Sintra is a perfect day trip from Lisbon. Pena Palace is really cool to explore, and so are the other sites around the park. Here are a few tips on how to make the most of your excursion.
1. Take the train
Trains depart frequently from Lisbon’s Rossio Station and the trip takes about 45 minutes. Note that you have to exit the Rossio metro station to get to the train station, which is on the other side of the square. Also note that not all trains that head towards Sintra go all the way to the last stop. There are a few stops that have “Sintra” in the name, but you want to go to the very last stop on the line, which is just called “Sintra.” You should get a Viva Viagem reloadable (zapping) metro pass when you arrive at the Lisbon airport, as it also works for the trains, trams and ferries—and public transportation is very easy to use. The train ride to Sintra is not scenic, and you’ll travel through some struggling areas, but it felt safe. Always use caution, of course, when traveling, and keep your valuables close.
2. Have a plan for when you get there
The train will drop you off in the small old town of Sintra, which is still a fair distance from the local attractions. You can take a bus, which runs along the tourist route or you can take Uber, like we did. To Pena Palace, it was a 20-minute ride up the mountain and cost €3. If you want to see all the attractions, plan on spending at least 3 hours exploring the park.
3. Plan for weather
We got to Pena Palace just as the mist was moving in. On a clear day, the views are beautiful, but a heavy fog could diminish the experience. If you can plan for weather, you should. And while you are in Sintra, you may want to go to Pena during the most optimal weather, then explore the other areas.
4. Consider continuing on to Cascais
Cascais is a beautiful little town by the sea and also perfect for a day trip from Lisbon. You can get to both Sintra and Cascais via train from Lisbon, but they are on separate lines, so you need to take a bus or ride-share if you’re traveling from Sintra to Cascais. We took the train to Sintra and then took a 30 minute, €15 Uber ride to Cascais. Once you’re in Cascais, you definitely need to take a long walk along the water to Boca do Inferno and check out the amazing cliffs.
There’s a wonderful restaurant by the cliffs called Mar do Inferno, and we had an outstanding seafood platter there.
The town of Cascais is also really cute and fun to walk around, so plan on spending a few hours there. You may want to have lunch and/or dinner in Cascais, since there are many more options than in Sintra.
We took the train back to Lisbon from Cascais—it’s an easy 40 minute ride and the zapping card works for the fare. Note that when you take the train back to Lisbon, you’ll also have to take the metro 2 stops if you want to get back to Rossio Square.
5. Consider spending the night in Cascais.
Sintra and Cascais can easily be visited in one day from Lisbon. But why rush? You may want to spend the night in Cascais and explore the town at leisure. It’s a fairly quiet town, at least in the off season while we we’re there, but has plenty of restaurants and a decent nightlife, particularly on the weekends. Overall, Sintra and Cascais are well worth the trip from Lisbon to explore a little more of what the region has to offer.