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Sintra crowded like Disney? Skip, advance trip, keep itinerary plz ck my number of days

Going to Lisbon in April/ May . I was told by a travel consultant who was there in October that Sintra is so crowded - like Disney World crowded.. That doesn’t sound appealing to me at all. Should I skip Sintra? As of right now I have Monday and Tuesday full days in Lisbon with the option on Wednesday to stay in Lisbon, go to Sintra or advance my trip.

  • Lisbon arrive Monday 9 am - Thursday departure time open
  • Porto Thursday arrival time open -Sunday fly out 3 pm To Seville. Douro Valley day trip in there one day
  • Seville Sunday night-Thursday trainto Granada 9 am ( possibly day trip to Córdoba)
  • Granada arrive 11:47am Thursday LeaveSat morning fly to ( know to buy tickets ahead forflight and Alhambra
  • Barcelona arrive 12:30 Saturday to flight home Wednesday afternoon ##Thoughts on time spent in each city and Sintra?
Posted by
2231 posts

Well, I spent 2 nights in Sintra when I first arrived in Portugal in early May 2017, and I loved it. I was at no site, no restaurant, no bakery, no street, that was crowded. Certainly early morning and the evenings were quieter, as many people come to Sintra on day trips from Lisbon, and are all there during the heart of the day, say 10 to 4 or so. But the principal sites are spread around the area, in and around the town. I have heard that the busiest days in Sintra are Mondays, since so many museums in Lisbon are closed that day, so people day trip to Sintra.
All that said, you have a short time in Portugal, and Lisbon and Porto both merit more time, including the day up the Douro Valley from Porto.
It is always a stretch to visit both Portugal and Spain during a relatively short trip (I count 14 nights), with various days In transit. Every time you move lodging and travel to a new city, it generally takes at least half a day. Given the limited time allotted, you’ve done well fitting all that in. I think you would have a considerably more satisfying trip if you could add a few days.

Posted by
346 posts

I'm surprised by the Disney World comment but it was in 2012 that we spent a week in Sintra. It was early May and perfect for us. We've been blessed to be able to make over ten trips to Europe and our hike to the Moors Castle in Sintra remains one of our most treasured days.
Last year we had friends visit Sintra based on our stories of the Moors Castle and "Disneyland" was not their experience either.

That being said so much these days depends on tourist buses and cruise ships arrivals. One persons perfect day is another's nightmare.

Sintra had a lot to offer us in sights, beautiful countryside and restaurants. It was our home based for the area.

Posted by
111 posts

Interesting comment. Not sure what would have been going on in Sintra in October that would have made it Disneyland crowded. Maybe they ran into a festival?
I was there in June of 2016, did not experience any of those type crowds. It was lovely. Had a car and visited many of the palaces with very little waiting for entry tickets or crowds. Enjoyed a lovely lunch overlooking the Palacio National de Sintra with no waiting.
Didn't find crowds in any of the places we visited in Portugal: Lisbon, Sintra, Cascais, Colares except PORTO. We happened to be in Porto on the Feast of St. John the Baptist, June 23 and it was crazy. We didn't know it was one of Europe's liveliest street festivals. On top of that Portugal was playing in the World Cup Soccer, so the city was a buzz. It was like Mardi Gras meets New Years Eve in Times Square. Great fun and boy can they party.
By all means go to Sintra, it was great and not at all crowded.

Posted by
1864 posts

We took the RS Portugal Tour September 2016. We arrived 2 days before the tour began. We took a guided day tour to Sintra and Caiscas with Lisbon Riders. We didn't find Sintra crowded when we visited the Pena Palace, and Sintra Village. It ended up being one of our wow moments in Portugal. www.lisbonriders.com.

Following our tour we traveled independently to Madrid, Toledo and Barcelona for 8 nights.

