I am back to Lisbon, and I’m both super stoked and super sad that my trip will end in only a few more days. Before that however, I’ll be visiting the ever-so-popular Sintra. For this trip, I wanted to walk or hike as much as I could, but with the lack of online hiking knowledge, I decided to write a guide to hiking in Sintra below!
After a wonderful stay in the youthful Coimbra, I ate breakfast at the hostel before catching my train back to Lisbon. The city was amazing, and I wish I could’ve stay just a bit longer. But all good things must come to an end, so they say.
When I arrived in Lisbon, I immediately headed to my hostel to drop off my luggage, then found a place to eat lunch (I was famished)! Luckily, there was a vegan restaurant near my hostel called Jardim das Cerejas, and I had my fill of the yummy vegan food!
After lunch, I looked for a cafe nearby to do some research about hiking in Sintra. It was mid-afternoon; I was peckish for coffee to reenergize, and I found a branch of the Lisbon-based hipster coffeehouse, Fábrica Coffee Roasters!
Being the basic bee that I am, I ordered an americano (of course), and it was great. The cafe was super comfortable, but the only downside was they don’t have wifi since they want customers to enjoy their coffee. That won’t stop me though, with my 30GB of data…haha!
Guide to Hiking in Sintra
I am writing this after the trip, so I have first-hand experience about hiking in Sintra! This guide is for people who want to walk/hike around Sintra to visit the main attractions in the city proper.
A fair warning about Sintra: it can be very busy during the peak season in June-August! The crowds will be huge, and lines will be packed. There are many sights to visit in Sintra, but the main 5 that most tourists visit are:
- Pena Palace (Palácio Nacional da Pena)
- Castle of the Moors (Castelo dos Mouros)
- Regaleira Estate (Quinta da Regaleira)
- Palace of the Monserrate (Palácio de Monserrate)
- National Palace of Sintra (Palácio Nacional da Sintra)
Map of Sintra’s footpaths
Planning the day trip
You will not be able to see all of Sintra’s attractions in one day if you want quality time and don’t want to tire yourself.
However in theory, you can do all the sights in one day. In that case, though, you should start the day extremely early, spend less than 1 hour in each one, and take no breaks. It would be a long and tiring day!
So, I recommend choosing 3 or 4, then plan your day around them! Here are my recommended routes:
- **Quinta da Regaleira → Pena Palace → Castle of the Moors
- Palace of the Monserrate → Quinta da Regaleira → Pena Palace → Castle of the Moors
- Palace of the Monserrate → Quinta da Regaleira → National Palace of Sintra
- Pena Palace → Castle of the Moors → National Palace of Sintra
**The day trip that I planned!
Locations and opening hours of attractions
|9:30AM – 8:00PM (Apr. – Sept.)
9:30AM – 6:00PM (Oct. – Mar.)
|In historical city centre of Sintra.|
|9:30AM – 8:00PM (for park)
9:30AM – 7:00PM (for palace)
|West of Sintra city proper, about 3.5km away.|
|9:30AM – 7:00PM||In historical city centre of Sintra.|
|9:30AM – 8:00PM (for park)
9:45AM – 7:00PM (for palace)
|Atop the Sintra hills.|
|9:30AM – 8:00PM||Atop the Sintra hills.|
Pair close attractions together
Do both Pena Palace AND Castle of the Moors together, since they are about 15 minutes to each other by foot on the hills of Sintra.
If you want to visit the Palace of the Monserrate, also visit both Quinta da Regaleira since they’re generally in the same area. Palace of the Monserrate is outside the city proper, but Quinta da Regaleira is the closest to it (~1 hour by foot).
Skip the entrance lines
If you want to maximize your time in Sintra, I highly recommend buying tickets online. Not only will you bypass entrance lines, you will also save 5%+ when you buy online! To do this, just buy your tickets at the Parques de Sintra ticket office! Your tickets will be emailed to you, and you can just show the e-ticket at the entrance.
