A practical guide for visiting Sintra, Portugal
Sintra is one of the most magical places I've visited. I'd wanted to go there for years, and during my last Spring in Europe I had enough vacation days to take 4 off for a 6 day holiday in Portugal - to Lisbon and Porto with a day trip to Sintra!
- Sintra in only about a 45 minute train ride from Lisbon, and unfortunately a tourist hotspot. The Castelo dos Mouros was pretty empty, but the Palace at Pena was quite crowded. Here's how to get there ahead of the rest of the crowds and make the most of your trip:
- There's too much to see in one day. We managed to see the Castle of the Moors, Pena National Palace (but not the whole park) and Quinta da Regale Park in a day, but if you want to see more you might want to stay an extra day or two.
- The train leaves from Rossio station, but there are two Rossio stations that are near each other, an underground metro station, and an above ground regional station. They connect underground, but we found it easier to just walk a little further above ground to the Rossio railway station.
- Buy a Viva Viagem cards ahead of time and use that - you can refill it in Sintra if need be. The line to buy tickets was ridiculous, and this was on a weekday. The lines to the 5 ticket machines weren't moving at all for the 10 minutes we waited. Eventually someone came by to tell us that the machines were coins only, which explained the hold up. We weren't getting anywhere and time was passing so here's what we did:
- The Scott Urban bus costs 5 euro and you cannot use your Viva Viagem card, but it's worth it. Many of the attractions in Sintra are way up on the hills (mountains?) and even if you are quite fit and have cyclists' legs, you'll spend a significant portion of time walking up them.
- The routes are not always easy. Wear sturdy and comfortable shoes, (no flip flops) and be prepared to climb plenty of stairs, especially if you visit the Castle of the Moors.
- There's a 5% discount if you buy your tickets online. (As of May 2015).
- Unless you are into period furniture, feel free to skip the inside of the Palace of Pena tour. I think the ticket into the park is one price, a ticket inside the walls and courtyards is another, and a ticket that includes going inside the building itself is the most.
|The Ms stand for Rosio metro, to get to Sintra you want the one in the box! If you go in the wrong one, they are connected.|
We used our Viva Viagem cards. Since you can only by them and load them with 5, 10 and 15 euro at a time if you want to using the 'zapping' feature, we'd planned on buying two for 5 euro to cover our travels around Lisbon and buy our Sintra tickets separately.
Since we'd already used them to get from the airport to Lisbon, we didn't have quite enough money left for a round trip to Sintra and back (at the time of writing this, a round trip ticket to Sintra is less than 4.50), but we 'zapped' our way past the ticket lines and onto the train. At the Sintra station, we added 5 more Euro to each of our cards as soon as we arrived.
- The town of Sintra does not continue up the mountain where the Castle of the Moors and the Palace of Pena are. While there are restaurants at some of the attractions and a gift shop at Pena, there aren't any convenience stores, groceries, etc so if you think you might need something buy it before you get on the Scott Urban bus.
- That being said, there are no restrictions on outside food at any of the places we visited. The Castle of the Moors has a few vending machines and you could buy chips and premade sandwiches from a kiosk there, but there was no cafe like in Quinta da Regale or Pena, which meant the tables were open for everyone.
- Bring sunscreen!
|The lunch we brought with us - the chips were kinda gross.|