Sintra Stole Our Hearts – The Day Trip You Must Take
A day trip to Sintra is a MUST do from Lisbon. Admittedly, there was one place in Sintra that snatched most of our time and interest and that is Quinta da Regaleira (more details below). But it is totally understandable why this town was a haven for the wealthy back in the day. As a result of beautiful vistas and cool winds, it is a town chockfull of palaces and estates. One day is enough for Sintra, but if you want to see a lot of spots, you’ll probably have to squeeze in an overnight stay.
Getting to Sintra
You could hire a car/driver to take you, tag along with a tour, or do it yourself. You’ll probably get around faster with a driver and be able to see more places, but the tradeoff is money and less time. We did it on our own because we’re trying to save money. Either way, buy your tickets to these places online as they sometimes are cheaper, but they will always save you time.
Trains to Sintra
To get there on your own, buy two 4-zone tickets (if you want to include your return ride). There is some weird discrepancy where it gives you an option to buy a “return ticket to Lisboa” for twice as much as a 4-zone ticket. You DO NOT need to select that to get back to Lisboa. HOWEVER, every person needs to complete their own transaction for their own pass (don’t make the same mistake we did!) For example, if you buy four tickets in one transaction, you will get all four passes on ONE ticket. So for two people, complete two transactions of two tickets each so you get two passes.
Traveling In Sintra
Once in Sintra, you can travel by taxi, tuktuk, or shuttle. We took the hop-on/hop-off shuttle, which only goes in one direction. Its important to realize that the shuttle is slow, goes one way (so plan accordingly!), and can get very packed. We opted to walk some of the shorter distances instead of waiting around to catch a shuttle.
Sights in Sintra
Now that you’re here, what to do?! There are many places to visit, but here is what we did and suggest:
Quinta da Regaleira (★★★)
Quinta means estate, so this used to be a rich person’s house. Since Sintra was a popular getaway for the wealthy, there are several quintas to visit, but we highly, highly recommend this if you had to choose one (it was our favorite place, hands down, in a long while). It is a 10-min walk from the historic center. They are known for their Inception Well, but had so many great little spots in the gardens. Zig-zag across the gardens checking out the spots highlighted on their map (not sure if they actually give out maps, so we took a photo of the posted signs). We spent the most time here. They seem to have good audioguides as well.
- PS. When you get to the Inception Well, check out everything you want to see at the top first, and then work your way down. There are actually tunnels at the bottom, take the tunnel until it forks left and you’ll come across an interesting little pond. 🙂
Castelo dos Mouros (★★★)
The Castle of the Moors are old ruins of a castle that are set amidst scenic and peaceful woods. The plaques are clear and explain the ruins very well and the highlight are the walls surrounding this castle. The walls are a small Great Wall of China, but the best part is just exploring and there are some really great vista points to see the town below or the castles nearby!
Pena Palace (★★★)
A 10-min walk away from the Moorish Castle, you can either get dropped off from the bus at this stop and double back or do as we did which was get dropped off at the Moorish Castle and then walked here. From the park gate, its a steep 10-min walk up to the palace (there’s a €3 shuttle, but you can walk it!). The palace is gaudy, colorful, and fun to look at it. We paid for the interior palace tour, which had some cool things to look at and gave us a better understanding of the place and royal dynasty of Portugal, but you won’t miss out too much if you don’t take it. There was a nice photographer of the year exhibit in the park halfway down the hill.
Lunch was at the Sintra Historical Center, we didn’t have high hopes as it looked catered towards tourists. We did stop for treats/coffee here. They are known for their sweet bean pastry, travesseiro. If its packed, go to Piriquita II up the road.
Boca do Inferno
Someone recommended Hell’s Mouth, which is probably visited on the tours, but it was too out of the way for us to check out. Next time!