Taking the bus in Sintra, Portugal

09.01.24 08:51 AM By Putri

From all the people we know who went to Portugal, they all suggested us to not skip Sintra. And so we did. I guess you could say we were peer pressured into it, but hey, at least it's not drugs. I mean, if everyone's raving about it, it must be pretty darn amazing... right?


My two cents about Sintra after two visits that it's, how to say this, it's very people-y. It is one of the most visited sites in Portugal since the last years, and I could totally see why. I didn't regret to have visited it, not at all. In fact, I would also recommend it to others heading to Lisbon only with a few disclaimers and an extensive list of conditions, which I wished people had told me about. Such as: 

Is a day trip enough?

The answer is a big NO. Sintra is relatively small in terms of geography BUT it's packed with interesting places to visit and stunning scenery, from Moorish castle/fort to colorful Pena Palace, to Arabesque castle Montserrate, to mystical garden Quinta da Regailera. A day trip will allow you to visit maximum two of them properly. We did two times day trips to Sintra and it's far from enough, we had to choose which sights we wanted to see. If I would've known how magical Sintra is, I would've stayed for a couple of nights in Sintra itself. 

How to get there?

By train. First, we don't need an organized tour to visit it. I'm glad we figured this out early on because it turns out that going to Sintra from Lisbon was easy peasy lemon squeezey. We took a train from Rossio station directly to Sintra. The train to Sintra is part of Lisbon urban train network so we can use the same Viva Viagem card and the fare cost us around 6 Euro for a roundtrip ride. The ride itself was about 40 minutes. As the sun begrudgingly rose, we dragged ourselves onto the first train, hoping to avoid flocks of tourists, alas, most tourists (like us) think alike. Luckily, Rossio station is the first stop on the route so there are always plenty of seats available.

Once we get out of the train station, we're bombarded by the people who offer tour guides and transportation to get around Sintra. Thank goodness for my natural "resting bitch face" that kept them at bay. It's a gift, really.

By car. This option is highly unrecommended by us and also by the rest of the internet for good reason: the road in Sintra is small and finding parking is hard. But let's be real, we did it anyway because YOLO we're obviously experts at making things more difficult for ourselves.. At least it was off-peak season and there weren't many buses on the road and the public parking lots are relatively empty. Silver linings, right? And also we came in from Cascais for our second visit to Sintra, the traffic was less brutal compare to if you drive from Lisbon. 

How to get around?

Scotturb 343 and 345 bus line

BUS 343 - Pena Palace route

We decided two main sites to visit for the day; Pena Palace and Quinta da Regailera. There are two bus lines that specifically cater these routes and both are run by a company called Scotturb. Above is the map route of the bus service. Bus 343 brings you to the Pena Palace, the famous colorful palace. The bus takes a one-way trip that starts at the Sintra train station and winds its way up the mountain, making stops at the Moorish castle and Pena palace before bringing you back to where you started. It's like a magical roundabout for tourists. 

BUS 345 - Quinta da Regailera 

After catching the 343 back to the train station, we took the 345 to Quinta de Regailera. The vehicles used for the 345 line are different than the ones for the 343. The 345 bus mostly smaller with open deck, and passes less often than 343. 

We made the rookie mistake of thinking that taking the 343 or 345 bus would be a breeze. The 343 and 345 lines seemed like the perfect, budget-friendly way to travel around Sintra. Little did we know, these buses were as rare as unicorns, and the lines were longer than a Costco receipt. We were there in October and although it was outside the peak season, Sintra was still crawling with tourists. There was still an incredible demand for the bus!. Getting from one spot to another wasn't as swift as we thought. Lesson learned: next time, we'll splurge and hop in one of the jeeps that takes you from one site to another for 7 Euro a ride. 

Which sites to visit?

As you can see from the bus map above, there are tons of sites to visit in Sintra and each of them is larger-than-life and has its own charms. If we could, we would visited each and one of them. We couldn't really suggest which one was the best, but Pena Palace definitely not to miss, it's the icon of Sintra. We did two day trips to Sintra, visiting three sites and a legendary patiserie. But it would easily take at least a whole week to truly see everything there.


