Sintra palaces, castles have good vibes despite long lines

Outside the town of Sintra, Portugal, looks 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.

There can be long queues at places like Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle because they are awesome places to visit. Really – just look:

Pena Palace

Pena Palace from High Cross

Castle of the Moors

5 ways to save time getting into 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 your train ticket to Sintra before your day trip. 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 your ticket from any train station with the 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. The public bus to get to Pena Palace is to the right of the train station, and you can buy tickets while on line. 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 online. (Round trip was 5 Euros each.) We only wasted a few minutes looking for where to buy tickets before we figured it out: a worker with a mobile ticket-issue machine will collect your fare while you wait.
    • We waited another 30 minutes on this line – and we were lucky. Some people on our train had to wait longer for the next bus. *So get off the train and get to the bus stop as soon as you can.*
    • Bus line, Sintra, Portugal
  4. The bus route to the top of the hill, and Pena Palace, is a one-way loop. This means, if you go to Pena Palace first, and walk down to the Castle of the Moors, like we did, the return bus will take you back down to near the train station. That’s it – ride over. You will not be able to take the bus to other attractions on the way up to Pena Palace. In our case, we wanted to see the Regaleira Palace, which is beyond that full circle. It’s about a 15 minute walk from the train station.
  5. There are two lines outside the Pena Palace gate: one is for full access, which includes access to inside the palace and tickets to visit the grounds. The other line is for the full access tickets only. This is a big one. The ticket lines are not clearly marked – and you could end up on the wrong line – like us.
    • The picture below shows just a fraction of the lines.
    • Pena Palace lines
    • We saw the machine line was shorter. We thought we would save time on that line so off we went. 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 famed palace, we had spent 2.5 hours in lines between the palace entrance, the bus and the train. Now, you have knowledge to save much of that time. I’d also suggest you get to the palace as early as you can.

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. There could easily be a line in high season, however, or on a more sunny day (we went on a day with partial rain).

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’. 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.

Regaleira 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 got there late and were surprised there was no line!

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.

At each of our three stops in Sintra, 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. Also, we’ve lived in crowded cities since October 2017, so it felt so good to be outside with trees and rocks and fresh air.

We made this a day trip, but some people stay in Sintra for a few days because there are other palaces and attractions.

Hopefully you can enjoy more time experiencing these fantastic sites and less time on a queue.

(*Note, some pictures in this post were taken by Tedly.)









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