Pena Palace should be the first stop on a day trip to Sintra
Sintra is the most popular day trip from Lisbon. It’s well connected to the capital by a regular train service, and has some of Portugal’s most magnificent monuments. Those arriving early in the morning might be able to see about three or four of them, but to visit all of the spectacular palaces and castles it takes two days.
Those with just one day, however, should try to arrive in Sintra by 9am, head first to Pena Palace and follow that with a stop at the Moorish Castle nearby. Back in the center of town, the next destinations should be the National Palace and Quinta da Regaleira.
The time spent at each attraction depends on the crowds (you may have to wait a while at ticket counters, bus stops, and entrance gates) and on how many stops you make for photos.
The Moorish Castle should be the second monument on your list
The train from Lisbon takes just 40 minutes to reach Sintra, and departs from two different stations -- Rossio in the center and Oriente in the Parque das Nações district to the east. For complete details about the stations and the trains, see the guide to taking the train from Lisbon to Sintra.
You should never drive to Sintra. Those who do, end up regretting it, as there is very limited parking, constant traffic jams, and nerve-wracking navigation of the narrow roads.
Organized tours can be useful to those who want to avoid the trouble of figuring out public transportation and standing in lines for tickets. However, those tend to concentrate on two or three attractions, and you may be forced to skip others that might be of interest to you. Many do pick you up at your hotel, so they do have that extra convenience. For all your options, see the available Sintra tours.
Those who prefer to go independently, will easily find their way around. The train station is the final stop of the Lisbon-Sintra line, and the center of town is about a 10-minute walk down the road, following the brown sign pointing to “centro histórico.” Those who want to start their day in Pena Palace as recommended, should turn to the main building of the station (parallel to the tracks), and hop on bus 434 which departs from outside. For complete details, see the guide to the 434 bus to Pena Palace.
Sintra's train station
Cost of a Sintra Day Trip
A day trip to Sintra should cost anywhere between 40 and 50 euros, depending on whether you have the Lisboa Card (which allows free train rides to Sintra and discounts at the palaces) and on how many attractions you see. The estimate above is based on visits to the big four attractions -- Pena Palace, Moorish Castle, Sintra National Palace, and Quinta da Regaleira -- and includes train and bus fares. To know ticket prices to the attractions, see the Sintra sightseeing guide.
On top of transportation and admissions, you should add the cost of meals and drinks.