The Pena Palace in Sintra

A colorful palace with high towers, emerging from the greenery of the nearby hills may be either an illustration for a classic fairy tale or…

… a picture on the postcard of Pena Palace in Sintra. This architectural jewel is a showcase of the town above which it towers, attracting thousands of visitors every year with its fairy-tale character.

History of Pena Palace in Sintra

When in the 12th century, the chapel of the Virgin Mary was erected on the top of one of the hills in Sintra,  no one could have thought that several hundred years later it would be one of the greatest local attractions. By order of Manuel I, a monastery was then established there. It was dedicated to the Hieronymites and served as a monastery until the orders were removed from Portugal. King Ferdinand II, who came to Portugal after getting married to Queen Maria II, was enchanted by the building. The ruler was known as particularly devoted to culture and enthralled by the 19th– century Portuguese art. What is more, he was a polyglot, artist and art collector.

The king found the monastery in ruins after the earthquake, and although he first planned to have it restored to its original state, he finally decided to expand the building and give it the function of a palace. After Maria II died, the king, inspired by the new marriage, added Chalet of Countess of  Edla to the complex, which today makes the charming park which surrounds the building even more inspiring.

GOOD TO KNOW: In 1910, the Pena Palace in Sintra became a National Monument, and in 1995 it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Today it is also part of the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe.

The unusual architecture of the Pena Palace

Due to its location (it is situate on a hill that is 480 m high), the Pena Palace towers over Sintra. It is the embodiment of eclecticism and an example of Portuguese Romantic architecture. It combines elements of the Mudejar style, Gothic towers and Manueline motifs. You will enter its premises through an original gate decorated with spatial balls and cones, which leads to a drawbridge.

As soon as you see the building,  the colors and forms of the palace draw you in to the fairy-tale world. Intense yellow contrasts, among others, with the red of the clock tower and subdued gray. Despite the fact that the facade is an explosive mixture, its elements from different worlds perfectly harmonize with each other. The decorations on the walls are extremely rich and varied. Classic Portuguese azulejos perfectly match Arabic ornaments and arches, and the domes and turrets are the background for the stone figures that guard the palace. The latter depict, among others, dragons or mythological creatures. The most famous of them is the one depicting Triton, a sea monster, sitting on a large shell and guarding the entrance to the new part of the palace.

Here and there, the walls of the palace are decorated with small balconies. A sentry path runs around the building, which was supposed to refer to traditional depictions of medieval castles. This path, however, has never been used for defensive purposes; it simply allows you to admire the views of the valleys surrounding Palacio da Pena. The path also leads to a characteristic courtyard with arches. This is one of the many points that will appeal to photography fans.

The interior of the Palace

Although the outer walls are the most characteristic element of the building, if you have more time, don’t forget to see its interior as well. Until 1910, the route running through the palace were only used by the members of the royal family. It leads to rooms that witnessed royal everyday life. All these chambers are distinguished by wall paintings and richly decorated vaults. The tourust route leads through the dining room with a table set with porcelain dishes and the bedrooms with patterned walls and golden fabrics. The dressing room presents dresses that are worthy of queens, and the kitchen reveals the backstage of royal feasts. You will also see the remains of the original monastery there, including cloisters decorated with geometric azulejos.

Royal Park

An important element which adds value to the palace is also the surrounding park. Among the trees there are numerous structures, such as the monk’s grotto, reminding of the former function of the building located on the hill. There are also temples, fountains, picturesque turrets and viewpoints. Each of these places can be reached by winding paths with a parapet arrangement that evoke the images of wildness and romanticism. Walking through the park, you will certainly not forget that Ferdinand II was a great collector. Along the paths winding around the palace, the king decided to plant trees from all continents of the world, for example beautiful Asian camellias.

Practical information

If you want to visit The Pena Palace in Sintra it is best to buy your ticket in advance. You will then avoid standing in a long queue and avoid the risk that all admission tickets have been sold out. You will then avoid standing in a long queue and avoid the risk that all tickets have been sold out.

