5 Reasons to Visit Sintra from Lisbon
Sintra is the most popular day trip out of Lisbon after Cascais.
The village of Sintra boasts expansive, lush forest sanctuaries, ancient palaces and wondrous villas. It is an area intended for exploration and can be reached by train or taxi from Lisbon’s center in under an hour .
Sintra spans over 120 square miles and is virtually impossible to cover in just a single day. Hikers and mountain bikers should look into the multi-day excursions available through the Sintra travel board.
For a day trip, selecting a single attraction to focus on is best. Here are five good reasons to venture into the fairytale land in the north.
1. The Breathtaking Beaches of Sintra
Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth, rich in both history and natural wonders.
Arriving in Sintra will put you on the inland edge of the landscape; you’ll find many physical village attractions but you will have only scraped the surface in terms of natural elements.
Moving inland toward the west, Sintra will eventually take you through to the picturesque beaches of the Portuguese coast. Much of Sintra’s beach coasts remain untouched by the masses of tourism that places like Cascais and the Algarve are, so the terrain is rugged and unspoiled.
The Praia de Ursa is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal, and falls under Sintra territory. Even in the depths of winter this beach is worth a visit just to bask in the wonders of the scenery.
2. To Discover theQuinta da Regaleira in Sintra
Visiting the Quinta da Regaleira for a day was my favorite excursion during my first trip to Lisbon.
You’ll need to catch a taxi or take the train from Lisbon city center through to Sintra’s village center. From here you can follow the street signs and crowds up the hill to the entrance of the 20th century palace.
This attraction is best equated to an adult treasure hunt. It is €11 to enter and you’ll be given a map of the grounds with different landmarks to be found.
As you make your way through the palace forest you’ll uncover ancient grottos, architectural ruins, hiking trails, labyrinths, hidden cafes and deep wishing wells.
You’ll need comfortable walking shoes, water and sun protection if you intend to see everything that these grounds have to offer. Prepare to dedicate the better part of your day within these palace grounds; if you start early enough you can make you way back down the hill for lunch in the main Sintra village.
3. Followed by the Pena National Palace in Sintra
Most people who day trip to Sintra do both the Quinta da Regalia and the Pena National Palace at once.
The Pena National Palace is a recognizable structure that looks like something out of a Disney princess film. It’s a castle that was constructed during the German Romanticist era, at the very top of the Sintra hills like the town’s crowning glory.
Not only is the interior of the Pena Palace mind blowing, the view from the highest point in Sintra will leave you equally as speechless. This is one of the most romantic attractions in Sintra, and you only really need about an hour or two to explore the space in its entirety.
The words enchanting and mystic come to mind when reflecting on my own experience in both Pena and the Quinta da Regaleira. Compared to Lisbon and the city center, this is a very different frame of reference for Portugal in terms of both nature and architecture.
It is not uncommon for day trip visitors to feel inspired to spend a spontaneous night in Sintra, welcoming the break from the hustle and bustle of Lisbon. There are ample hotels and guesthouses around the village that will gladly take you in for the evening.
4. And Maybe Followed by the Moorish Castle Walls in Sintra
One of the first things you’ll notice upon arrival in Sintra are the ancient walls that seem to wind through the mountains in the distance, all the way up to the summit.
These are the Moorish castle walls that lead to the main Castle of the Moors at the very top of Sintra’s main hillside. This is one of the oldest attractions in Sintra, built during the 8th and 9th centuries.
The walls are embedded with a concrete staircase that allows human access to the top of the mountain. The entire structure resembles closely to the Great Wall of China, boasting lush vegetation and panoramic views of the country all around.
Out of all of the historic attractions in Lisbon, the Moorish Castle is the one most enjoyed by children. The excitement of scaling the walls up to the summit is fun for all ages. Despite being a bit of a hike, children love the sights and find it a race to the top. Just be aware of the deteriorated patched of the pathway where there are no outer railings or enclosures.
5. Dine in One of Portugals Most Picturesque Villages in Sintra
Similar to dining out in Lisbon city center after a free guided walking tour, you can dine in Sintra’s main village after your visits to the landmarks.
The main village is the point of entry for both the trains and taxis into Sintra from Lisbon. It’s a small town with a few streets offering cafes and restaurants, some with Michelin star dining available.
The restaurants are surrounded by the rolling hillsides of the rest of the Sintra valley; try find a restaurant that offers outdoor seating if you can. Sintra’s bakeries also make fabulous pastel de natas for a post-dinner treat!