Going to Sintra was one of the deciding factors for booking my trip to Portugal. I really wanted to see the Well that is synonymous with Sintra, but unfortunately I didn’t do enough research before going and I didn’t manage to see it.
You really need to google what you want to see and in which location it is. When you arrive at the tourist office there is a list of castles and palaces that you can buy multi-entry to. We actually found the people working there quite unhelpful and unfriendly and it would have been great if there were detailed pictures and descriptions of the sites. We ended up buying entry to the Moorish Castle and Pena Palace.
Tip 1: Be prepared to spend money
We were pleasantly surprised that the train from Lisbon only cost 4euros return and started with high spirits that the day wouldn’t be as expensive as we had first thought.
Entry to the castles and palaces range between 8 and 12euros which adds up pretty quickly when you’re choosing three+ sites.
You also have to pay for the bus route! Every tour guide advised us that walking to the sites is a bad option (which mostly seemed true) but a hop on/off trip on one bus route costs 6euros and won’t take you to all the sites you want, which means you would have to buy a second bus route assumedly for the same amount no matter how many sites you’re seeing.
Tip 2: Go early
We were advised by our Airbnb host to get to Sintra before 9am and I’d certainly pass that tip on. It was busy but throughout the day the crowds got pretty ridiculous so go early and stop at Saudade Cafe just outside the station for a really good breakfast. From there you can walk through the town (the way is obvious) over to the historic/tourist centre where you buy your tickets.
Tip 3: Take water and a snack
You will be doing a lot of walking even if you do get the bus! I’d take water and a snack because the cafe prices are pretty high at Pena Palace (I can’t speak for the other sites). Water was especially important when we went because the queue to get into Pena Palace was about 20minutes long standing out in the open with no shade (and there’s actually very little shade anywhere because you’re on top of a hill).
Site 1: Moorish Castle
First stop off the bus was the Moorish Castle. I would not recommend this being a stop of yours. It’s a ruin of the Castle of which all that remains is the wall. You can walk all around it and it gives some good views, but I’m pretty sad that we went here instead of Quinta Da Regaleira to see the Well.
Site 2: Pena Palace
We got majorly lost trying to walk from here to Pena Palace through the woods (it’s actually really easy just go out the main entrance and head left). When at the main entrance you have quite a swift entry in if you’ve already bought your ticket so thats a plus, but you can also buy tickets there. 5minute walk up the hill to the palace but there is lots to see in the gardens before or after too. We walked around the palace courtyards for a while and then queued to get inside. Inside the palace is really good and the decor is amazing in places.
When done at the Palace we walked through the gardens to the ‘Valley of the Lakes’ in reality this is a couple of ponds strung together, but it’s a nice walk down (glad we didn’t have to walk up) and from the bottom lake you get back onto the main road where you can pick up the bus again back into town.
So it took us a whole day to see just two sites! Pick your locations wisely, obviously you could stay here overnight and make a weekend of it. When we got back on the train to Lisbon we absolutely crashed, we were so exhausted and didn’t know it. Would recommend but make sure you see what you want to see!
Ciao for now x