The only place wherein you cannot buy tickets online is the Quinta da Regaleira. You must line up and buy the tickets for €6. Because of this, I recommend visiting Quinta da Regaleira first before the other sites.
Getting to Sintra
To get to Sintra’s train station, you’ll have to catch a train from Rossio train station in Lisbon. From here, you will catch a Sintra train with Sintra as the final destination. You can buy a Comboios de Portugal (CP) train ticket from the machines or from the ticket booth, and it will cost you about €4.50 roundtrip.
Alternatively, you can also use your rechargeable Lisbon Viva Viagem card, if you have it (using this card is called “zapping”). This card will allow you to use the public transport in Lisbon, along with some urban lines outside of Lisbon like the Cascais and Sintra lines.
With the Viva Viagem card, it’ll also be cheaper to travel; a roundtrip ticket to Sintra is about €3.70! You can buy and load/reload a Viva Viagem card at the metro stations.
Historical city centre
The historical city centre (aka Centro Historico) is about 12 minutes from Sintra train station by foot. The walk is not difficult at all if you are mobile.
There is also a tourist office in the historical city centre (called Posto de Turismo Ask Me Sintra), but it only opens at 9:30 AM. There, they carry different & useful maps of Sintra (though I still think the best map is Google Maps), and they can help you out with any questions.
Hiking up the hills
From my research, it seemed like hiking up the hills would be extremely hard. As a Calgarian, I’ve had my fair share of hiking high in the Rockies, so I was up for a challenge…But boy, was I deeply disappointed. 😕
Maybe it’s because I have a lot of experience hiking in Alberta and Asia, but I did not find this hike difficult. Perhaps it would be difficult for those who haven’t hiked before; however, for an experienced hiker, this is a pretty easy hike.
Here are my thoughts about the hike:
- For an experienced hiker, the hike is not difficult at all.
- For the inexperienced, the hike can prove to be a challenge.
- Most of the path is either paved (especially in the beginning) or cleared, with no scrambling involved. E-A-S-Y.
- The hike from the Santa Maria Church to the Pena Palace took me less than 1 hour. I didn’t take any breaks along the way, besides taking photos.
Trails to Pena Palace/Castle of the Moors
The hiking trails leading to the top of the Sintra hills start at the Church of Santa Maria or Igreja de Santa Maria. The walk from the historical city centre to this church takes about 15 minutes, and it’s an easy walk.
There is one other trail that starts near Quinta da Regaleira. The Intentional Travelers covered this trail here.
From the church, walk up the street and you’ll see signs pointing to the Castle of the Moors, or Castelo dos Mouros. This hiking trail is the same trail leading to Pena Palace, so just follow these signs until you reach the entrance of the hiking trail.
As you hike along the path, there will be a split depending on where you want to go. At the Guard’s House, you can either continue to Pena Palace or Castle of the Moors. The signs along the hiking trail are very helpful, so let them lead you where you want to go.
Every now and then, you will also find maps of the hiking trails to indicate where you are with respect to the trail. This also helps you plan where you want to go, should you need it.
King of the hill
Because Pena Palace is higher on the hill than Castle of the Moors, most people start at Pena Palace then walk down to the castle afterwards. This was my route for the day. The Pena Palace Park has many entrances, but the main entrance is at the top of the hill.
From reviews, I only decided to get buy admission to the Pena Palace Park, not the palace itself. It’s definitely your choice if you want to enter the palace, but the line for the palace can get excessively long during peak hours.
Walking down towards the Castle of the Moors is much easier, and it takes about 15 minutes to reach the archway entrance of the Castle from Pena Palace. From the Castle of the Moors, you can hike back down to the historical city centre by taking the same trail that led you up!
The hikes in Sintra are not the hardest you’ll do, especially if you have experience in hiking. I highly recommend hiking to your destinations rather than taking a taxi or bus. It would take longer and tire you out faster, but you’ll have a sense of accomplishment when you reach the top (plus it’s exercise)! Enjoy the day trip!