvenirs and water and snacks in Sintra.
- You have more time to take in the uniqueness of Sintra. Sintra is truly a one of a kind destination. The Pena Palace is amazing, as is the Moorish castle. I was gobsmacked by the Quinta da Regaleira and I fell in love with the Monserrate Palace. It is impossible to visit all of those on a day trip from Lisbon. Even if you would visit 3 of the major sights in Sintra, you’d not have enough time to take in the views, explore the castles and take in the cute small town vibe. When you stay overnight in Sintra, you can allow yourself more time to take all the Romantic architecture in.
Perfect 2-day Sintra itinerary
I hope I convinced you to stay overnight in Sintra Portugal. To make things even easier for you, I give you my 2-day Sintra itinerary.
Day one in Sintra Portugal
After we picked up our rental car in Lisbon, we drove to Sintra. It might be easier for you to take the train from Lisbon to Sintra, as indicated above. We checked into our apartment and picked up some maps of Sintra and discussed our options. But.. we first had lunch. We enjoyed a nice sandwich in Sintra and made plans for the rest of the day.
Then we took the car and drove up the hill to Pena Palace in Sintra. Fortunately we were able to park the car at the gate. We decided to walk through the Pena Palace gardens which were an absolute delight. The duck pond was fun and it was amazing to see how spring was ready to explore in Portugal. Gradually we climbed the Pena Palace hill towards the Pena Palace.
Pena Palace Sintra
It doesn’t matter if you visit Sintra on a day trip from Lisbon or you stay in Sintra for a week. A visit to the Pena Palace is a must do in Sintra. This bright yellow and red palace is situated at the top of the Sintra hills and you can see it from a distance. This is the ultimate fairy tale palace. The outside resembles a Legoland castle and the interior looks like a Moorish Snowwhite house hold.
I recommend to take your time to walk the outer ramparts of the Pena Palace as the castle offers you amazing views of the Sintra national park, Cascais and the ocean in the distance. You can see the nearby Moorish castle and the green woods that make up the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.
Sintra Pena Palace
We had some bad luck when we were in Portugal in March. Out of the 11 days in Portugal, we experienced 9,5 days of rain, wind and serious downpoor. Our visit to the Pena Palace in Sintra was no exception. We were almost blown away at the top of the Pena Palace and we had to hide for the rain and wait for the sun to come out to take our outside pictures.
Because of this, we didn’t spend nearly as much time outside as I’d like to. If the sun is out to play, I think you can spend the whole day at the Pena Palace.
We rushed inside to avoid the bad weather and roamed the halls of the Pena Palace. The interior is richly decorated with intricate Moorish details and colorful ornaments. I loved the wooden furniture and the views from the glass stained windows.
The Pena Palace has a big lunch room where you can recharge and regroup again. Maybe another round around the castle as you’ll have plenty of time?
Moorish Castle Sintra
After our visit to the Pena Palace, we decended down hill and walked towards the Moorish castle. This 9th century Moorish stronghold was of major strategic importance in the Moorish-Christian war. And it clearly shows. The thick walls of natural stone form a strong line of defence across the hills of Sintra. My boyfriend climbed to the very top (I was to scared with the wind gushing around us) and you can see miles and miles from the top. The view is really amazing and one of a kind.
Inside the walls of the Moorish castle, you can find the court yard and wells that provided the garisons with enough water to withstand any attack.
Village of Sintra
After all that hill climbing and walking, we were pretty tired and I guess you will be too. You can return to the town of Sintra and explore the cute little town. You’ll find plenty of shops offering you cherry liquor and local delicacies to taste. We had some coffee and cake before we returned to our apartment for the night.
Day two in Sintra Portugal
The next day, we set out to explore the Quinta da Regaleira and added the Montserrate Palace to our itinerary too. Both are unique and also not to miss sights in Sintra. Luckily, you’ve decided to stay another day so you can explore both!
Quinta da Regaleira
We took our car and drove up to the Quinta da Regaleira. You can also walk there from Sintra town, but I’m lazy and we wanted to continue to the Monserrate Palace too.
The Quinta da Regaleira is a eerie palace with amazing gardens that speak to your imagination. We descended into the Initiation Well which was the oddest thing I’ve ever done. The spiral staircase lead you to the bottom of a well that never held any water but was used to perform rituals for the knights templar. A bit spooky but also truly beatiful.
We continued underground through the underground passageway and ended up at the waterfall at a different part of the park. We explored the Quinta da Regaleira castle and the surrounding gardens.
Monserrate Palace Sintra
Once at the Quinta da Regaleira, it is really easy to continue towards the Monserrate Palace. This pink candy coloured palace once was a private property. It served as the summer residence of Francis Cook who rebuilt the palace and the gardens.
Now you can visit the palace and the gardens and I absolutely fell in love with the place. The palace is an ode to light and intricate details. The light flooding in from the pink dome or the arched windows on either side of the palace is amazing. The hall way that connects the palace is a testament to Moorish architecture and Romanticism.
The palace is situated on a hill top and the surrounding gardens are amazing. Visit the rose garden when the roses are in bloom or measure the gigantic cacti at the Mexican garden. The fern valley was slowly awakening when we visited it.
What more to see in Sintra
As always, we were on a whirlwind tour of Portugal. I allocated 2 days for Sintra but in hindsight, I wish I’ve given Sintra more time. There is so much more to see and do in Sintra, I think I need to go back and explore more. Take my advice and spend as much time as you can in Sintra. Here is a list of other remarkable sites to see in Sintra.
- The National Palace and Gardens of Queluz: it seems a mixture between the Versailles gardens and the Hof Schönbrunn in Vienna and the Monserrate Palace. The Queluz gardens and palace are from the 18th and 19th centuries and showcase the important link between gardens and estate.
- The Convent of the Capuchos: this seems to be a mixture between the Quinta da Regaleira gardens and complete off-the-beaten-path solitude. It would be nice to discover off the grid living in Sintra at the Convent.
- National Palace of Sintra: this palace and museum is located in the middle of Sintra and is easily accessible. If you like to learn more about the history of Portugal and Sintra, the National Palace is a must-see.
- Cabo da Roca: we (read: I) really wanted to go to Cabo da Roca. At the tip of Portugal, this end of the National Park of Sintra seems the end of the world. The cliff overlooks the ocean and broadcasts the most dramatic views of Portugal with the land behind it. As the weather was really bad, we decided to be wise and skip it for now.
Practical Tips for you 2-day Sintra Itinerary
If you plan to visit Sintra for more than a day trip from Lisbon, here are some quick practical tips:
- Buy your tickets online to get a 5% discount on the ticket price
- Plan your visit and buy your tickets in advance. If you buy tickets for 2 sites, you get a 5% discount, for 3 sites 3% discount up to 10% discount for 6 sites.
- Check times and prices of the bus for Sintra. It can be worthwhile to hire a TukTuk driver to drive you around or book a tour.
For more information on opening times, entrance fees and pictures, check out the website of the Parques des Sintra.
Are you planning to visit Sintra? What do you think of my 2-day Sintra Itinerary? Do you plan to see more or less? Please share in the comment section below.