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Discover other interesting places, attractions, and monuments in Portugal:
DistrictTourist attractions and interesting places
LisbonAttractions in Lisbon: Lisbon Oceanarium, Lisbon Stadium (Estádio da Luz), St. George's Castle, Jerónimos Monastery, National Pantheon of Lisbon, Royal Treasury Museum, Lisbon Cathedral, National Azulejo Museum, Lisbon Cable Car, Lisbon Zoo, Belém Tower, Ajuda National Palace, Immersivus Gallery Lisbon, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Arco da Rua Augusta, Iconic Trams of Lisbon, Cod's Interpretation Centre, Pilar 7 Bridge Experience, National Coach Museum, Portuguese School of Equestrian Art, Carmo Convent, Berardo Collection Museum, Fado Museum. Other attractions in the Lisbon district: Monserrate Palace and Park, Pena National Palace, Castle of the Moors, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra Myths and Legends Interactive Centre, Mafra National Palace, Queluz National Palace and Gardens, Dino Parque Lourinhã, Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, Capuchin Convent in Colares, The National Palace in Sintra.Interesting cities: Lizbona, Sintra, Mafra, Queluz, Lourinhã
PortoAttractions in Porto: Porto Stadium (Estádio do Dragão) and FC Porto Museum, Stock Exchange Palace, World of Discoveries, Alice Porto's Magical Garden, Immersivus Gallery, The Chocolate Story Museum, Stained Glass Museum, Serralves Foundation, Museum of Textiles and Fashion, Calem Caves, Pocas Caves, Burmester Cellars, Water Pavilion, Cork Planer, The Bridge Collection, SEA LIFE Porto, Porto Cathedral, Church and Tower of the Clerics, Vila Nova de Gaia wine region, Douro Valley.Interesting cities: Porto
AveiroAttractions in Aveiro: Costa Nova, Aveiro Canals, Aveiro Museum of Modern Art, Barra Beach, Aveiro Lighthouse.
BejaAttractions in Beja: Beja Cathedral, Beja Regional Museum, Castro Verde Castle, Castro Verde Regional Museum, Aljustrel Archaeological Museum.
BragaAttractions in Braga: Braga Cathedral, Bom Jesus do Monte, Bishop Castro Monteiro Museum, Caniçada Lake, Tibães Monastery.
BragançaAttractions in Bragança: Bragança Cathedral, Bragança Castle, Military Museum of Bragança, Montesinho Natural Park, Macedo de Cavaleiros Archaeological Museum.
Castelo BrancoAttractions in Castelo Branco: Castelo Branco Cathedral, Castelo Branco Textile Museum, Serra da Estrela, Sertã Ethnographic Museum, Cabril Lake.
CoimbraAttractions in Coimbrze: Badoca Safari Park, Berlengas Nature Reserve.
ÉvoraAttractions in Évorze: Évora Cathedral, Chapel of Bones in Évora, Almendres Cromlech, Água de Prata Aqueduct, Évora Archaeological Museum.
FaroAttractions in Faro:Benagil Caves, Lagos Zoo, Sand City Lagoa, Algarve region, Zoomarine in Algarve, Praia da Marinha Beach, MiniGolf Amusement Park, Aquashow Park in Quarteira, Ponta da Piedade.Interesting cities: Albufeira, Lagos, Lagoa
GuardaAttractions in Guarda: Guarda Cathedral, Serra da Estrela Natural Park, Guarda Museum, Tower of Homage, Gouveia Regional Museum.
LeiriaAttractions in Leiria: Leiria Castle, Leiria Cathedral, Nazaré Beach, Batalha Monastery, Alcobaça Monastery.
PortoalegreAttractions in Portoalegre: Portalegre Cathedral, Portalegre Tapestry Museum, Serra de São Mamede, Marvão Castle, Cabeço de Vide Archaeological Museum.
SetúbalAttractions in Setúbal: Arrábida Natural Park, Alcácer do Sal Monastery, Setúbal Archaeological Museum, Sado Estuary Natural Park, Setúbal Cathedral.
Viana do CasteloAttractions in Viana do Castelo: Viana do Castelo Cathedral, Serra de Arga, Cabedelo Beach, Viana do Castelo International Region Museum, Viana do Castelo Provincial Museum.
Vila RealAttractions in Vila Real: Vila Real Cathedral, São Gonçalo Monastery, Peneda-Gerês National Park, Vila Real Archaeological Museum, Douro Museum.
ViseuAttractions in Viseo: Viseu Cathedral, Grão Vasco Museum, Serra da Estrela, Lamego Castle, Casa da Ribeira.
SantarémAttractions in Santarém: Santarém Cathedral, Vasco da Gama Bridge, Convent of Christ, Castelo do Bode Lake, Tejo National Park, Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima.
Autonomous regionsTourist attractions and interesting places
AzoryInteresting cities: Flores.Islands in the Azores archipelago: Corvo, Faial, Pico, São Jorge, Graciosa, Terceira, São Miguel, Santa Maria
MaderaAttractions in Maderze: Cable car from the botanical garden, Garajau Natural Reserve. Cities in Madeira: Funchal, Machico, Santana, Porto Moniz, Câmara de Lobos.Other islands in the Madeira archipelago: Porto Santo.

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Klaudia Komadowska
Klaudia Komadowska
It started with a few Spanish words and ended up with boundless love for the Spanish-speaking world. Just like that. The more I knew and discovered, the happier it made me. And it still does. A vivid imagination and an artistic soul finally made me believe that there is a lot of Latino blood flowing in me.