Posted by
2546 posts

We went to Sintra this summer in late July so what I think is prime tourist season (but maybe it's not for Portugal) and based on my experience, anyone who says SIntra is Disney World crowded maybe has not been to Disney World in a while. The only crowded areas we came upon were in the center of the town -- the streets with a bunch of shops and restaurants etc. The "palaces" were mostly empty. Maybe in April and May, the crowds will be at a crazy level. It's no longer unspoiled and undiscovered and there is a bit of traffic at times but Sintra was not Disney crowded when I was there.

Posted by
13896 posts

I was in Sintra for 3 nights from May 14, 2019.

On Wednesday, I went to Quinta da Regaleira around 10 am. There were 2-3 school groups, and about as many small guided tours, not too many other tourists.
On Thursday I went to the Pena Palace. Aside from the fact that the Palace looks like "Gaudi meets Disney", the palace itself was indeed very much a Disney experience. There were cars, vans and buses lined up for a kilometer on the narrow road up, waiting to either disgorge passengers or enter the parking lot. I rode a tuktuk which was an exhilarating experience to say the least, but it was very efficient. The driver zipped past the line of vehicles. There was a line for buying tickets (I already had mine), another line for the shuttle bus tickets, and of course, a line for the shuttle bus too. None of the lines were very long, waited about 10-15 minutes for the bus. There was a line to enter the palace - I probably waited about 10-15 minutes to enter the palace. The worst was going through the many rooms in a steady stream like a herd of cattle. If a group stopped for a couple minutes, everyone behind had no choice but to wait. And you couldn't really stop because of the crush of people behind you. On the other hand, the gardens were mostly devoid of people and very lovely. Unlike most reviews I've read, I thought they were nicer than those at Quinta da Regaleira. My mistake was waiting for the bus (1/2 an hour) instead of taking a tuktuk right away. While I waited I watch tour bus after tour bus pull up to the center with groups of 40+ getting off, probably to see the National Palace. Friends of mine went to Pena Palace on the same day, in the afternoon and said there were few people there. I went to the National Palace around 4 pm and there were maybe another dozen people there.

Posted by
111 posts

I have found that many places get very busy when a cruise ship is in port. I now check the cruise ship arrival information when I am going to visit museums, castles etc in towns where this could be an issue. Sintra is a day trip choice on many cruise ships that visit Lisbon. I usually shift my visiting day to a non cruise ship day. Most cities will have a site that tells you what ships are in port and how many passengers and the approximate arrival and departure. So check the Lisbon cruise ship schedule. Might be able to miss that crowd.

Posted by
1827 posts

Myself and some friends I was traveling with took the train to Sintra from Lisbon (where we were staying) just for the day last October. It was just fine. Not crowded at all and we enjoyed our time there very much. We saw everything we wanted to see, it wasn't overly crowded and we even had time for a wonderful lunch. We felt it was time well spent and do it if you can. It was an easy train trip from Lisbon to Sintra and back.

Posted by
48 posts

My wife and I (both in our mid-30s) went to Sintra as a side trip from Lisbon for a day back at the end of October 2019. We made the mistake of taking the second train instead of the first train of the day. By the time we got to Sintra, the line for the Palace was very long (45 minutes at least?). I don't think it was "Disneyland crowded" but it was definitely crowded. We stood in line and went through the palace, but after that, we were tired of standing in line, and felt like we were wasting the day away, so we took the train back to Lisbon and were back by 2:30 or so.

Posted by
99 posts

In mid June 2019, I did a mid-week day trip to Sintra from Lisbon. Following the RS guidebook and advice from friends who had recently traveled there, I did make the first train, and I bought Pena Palace tickets in advance but just the night before. I had about a 15 minute wait to enter Pena Palace and no wait for the Moorish Castle or anywhere else. I am not big on palaces but I enjoyed the day in Sintra, in part because you can spend much of it outdoors.

For your time in Spain, I think Cordoba is definitely worth a visit.

Posted by
4684 posts

My visit in May 2018 to Pena Palace at Sintra felt like Disneyland for sure, at least at the park entrance, because there were huge lines just to buy tickets. Foolishly, I had not pre-purchased a ticket, so my only option was to wait in line for a good 30 minutes to get one. Should not have made that mistake, but I hadn't planned on visiting Sintra that day and kind of decided to in the morning at the last minute.

