Located no more than one hour away from Lisbon is a gorgeous little town called Sintra. Surrounded by tree-covered hills where a castle sits on top, this scenic little area makes for a perfect day of exploration. The quiet restaurants and calm feeling of the town make Sintra the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of Lisbon’s inner city.
The best part about Sintra? You can take your time, or manage to explore the whole city in one day.
Below is a guide for a one-day budget itinerary for Sintra…
Travelling to Sintra
In order to get to Sintra, you will need to take a train from Lisbon. There are places to stay overnight in Sintra, but if you have a little extra time to spare for exploring, Sintra makes the perfect little day trip from Lisbon. I took the train from Rossio Station, which is right in the city centre. However, you can also take the train from Oriente Station.
Either way, the train journey takes about 40-50 minutes, with trains leaving hourly. Trains to and from Sintra leave from the early morning to late at night, so you can definitely take your time to explore this gorgeous little town. Sintra is approximately 25km out of Lisbon, and the train station is the last stop on the line.
A return ticket will only cost you about €6 as well, so it’s not going to cost you an arm and a leg to get there! When buying a ticket you will also need to purchase a Viva Viagem card to use to get onto the train, but the card can be reused if you decide to use the metro, and it’s only going to cost you €0.50…
What You Should Explore in Sintra
Walking through to the Historic Centre
You might arrive at the train station in Sintra, eagerly get off, and then be confused as to where to go (I know we were). When you get off the train there are heaps of different people offering Tuk-Tuk Tours, Walking Tours, and Bus Tours up to the Palace that sits in the hills that overlook Lisbon.
Instead of following the crowds of tourists, we decided to first take an opportunity to walk right into the heart of the historic centre. It’s a pretty easy walk with a couple of signs along the way. Being only at 15-minute walk right into the centre of town, it’s definitely something that won’t take a huge chunk out of your day of exploring.
The first thing that we noticed was the Natural History Museum of Sintra Unfortunately we didn’t go inside – we had a bit of a sleep in that morning – but I wish that we did! I later found out that it only cost €1 to get in, which would have been perfect for our budget. It is the collection of one man and his wife, compiled together over 40+ years. The museum is only small, but it’s something that I would definitely go to!
The historical centre also has some interesting looking buildings and cute little boutique shops to go into, it’s definitely worth spending a bit of time exploring.
The Palácio Nacional
Hidden up in the hills that overlook Sintra is the Palácio Nacional or the National Palace. The Palácio Nacional is popular among tourists and is the best preserved royal palace in Portugal. The palace is painted in bright yellow and red, so you definitely won’t be able to miss it!
There are a couple of ways to get to the top of the hill and to the palace. As I mentioned above, you can take a Tuk-Tuk Tour up to the top. There is also a public bus (number 434) which goes up and down to the palace throughout the day, but the bus can be very crowded. We were on a very tight budget, so we decided that we would walk up to the palace.
The walk up to the palace takes you through winding backstreets and up steep hills, and you are basically walking on the side of the road. I really enjoyed the walk because it was a great chance to explore the streets and get out into nature. However, if I could do it again I would have definitely gone on a Tuk-Tuk, they looked like so much fun!
Once you get to the top of the palace you will have to queue to get in. We didn’t get a chance to go in as it was a little too expensive for our budget. There are still lots of other things to look at up there though! If you did want to go in, it costs around €10 per person.
Castelo Dos Mouros
Right next to the National Palace is the Castelo Dos Mouros or the Moors Castle. The castle was established in the 9th century by the North African Moors to guard the town of Sintra. It was then destroyed when the Christians conquered Portugal. The castle was then restored in the 19th century where today it’s ruins still overlook Sintra.
You are able to walk through the forest – and through some of the ruins – to the castle for free. The views of Sintra on the walk are gorgeous and are definitely a must see. As you walk through some of the ruins, you can read up on some of the histories of the castle, and even see where archeologists discovered human bones.
You can pay €8 to go further into the ruins and see even more amazing views of Sintra below. We didn’t end up going on the see more of the amazing views, but I was definitely happy with what we had already seen…