From fairy tale castles and imposing palaces to dramatic forests and deserted golden beaches, there’s a reason that the historic town of Sintra has attracted quite so much attention over the years. Everyone from the Celts to the Moors have put down roots here, with members of the Portuguese royal family finally securing the town as a summer retreat. Located just an hour outside of Lisbon, a day trip to Sintra is wonderfully easy to arrange. Here’s everything you’ll need to know, from how to get there, to the top Sintra sites, the best Sintra beaches, and the finest local foods to try in this captivating city.
How to Get From Lisbon to Sintra
Firstly, how to get from Lisbon to Sintra? This picturesque little corner of Portugal is easily accessible from the centre of Lisbon, either by car or by train. Rent your ride and hit the road, or head over to Lisbon’s Rossio train station and hop on one of the regular services to Sintra (a good choice during the summer months, when the roads can become very congested). Get off at the final stop and then either walk or catch the bus straight into town.
From the UNESCO World Heritage listed centre of town (or, Sintra-Vila, as it’s known locally) to the palaces, castles, lush green parks and pretty gardens, there are plenty of Sintra sites to explore.
Situated in the centre of town and standing at over a thousand years old, the Palácio Nacional de Sintra is a great place to start your day trip to Sintra. Still much as it was in the 16th century, this Portuguese palace features intricate Moorish decorations and gilded interiors (especially in the Coat of Arms Room). For those after a little active sightseeing, Sintra’s Moorish Castle offers a heart-pumping hour’s trek up a steep incline (or a short bus ride from town, if you’d rather not work up a sweat). Dating back to the 10th century, this fortress was built to defend the area after the Moorish conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. Remember to bring your camera – clinging to its steep hilltop location, the castle offers impressive views right down to the Atlantic Ocean.
Next on the itinerary is the estate of Quinta da Regaleira. Designed by the same mind that gave the world La Scala opera house in Milan, and scattered with symbols of the Knights Templar, hidden doors, and lavish decoration, a visit to this neo-gothic mansion and its stunning grounds is a must on any day trip to Sintra.
Another of our favourite Sintra sites is the Palácio Nacional da Pena. Set atop a rocky peninsula in the midst of the sprawling Park of Pena, this imposing palace was built by Ferdinand II in the 19th century, with part of the original structure dating back to the 1500s. Take in the towering domes and turrets before venturing inside for a peak at the lavish interiors.