Parts of Lisbon felt like Disneyland too, e.g. trying to get on a tram anywhere. Trams were often so packed with tourists that one would have to let a full one go by and wait for the next one - or try to push your way one into a sardine-like tram or bus. It was clear in 2018 that Lisbon was experiencing a tourist boom that their infrastructure wasn't quite up to handling.

Anyway...it's not that I wouldn't go to Lisbon or Sintra again, only that I would set my expectations. Portugal may have been not-so-touristy at some point but it's clearly long since been "discovered." Even Porto was more touristy than expected. (Coimbra and Tomar were not tourist at all, though.) Venice is completely mobbed with tourists too for example but it's certainly worth visiting anyway.

Posted by
62 posts

I was in Lisbon and Sintra this past December. I agree with Andrew a little in that both Lisbon and Sintra are crowded with tourists. I was in Lisbon around Dec. 12-14 and felt I was in New York City with how many people there were every place that I visited. I went to Sintra Dec. 22-24. Although there were crowds, it was more so during the day with the day-tour people and was much more pleasant in the evening. That being said, I am still very glad that I went to Sintra. I loved Quinta de Regaleira and Pena Palace even with the crowds. Quinta was less crowded. I have read that Monday is the day NOT to go to Sintra - so going on Wednesday may make a bit of difference regarding fewer people. Sintra is a beautiful, friendly town. I do think Portugal is now a tourist Mecca and the places with the least crowds are probably little towns off the beaten path. I was also in Porto and thought Porto was crowded too! And I think it was a lot less crowded than usual. So if going to most places in Portugal - expect to find lots of other tourists, go with the flow and have fun.

Posted by
47 posts

My trip is this spring, starting in Lisbon.

Counting the number of cruise ships in port per day while I'm in Lisbon shows: 3; 4; 3; 0; 1, from the 5th of May to the 9th. That's a daily potential (maximum numbers shown) influx ranging from 2,800 to 13,884 tourists.

Posted by
568 posts

I would definitely visit Sintra. The Pena Palace is so unique, and there are many other interesting palaces. Don't let the crowds scare you away. We were there in April 2018. We took a bus tour, which we don't normally do, but we were in Lisbon at the end of a 3-week trip and decided to take the "easy" way out by booking a bus tour. So we didn't have to wait in line to buy tickets. There was a long line at the ticket entrance but other than that, we didn't think Sintra was overly crowded like Disney World. And Andrew is correct about the long lines waiting to get on the trams, so we didn't take any trams. Maybe that is blasphemy! But it didn't ruin our trip, and we fell in love with Lisbon.

And Connie has the right attitude! "Expect to find lots of other tourists, go with the flow and have fun." For example, we arrived at Jeronimos Monastery early in the morning, and we got in the shortest line, assuming we would get in quickly. But we were wrong because they allow bus tour groups and cruise groups in ahead of people waiting to buy tickets. We waited for an hour, but had a fun conversation with people in line. Did waiting ruin our experience at Jeronimos Monastery? Absolutely not! We loved it!

Regarding allocation of nights for your locations:
Lisbon - 3 nights in Lisbon is the absolute minimum.
Seville - 4 nights in Seville is very good; however, you might not be able to see everything you want to see if you visit Cordoba for a day from Seville. I highly recommend, if you can, spending 1 or 2 nights in Cordoba. The Mezquita is amazing, but there is more to Cordoba than just the Mezquita. If you don't have the time to overnight in Cordoba, then definitely visit it as a daytrip, but keep in mind you will be shortchanging Seville, unless you travel very fast.
Granada - 2 nights is the minimum for Granada. I recommend seeing the Alhambra at night, too, in addition to the day time visit.
Barcelona - 4 nights is the absolute minimum for Barcelona. Keep in mind that many of the popular sites now require advance purchase tickets, so this might limit how much you can visit in a day.