Sintra palaces make this part of Portugal look like a fantasy land. The landscape is gorgeous and it’s dotted with famous palaces and other attractions that draw thousands of tourists every day, even in low season. There is a special energy to the whole area.
We can’t really save you too much money on this, fellow retired budget travelers, but we can save you a little money and a lot of time at these busy sites. That’s worth something, right?
There can be long queues at Sintra palaces because they are awesome places to visit.
Sintra palaces: 5 ways to save time at Pena Palace
Be ready to stand in line at Pena Palace, and for the public bus that takes you to both attractions – even during low season. We waited on some queues at the Palace unnecessarily. Here are ways you can save time on your self-guided day trip.
1. Buy Sintra train tickets early.
Our first line of the day was to buy train tickets. We were thinking it would be like hopping on the Long Island Railroad back home. Uh-uh. We wasted about 45 minutes waiting at the automated machine.
2. Buy train tickets from green automated machines.
For example, you can buy your ticket from the Apolonia station ahead of your day trip, even though you’re leaving from the Rossio station. It seemed like every tourist headed to Sintra was in lines to buy their tickets at the Rossio station. Round trip tickets from Rossio were 10 Euros each (.5 for the fare card).
3. Get the Pena Palace public bus ASAP.
Turn right when you leave the train station and walk less than half a block for the public bus stop. No need to look for the terminal to buy your ticket – you buy it while you wait on the line. Look for the worker with the mobile-ticket hand-held issuing machine.
If you go to the bathroom, or get a snack, or do shopping, you will have to wait for the next bus. The train is usually filled with people who want the bus, but there is a shortage of buses. Round trip bus tickets were 5 Euros for each of us.
4. Take the bus to the top of the hill.
This means, if you go to Pena Palace first, you can walk down the hill the Castle of the Moors, like we did. The return bus from Pena Palace takes takes you back down to near the train station. That’s it – ride over. Then you would have to wait for another bus up. You will not be able to take the bus to other attractions on the way up to Pena Palace.
And the most important part to save you time is the last one:
5. There are two lines outside the Pena Palace gate: chose the right one!
The ticket lines are not clearly marked – and you could end up on the wrong line – like us.
We saw the machine line was shorter. We thought we would save time on that line so off we went. Wrong!
When we got to the front, people ahead of us were complaining that queue was only for people who wanted to buy the more expensive tickets for the palace interior and the grounds. We (and other people) wasted 30 minutes on the machine line. Then it was roughly another 30 minutes on the other line that sold the less expensive “grounds-only” tickets.
Before we got into the most famed of the Sintra palaces, we had spent 2.5 hours in lines between the entrance, the bus and the train. What a bummer.
Now you have knowledge from our mistake to save much of that time. I’d also suggest you get to the palace as early as you can. It’s one of those places that will always be busy.
Castle of the Moors
Lucky for us, there was no wait to get onto the grounds at the Castle of the Moors, even though it also was jammed with tourists. This also is a famous Sintra palaces, though it’s mostly in ruins.
Just to note, the castle site features walls and a few really cool towers and gorgeous landscape, incredible high views, and other interesting features, but there is no ‘castle’ or ‘palace’. It was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake and only parts were rebuilt.
Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle both are owned by Sintra. Entry for each person was 7.5 Euros. The official parks website is here.
Our third stop in Sintra was Regaleira Palace — wow wow wow!
Such an odd, private property! It’s open to visitors to explore the fantastic gardens, inverted towers or “Initiation Wells”, Knights Templar and freemasonry symbolism, tunnels, small towers and Gothic gargoyles, chapel and palace.
Do not go to Sintra and skip this place!
By the time we got to this palace, it was after 4:00 p.m. (last entry is 5:00 p.m.) We stayed until it closed at 6:00 p.m. That was enough time, but barely because I like to go slow. Also, we were surprised there was no line! Maybe because it was later in the day – or maybe because people were still waiting to get to Pena.
I felt a sharp vibrational energy at the Regaleira Palace – especially in and around the “Initiation Well.”
Entry for each person was 6 Euros. A link to the official English version of the website is here.
It was the perfect day trip.
At each of our three stops in Sintra palaces, I really enjoyed the gardens and walkways. Maybe it was the relative quiet outside away from all the tourists, and the incredible fresh smell of earth, with scenes of history all around.
We made this a day trip, but some people stay in town for a few days because there are more Sintra palaces and attractions.
Hopefully you can enjoy more time experiencing these fantastic sites and less time on a queue.
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