If you’re staying in Lisbon for more than a couple days, I highly suggest spending at least half a day exploring the nearby town of Sintra. In this post, I’ll share how to get there, what to do, and how much it may cost you.
Let’s get two of the options out of the way – via car and via tour.
Renting a car in Lisbon is incredibly inexpensive. Seriously, I’ve seen deals as low as €8/day! However, strolling through Sintra, I found parking to be unavailable, especially near the sites. Returning to Lisbon, you’ll often run into the same problem. Save the carbon emissions and hassle of parking.
Getting a tour provides you some insight into the area and answers questions you may not think to ask Google later. I’ve seen tours sit around the $60-70 range that includes transportation, but usually do not include admittance to the sites or food. Most of the full-day trips also include a stop in the beach town of Cascais. This could be a pro or a con, depending on your preferences.
What I recommend assumes two things. One is that you are in good physical health. If you struggle to hike, one of the aforementioned methods may be better suited for you. The second assumption is that you like to save money. If both of these are applicable to you, then I recommend taking a train from Lisbon to Sintra.
Make your way to Rossia Station, located in the historic center of Lisbon, near most of the popular tourist neighborhoods. This is actually a commuter route, so tickets can’t be purchased beforehand; however, trains begin as early as 5:40am and there are usually plenty of seats available outside of the peak-middle of the day. Tickets run €2.30/ one way and the ride is about 40-50 minutes through mostly urban sprawl.
You’ll arrive in Sintra station at the bottom of the mountains. Follow the brown signs towards the historic city center and it’s a relatively easy walk. This is where you’ll find the Palacio Nacional de Sintra, which you can easily recognize by its dual smoke stacks.
We arrived around 8:30 in the morning and wanted to beat the crowds to the more popular sites, so we followed the signs toward Pena Palace. After ascending some very steep streets and alleys, we ended up at a garden entrance where we began another ascent, but this time we had plenty of flora surrounding us.
As you climb higher and higher, you can peak views of the countryside through the tree cover and you’ll pass the Penedo Da Amizade, a popular climbing cliff for well… cliff climbers.
We really thought we’d be the first people to reach the top before the grounds opened at 9:30, but as we got close a few vehicles could be heard driving by. Cheaters…
In the next post, we’ll explore Sintra and its magical highlights.