With so many things to see in and around the city, a day trip from Lisbon to Sintra is a must. Sintra is an especially good idea during hot summer days since it is located on the highest point of the Sintra Mountains, resulting in much cooler temperatures. This is one of the most popular day trips from Lisbon, and now I know why. Although the Palace of Pena will be the highlight of your visit to Sintra, the historic center and the many other attractions are also noteworthy. You can take the train, you can drive, although parking is near impossible close to Pena Palace, or the best option, in my opinion, is to take a taxi. I decided to book a full day private tour from Lisbon to Sintra, Cascais and Estoril through Viator. Unfortunately, there was no parking, so I was dropped off in front of the Palace and visited the property on my own. You can read more about my private Lisbon day tour in the following post: Lisbon in 3 Days.
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Day Trip from Lisbon to Sintra Itinerary
I would recommend beginning your tour at the Palace of Pena. Opening hours for the park are 9:30 AM and the palace 9:45 AM. You can get tickets to visit both the park and the palace interior online to avoid the queues. The lineup to visit the palace interior can sometimes be a little long so make sure to leave enough time to see everything. I recommend arriving before peak times which are usually between 11AM-12PM or 3-4PM. I suggest you get there when it opens, visit the palace, head over to Castelo dos Mouros and head for lunch in the historical center right after.
Park and Palace of Pena
Palace of Pena was built by King Ferdinand II, a German prince who married Queen Maria II, daughter of Emperor Pedro I of Brazil. Turns out King Ferdinand needed to keep himself occupied while his wife Queen Maria ruled Portugal. He was a socialite of his time who became a great personality of the arts and inaugurated museums around Portugal. Palace of Pena is one of his great works, and it was classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995. The Palace of Pena was built on the site of an abandoned Hieronymite monastery that dates to the 1500’s, the current structure began construction in 1839. The idea was to convert the monastery into a summer residence for the royal family because King Ferdinand fell in love with the location. The monastery was perched on the second highest peak of the Sintra hills, overlooking beautiful landscapes.
As I made my way up I could see why you'd want to build a palace on this hill, the landscape and the views are breathtaking. There’s a reason it is now one of the top sights in Lisbon and its surrounding areas. The palace is reminiscent of a Disney castle, and no it was not the inspiration behind Disney’s Cinderella castle. Pena Palace was inspired by Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, and that is the castle that inspired Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Thought I should get a few facts straight, you’re welcome.
Castelo dos Mouros
Your last stop before lunch, Castelo dos Mouros, which translates to Castle of the Moors, was built in around the 10th century and is a testament to the Islamic presence in the region. You can see the medieval castle from the balcony right behind the chapel at the Palace of Pena. You can walk down from Pena Palace, it is about a half hour walk, or you can drive. Just keep in mind that roads are narrow and you run the risk of not finding parking. Make sure to check the opening times since they vary depending on the time of year.
Lunch at a Traditional Portuguese Restaurant in Sintra
Now that you’ve worked up an appetite it’s time to head to the historic center for lunch. Avoid the touristy restaurants that line the busy center and try Restaurante Apeadeiro, it offers traditional local Portuguese recipes like rice with monkfish and shrimp and pork with clams. Both are very rich, so I opted for the dish that I thought would be easier to eat in extreme heat; the rice with monkfish and shrimp. I struggled to finish the half portion which was more like a full portion. Pair your meal with a delicious glass of Vinho Verde and don’t forget to end with a nice glass of Porto. Just make sure to leave room for dessert! The restaurant was full of locals, so if you are looking for authentic Portuguese food, you’ll enjoy this place.
Dessert at Piriquita - Travesseiro Pastries
Piriquita, a bakery founded in 1862 is where you’ll find delicious Travesseiro pastries. This is a delicacy of Sintra just like the iconic Pastel de Nata of Lisbon. Travesseiro means pillow in Portuguese, which perfectly describes this delicious little pastry. The sugar-filled dough-based pastry with egg cream and almond is so rich! Be sure to leave room for one or more! Don’t say I didn’t tell you so!
Charming Historic Town of Sintra Portugal
Time to walk off all that food and discover the historic town of Sintra Portugal. You'll find narrow cobblestoned alleys throughout the town lined with gift boutiques, restaurants and shops selling regional delicacies. There are plenty of activities in and around Sintra for the whole family. Take a horse-drawn carriage up the mountain, walk around the city, or shop for cork products; Portugal is a significant producer of cork.
Palácio and Quinta da Regaleira
Palácio Quinta da Regaleira is a short 12-minute walk from the historic center of Sintra. It is classified on UNESCO’s World Heritage List as part of the Cultural Landscape of Sintra. Right next to this grandiose palace is Tivoli Palacio de Seteais, a luxury 5-star hotel with beautiful gardens and a view of Pena Palace, Castelo dos Mouros and the sea.
Other Landmarks to See on your Lisbon to Sintra Day Trip
If you have the time or if you wish to return for a second visit there are a few other landmarks worth seeing. You can stop at Monserrate Park, and Capuchos Convent on your way to Cabo da Roca, the most western part of mainland Portugal, Europe and the entire Eurasian continent. As for Queluz National Park, you can see this on your way back to Lisbon, or as your first stop before heading to Sintra’s centre.
This gorgeous mansion has a unique architectural design that combines Arabic, gothic and Indian styles. The garden is made up of a variety of different species from all over the world, making it an excellent place for a stroll.
Capuchos Convent is a convent built in the 1500’s, and a stark contrast from the opulent palaces in the area. You’ll see the modest Monk’s quarters, and several other parts of the convent all connected by cave-like passages.
Queluz National Palace
This palace is known as the Portuguese Versailles, you can find out more about this landmark in my Lisbon in 3 Days post.
As you can see, this is the perfect day trip from Lisbon! This visit to Sintra, Portugal will keep you busy for an entire day. If you have time to see more or if you would like more information on Sintra, I would recommend you check out Visit Portugal’s one-day itinerary.
Don't know where to stay when you visit Lisbon? Check out Where to Stay in Lisbon and Best Luxury Resorts in Cascais and Estoril.
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