Sintra is just a short jaunt from Lisbon but packs a powerful punch to the gonads. The concentration of palaces, castles and forts is insane. Although you can’t see all in one day if you are doing it on the cheap, I think I chose the three top hits: Pena Palace, Castelo dos Mouros and Quinta Da Regaleira. I originally was going to go on a tour with my hostel but it was booked up so I forged my own path like a champion.
Whatever you do, if you are going in the peak season (I went in August)- purchase your tickets online for all them. I was stupid and didn’t purchase the Quinta da Regaleira ticket beforehand because it was .50 cents more than in person. I ended up waiting about 25/30 minutes to buy a ticket there, whereas the e-ticket line was deserted.
What I spent:
- Return train from Rossio, Lisbon- 5.00 ( I don’t have the Lisbon transport card so it may be cheaper if you already have it)
- Pena Palace Park and Moorish Castle– 14.73 (when you purchase more than one ticket online, you get a 5% discount)
- Quinta Da Regaleira– 8.00 in person (8.50 online. For some reason you can’t purchase this ticket on the same site as the other one)
- Round trip Sintra 434 bus ticket- 6.90
I am confident that that is almost the cheapest you can do a day in Sintra. I brought my own snacks and water since there is no normal supermarket in the town of Sintra, only restaurants. I looked into walking to the Palace etc. but everyone says it is a 45-minute steep, walk up the mountain side so that is why I got the 434 bus. I asked for a single journey ( I read online it was 3.90) but he gave me the round trip. In the end, I am glad I splurged. I walked the entire day and the extra 1.5km to the station at the end would have knocked me on my feet.
The 434 does a loop since Sintra town and Pena Palace area is a one-way street. The initial bus journey from the train station to the town went massively uphill and the entire time I thought I am so glad I didn’t walk this. However, Sintra town to the train station was not so bad, it was 1.5 km of flat walking so it could have been done. Going up the massive hill to the Palace I wouldn’t have done though.
434 Bus Loop Route
- Sintra Train Station
- Sintra Town (although my bus didn’t stop there)
- Moorish Castle,
- Pena Palace main entrance
- Sintra Town
- Sintra Train Station
From Lisbon to Sintra
This fantastic blog suggests that you catch the front carriage of the train from Lisbon to Sintra and if you sit on the left-hand side when facing forward, as you enter Sintra you can see the castles on the hilltops. When you arrive at the Sintra Station (the last stop) you can take the first exit that you see, then an immediate right. There is a larger main entrance/ exit in the middle of the station as well but you will end up in the same place if you take a right when you exit. Walk out of the station and you’ll see a bus stop, it’s not that one, you need to walk a bit further at you’ll see signs for the circuit to da Pena 434. You can buy your ticket on the bus. Online, it says the first 434 leaves at 09:15 but there were two buses there when I arrived at 08:56. It departed at 09:05. It was packed. I was told to B-line it for the Pena Palace since that line gets insane.
As I mentioned before, I was going to be a hero by only getting a one-way bus ticket to Pena palace (which is all uphill) and then walk down the hill to Sintra town, saving heaps- like 2 euros. But the bus driver obviously knew I was an idiot and only offered me the 6.90 round trip option.
I didn’t end up buying the ticket that lets you go inside the palace because I’ve been in heaps of these 1880-1920 places and to be honest, they’re just a reminder of how poor I am. I mean, I live in a 9m2 room and sleep in a bunk bed. I can basically fry my breakfast bacon while laying on my bed. Whereas these rich people have a separate room to fart in.
The bus stopped at the Moorish Castle first at 09:25 and then at Pena Palace at 09:27. It was then a 7-minute walk to the entrance of the Pena complex but then it is another 10 or so to get to the actual castle part. At 09:45 when I arrived at the castle, the walkways and stuff were pretty much clear but there was a line up to go inside (the ticket that I didn’t purchase). I wandered for about 35 minutes around the area then when I got back to the front entrance I saw the line up to go inside was easily an hour wait.
I went up to the viewpoints and around the massive area to the other smaller homes and stables etc. The place is huge and no one was on the pathways. All of this “grounds” stuff is included in the ticket price.
Castelo dos Mouros
I walked from Pena Palace to the Moorish Castle. Again, the bus drives on a one-way street and the Pena Palace stop is after the Moorish Castle so you basically have to walk unless you want to do the entire loop again. I spent 45 min at this castle and it was enough. It was busy but not outrageous like Pena Palace probably because it’s not painted with fun colours.
Quinta Da Regaleira
By the time I arrived here, it was 13:30. The bus from the Moorish Castle down to the town and then walking it took a bit of time. Again, I didn’t buy a ticket online because of the .50 cents situation, so I had to wait in line before I could go in. Because of insta, everyone goes to this one spiralled staircase- well thing. There was a massive lineup for this, which was crazy to me but they had a few employees ushering people to keep moving so I got in pretty quickly. The rest of the attractions (fountains, archways, viewpoints etc.) were quite open so you weren’t standing in a line.
I then made my way to Sintra town to catch the bus back to the station since I paid for it. Naturally, the first bus driver refused to let me on since it was full but it was for sure a Jack and Rose situation where there was plenty of space for me to fit.
Absolutely solid 35 euro day.
- Buy all tickets online if you are going in the peak season. I can’t say for non-peak whether this is necessary or not.
- Go to the front carriage of the train when you get on at Rossio station. The Rossio train arrives at platform 3, and you get a quicker exit out of the station once you arrive so you can B-line it for the bus.
- You can leave via the side exit but there is a main exit also. Either way, take a right out of the station and start walking. The first bus stop you come to is not the one you want, that serves 405 or something, keep walking till you hit the one that says 434, and you’ll see heaps of tourists