After being crammed onto the 343 bus, we embarked on our journey to explore Sintra Palace. Stepping into the palace grounds felt like stumbling into a fairytale world, except with more selfie sticks. The bright colors of the walls and excessive details of the architecture were quite overwhelming. We wandered through rooms filled with unnecessary opulence and looked up at ceilings painted with questionable choices of arts. 

We did not expect this place to be that people-y, especially during the off season like October.  The palace was filled with the constant chatter of people, the clicking of cameras, and the shuffling of feet. You have to choose the time slot when you're going to visit the palace when you buy the tickets. And each slot is limited for a couple of hundreds people. The palace isn't big enough to hold that kind of flow of endless tourist so it become the kind of place where you can only visit by keep following the herd flow. No wandering off and exploring on your own, sheep! BAAAAA!. 

Nico and I, we're not exactly fans of this type of visitation plan. It leaves me feeling rushed and unable to fully appreciate the scenery, while Nico couldn't even properly set up his camera and his 1001 lenses to take pic of every inch of the place. And let's be honest, what's the point of traveling if you can't take obnoxiously large amounts of photos to fill up your memory card for social media to document your trip?

The palace is like something from a galaxy far, far away, effortlessly straddling the border between Too-Much-sity and Just-Right-ville.

The over-the-top opulence of the palace is almost blinding, with bright colors and excessive details adorning every inch of the walls and ceilings. But somehow, it all comes together and creates a strangely fascinating sight, like a gaudy circus that you can't look away from. 


As if from a different world, the Quinta da Regaleira is wild and extravagant. Walking around this garden felt like being transported further into a twisted fairy tale land. A fairy tale land on the Brother Grimm's book that is, a balance between wonder and overwhelm. 


Oh look, it's the Monserrate Palace and its ridiculously magnificent gardens. Can you believe this was once someone's private property? I guess when you have endless amounts of money, why not build a palace with Gothic, Persian, and Moorish influences all mashed together? -eyeroll in poverty- 

And get this, the Monserrate Palace and parks are perched on top of a freakin' hill. Like who has time to trek up a hill just to build some fancy palace? The Portuguese aristocracy, that's who. I mean, we drove here from Cascais and the route was quite the adventure. I can only imagine what it was like for them and their fancy horses back in the day.

The architecture and the attention to details given in this site were incredible tho, so beside looking like where a Disney princess would live (seriously, the garden make you kinda half expect to see talking animals and magical creatures frolicking about) it is also, umm.. let say environment friendly and self-sustain. If you look carefully at all the nooks and crannies, you'd find an underground water system to water the garden and the palace with cisterns. I bet there's more to it than just the palace and the garden we see on the plain sight, there must be tons of secret passages and hidden chambers everywhere, along with its own dark interesting stories... dunn dunn dunn.. 


Last but not least, Sintra is notorious for their pillow-shaped pastry, the Travesseiro (which literally means "pillow" in Portuguese), the pastry of Sintra that everyone was raving about. These heavenly treats are made of flaky puff pastry, filled with a droolworthy almond cream and topped with a generous dusting of confectioner sugar. Have a bite of the real travesseiro in Sintra is as important as visiting Pena Palace, seriously. It's part of the whole Sintra experience, IMHO. 

There are many places that sell Travesseiro in Sintra. Among them, one stands out as the most renowned - Casa Piriquita, a charming bakery and cafĂ© that first opened its doors in 1862. The moment we stepped through the doors, a wave of sweet scents and buttery scent lingered in the air gave us a warm welcome. It's like stepping into heaven or something. My eyes were immediately drawn to the spectacular display of freshly baked Portuguese pastries, meticulously arranged on their glass display. 

Casa Piriquita is also famous for their Queijadas.  Legend says that back in the medieval days, these bite-sized cheese pies were actually a form of currency. I can see why, I mean, anything that delicious should definitely used as a form of payment. The Queijadas are best described as scrumptious little cheese pies, with creamy cheese filling and a touch of aromatic cinnamon. Each bite is a symphony of textures, with a crunchy exterior giving way to a soft and melt-in-your-mouth filling.