Lisbon 4 Day City guide – Daytrip to Sintra

Follow in the footsteps of America-based Saul Schwartz as he learns what the capital of Portugal has to offer. What is most important to visit in and around Lisbon? Is Sintra National Park really worth carving a whole day out of your busy travel schedule to see? Saul suggests a free walking tour and further exploration of this World Heritage Site.

By Saul Schwarz

My wife Fern and I spent four days in Lisbon and Sintra during October, two of which was spent in the historic centre of Lisbon, one in the beautiful Belém area and one in Sintra National Park. You can read all about what to see in Lisbon and Belém in this article. Here’s our guide to a great daytrip to Sintra:

World Heritage History and Magic Walking Tour

In Sintra, we again booked a “free” tour by tips in advance through the Guru Walk website.  Fern and I met our guide at Largo Dr. Virgílio Horta by the city hall.  We were so happy to again see Gabriel, who was one of the most informative guides we have ever used for a walking tour.  The tour lasted about 2 hours and was an ideal orientation to Sintra.  Gabriel provided many tips and recommendations.  He also told us some of the legends from times past, including the myth of the secret portals. 

Gabriel began the tour by showing us a series of scenic viewpoints, up from the town to the rippling mountains, Romanticism architecture and glittering palaces.  The entire town is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  


We walked by several beautifully tiled monumental fountains.  The Moorish fountain, built in 1922, shows off lovely blue tiles surrounding its oval spout.  Gabriel explained how sound carries from one side of the fountain structure to the other.  It is located on Volta do Duche.  Built in 1931, the Pisoes fountain is a semi-circular structure on Avenida Almeida Garrett.  It is ornamented with a Renaissance-inspired circle, decorated with a tile panel and a stone relief representing children holding cups and pitchers. 

Next, we spent some time learning about the National Palace of Sintra.  The palace was inhabited by Portuguese monarchy for almost eight centuries.  Because Gabriel recommended this as the top historical attraction in Sintra, we ended up touring the palace after the walking tour.

The tour ended at the Tivoli Palacio de Seteais, once a palace and now a five-star hotel.  This is a romantic place with period architecture with the atmosphere of the 18th century.  We ate a packed lunch in the large public gardens outside the hotel. 

National Palace of Sintra

We had time in the afternoon to tour one of the palaces.  We chose to tour the National Palace of Sintra located in the heart of the old town (Sintra Vila).  During the walking tour, as we looked at the exterior, Gabriel explained that the palace had been built in three different periods. 

The main section contains a Gothic façade, with large kitchens beneath the two conical chimneys.  This section was built in the 14th century.  A second section is in the Moorish style and this addition was built in the 16th century by Manuel I.  The final section was built later with Portuguese style architecture.  The cost for admission was 10 Euros per adult.  The palace now operates as a museum but is considered the best-preserved royal palace in Portugal. 

We first walked through the walled gardens outside the palace.  The gardens include colourful tile features.  Highlights of the interior included the magnificent ceiling of the former banqueting hall painted in the 17th century and divided into octagonal panels with swans.  In the Sala das Pegas, King Jado I had the ceiling painted with magpies as a rebuke to the ladies of the court for indulging in gossip, which he felt sounded like the cry of the magpie.  The inside also featured beautiful tile walls and dramatic chandeliers.  One of the bathrooms had a fancy, colourful stained-glass window. 

Tips & Recommendations

  • It was useful to have one guidebook for planning purposes.  We used Lisbon – Eyewitness Travel Guides.  The Visit a City app was also useful.
  • In October, the weather was very sunny, but warmer than expected with highs over 80 degrees Fahrenheit.  Sun hats are highly recommended.
  • There is a fee of up to 2 Euros at the public bathrooms.  Cafes and restaurants charge a similar fee if you are just stopping in for the bathroom visit and not a meal.  It is good to have change in your pocket for this.
  • Almost everyone in Lisbon and Sintra speaks English.  Speaking a little bit of Portuguese seemed to be appreciated by the locals. 
  • Fern and I originally planned to stay in Lisbon for five nights, but our original flight was cancelled, and we missed our first day.  We concluded that four nights in Lisbon allowed us to see most of the major attractions and still enjoy a day trip to Sintra. 

Getting there

We spent our 3rd full day of our trip in Sintra, which is the most popular day trip from Lisbon for tourists. 

We took the train from the Rossio train station which is very close to the Rossio Metro stop.  Although we did not buy advance tickets, the line for ticket purchase was short.  Trains run about every 30 minutes and make several stops along the way.  Due to an abnormal delay, the trip took a little more than one hour going out, but less on the return. 

This train ticket was not included in our Metro pass, but only cost 2.30 Euros.  The journey was comfortable but crowded in each direction. 

More info

If you want to discover more about Sintra, check out Palaces of Portugal: Sintra or A Real Jurassic Park in Center of Portugal – only an hours’ drive from Lisbon.

About Saul Schwartz

Saul lives in Alexandria, Virginia and has lived in the Washington, D.C. area since 1984. He loves to travel throughout Europe with his wife and family and particularly enjoys interacting with local residents and learning about life in their city and country. 

Saul has previously shared his travel insights with us. Check out his story about Touring Southwest Ireland – Limerick, Clare & Galway or check out his trip to Modern Athens – Beyond the Acropolis or his fascination with The Vatican: Rome of the Popes.

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