I thought taking a day trip to Sintra to see the fairy tale castle would be easier than it was so I thought I’d write a little How-To guide to take all the guesswork out of it in case you are planning to make this trip once we’re allowed to travel again that is.
Taking the Train From Rossio Station: There’s a train every hour or so from the Rossio train station in central Lisbon (the schedule can be found here!) so if you’re planning on going early one more, I’d highly suggest staying at the Goodmorning Solo Traveller Hostel (review here!) or the Lisbon Destination Hostel which is actually located INSIDE the train station.
But once you know what time train you’re on and you figure out the ticket machines (they’re a little complicated, so give yourself extra time to figure it out), the station only has a few tracks and they’re well labelled. Sintra will be the last station on the train you’re taking, so it’ll say ‘SINTRA’ on the screen in the train station. At the time that I took the train, the train ticket cost $5.68.
The train takes 30-45 minutes so just sit back and listen to your favorite podcast, watching the Portugal countryside go by.
Now that you’ve successfully made it to Sintra, it’s time to find the 434 Sintra Tourist bus that will take you up the mountain to Pena Palace, the Castle of the Moors, and Sintra’s picturesque Old Town. It cost around 4 Euro (cash only!) for a day-long pass, which I think is 100% worth it.
Getting To Pena Palace: There is usually a 434 bus waiting to fill up outside the train station so they’re easy to find. The ride is about 30 minutes up the mountain to Pena Palace and it’s quite nerve-wracking. The roads are really narrow and the turns are really tight. Just close your eyes and wait for the announcement that you’ve arrived at Pena Palace, okay?
But wait! Once you get off the bus, you still have a 5 – 10 minute walk up the last part of the mountain. Entrance to the palace costs 14 Euro (around $15.90).
Pena Palace: Pena Palace is huge and gorgeous with SO many rooms. There are terraces from which gorgeous views of the Castle of the Moors can be seen. I enjoyed wandering around and taking pictures, but I’m not really sure how much I gained from paying for entrance into the Palace itself. Unless you are passionate about Portuguese history or have a hunger to learn, I’m not sure reading about the royalty will be worth the nearly $16.
But that’s just me. I don’t know if I’ll ever visit Portugal again, so I’m glad I went while I had the time. After I’d taken far more photos than I’ll ever need, I walked over to the little bus waiting area and waited for the Sintra Tourist Bus for about 10 minutes so I could visit the Old Town and the National Palace of Sintra. Driving down was much less nerve-wracking than going up.
I walked around the Old Town for a bit, but it’s filled mostly with restaurants and cheesy souvenir shops. The buildings are pretty though!
National Palace of Sintra: I decided that since I was there, that what the hell, I’d go into the National Palace of Sintra. It is known for it’s two huge white chimneys. They honestly look like huge dunce caps. I paid 10 Euro (about $11.36) and walked around the beautifully restored palace that the Portuguese King Duarte in the 15th century. Again, unless you’re a Portuguese history buff, I’m not sure how much you’ll get out of this.
I hopped back on the bus afterward and headed back to the train station. Pro-tip: there aren’t a lot of places still open at the end of the day near the Sintra train station, so don’t wind up there hungry.
Taking the Train Back to Lisbon: I thought all trains went directly back to Rossio Station but I was sorely mistaken. After sitting on the train for a little too long, I checked the map and saw that it wasn’t heading back to Rossio Station but somewhere north of the city, sort of near the airport. Awesome. I hopped out at the Orient Station and luckily Ubers are super cheap in Lisbon so my ride back to my hostel was only $7. But you’ve been warned: Check the schedule!
It was an exhausting day, but a good one. It wasn’t the most exciting excursion, but it was nice to see a bit of the Portuguese countryside and some pretty castles, too.
If you have any questions about the trip, email me or let me know in the comments below! Happy wandering!