Pena: a fairy tale castle in all its glory, Portugal

Pena Palace: The fairytale residence of Portugal’s kings

This relatively young castle is unlike any other structure in the world. Pena Palace is one of the top 20 most beautiful castles in Europe and together with the other palaces of Sintra is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The castle is also considered one of the seven wonders of Portugal.

Just below the complex on the hills of the Sierra da Sintra you can see the outlines of other palaces and castles of Sintra, even lower in the valley – the small town itself, further – Lisbon, and on the horizon – the Atlantic Ocean. Such dizzying views are offered by the fairytale residence of the Portuguese kings from the wooded cliff above Sintra. The castle is 450 meters above sea level, higher (528 m) only a cross on a nearby peak.

Photo:Pena Palace in Sintra

And along the hill to the very foot of the palace stretches a wonderful park-garden. Here you can relax after a tour around the castle, where you feel like a Disney cartoon character: a fairy-tale prince or a sea pirate, briefly looking for something to do in the sea.

A bit of history

The area around today’s Pena Château in Sintra has long been a favourite of the kings, who have often made pilgrimages to the highest of the hills. In the Middle Ages, when Portugal gained independence from the Kingdom of Aragon, here appeared the chapel of Our Lady of Pena, then in its place – a monastery in the Manueline style.

Retro photos of Pena Castle

Its history is tragic: first the structure was badly damaged by lightning, and a little later, during the earthquake of 1755, only ruins remained of the monastery of the Jerónimos. They stood untouched for more than a century until, in 1838, the ruling royal family bought the land. King Ferdinand II decided to erect a summer residence on their place. In 1840, a park was laid out here, and then construction began.

What happened, we can see after almost two centuries. Towers and arches, minarets and domes – Oriental and Moorish styles, Renaissance and Gothic, impregnations of the same Manuelino … And that’s not all styles, mixed and mingled in this eclectic architectural tangle, which showed the world the German architect Ludwig von Eschwege. The result is a kind of example of romantic architecture of the 19th century with elements of pseudo-medievalism. A passion for the exotic is characteristic of the Romantic era.

Of course, Ferdinand II and Maria II contributed to the project, much was done on their wishes. The royal family financed the project and supervised the construction work. The Castle of Pena in Portugal was under construction for 12 years. The couple had 12 children and, following the death of his wife (1853), Ferdinando remarried in 1869 to the actress Elisa Hensler, to whom he bestowed the title of Countess d’Edla.

Photo: Pena Castle

Various improvements and improvements to the buildings and grounds were made continuously for many years, until Ferdinando’s death in 1885.

The Countess d’Edla inherited the palace, but in 1889 it became the property of the State: the heiress sold it, yielding to the urgent requests of the new King Luís I of Portugal.

After that, members of the royal family often visited it and Pena Castle became the summer residence of the last queen of Portugal, Amelie of Orleans. She lived here with her children and her husband King Carlos I.

And in 1908, King Carlos and his eldest son Amelie (grandson of Ferdinando II) were killed by terrorists in the heart of the Portuguese capital. Two years later, the youngest son, King Manuel II, was also deprived of the throne during the revolution. The royal family left Portugal and its favorite residence, the Pena Castle in Sintra.

The palace becomes a national museum (Palácio Nacional da Pena). It preserves all the interiors where the last royal dynasty lived.

There is another palace in Sintra where the Portuguese monarchs lived. If possible, take the time to see it.

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The architecture of the palace

Bright, like a patchwork quilt, the colors of the castle walls: yellow, red, terracotta, brown and gray, which we now see in person and replicated on various souvenir products appeared only a quarter century ago in 1994.

Architecture of the palace

The palace used to be monochrome. But this in no way diminished its architectural merits, it has always looked impressive. Many photos of the Pena Palace in Portugal, taken from different angles, show its walls and base resting on huge rocky boulders.

There are clearly 4 main parts (areas) in the design of the palace:

  1. The surrounding walls: they have two doors, one near the drawbridge.
  2. The body of the castle: the former monastery, just below the slope at the very top of the hill. There is also a tower with a clock and characteristic crenellated walls.
  3. Courtyard: located opposite the chapel with arches in the wall. The arches are neo-Moorish style.
  4. The palace itself: a huge cylindrical bastion.

A ramp leads up to the palace and ends at one of the doors of the perimeter wall, the Alhambra door. It leads to the terrace where visitors have a wonderful view of the famous High Cross. A triumphal arch leads to the living quarters.

Inner courtyard of the castle

The door that leads to the center of the palace (cloutoir) is authentic, preserved from the 16th century. Spanish-Moorish tile floors and walls in this part of the castle.

Photo: Triton Arch

The Triton Arch (photo above) leads visitors to the Triton Tunnel and then to the Triton Terrace.

Photo: Triton Terrace

The views of the eastern part of Pena Palace Park and photos of the scenery in good clear weather from this point are especially good.

Photo of Sintra from Pena Castle

And pictures of the castle itself and the surrounding area are bright and colorful.

The tower with the clock and the chapel are the restored remains of the medieval monastery of the Jerónimos.

Photo: Pena Castle in the fog

If the time of excursion fell on a cloudy day and the castle is blown about by winds from all sides, and the neighborhood is drowned in fog, you don’t need to despair either – the romantic atmosphere in the 18th century entourage is guaranteed!

You can have lunch on the terrace and after refreshment continue your tour around the palace halls inside the bastion.

Photo: restaurant on the terrace

There are more than a dozen of them. The basis of different collections: samples of antique furniture, collections of ancient branded porcelain and fine ceramics, skilful stained-glass windows made by famous masters, ornate chandeliers, lots of other interior items of those times.

Photo: Portuguese Royal Family Cookware

But the interiors of almost all the rooms are typically Portuguese: in every room a lot of wood, and on the floor and walls tiles azulejo – painted in a special technique tiles measuring 14×14 cm.

Photo: royal kitchen

The largest room in the palace is the royal kitchen (photo above). Two of the ovens are original, and the third has been restored.

Photo: chandelier in the smoking room

The authentic (19th century) chandelier of the Smoking Room is made with plant motifs.

Muhader is the name of the style with which the ceiling and walls of the Smoking Room are finished. This is the first large room with which the construction of the bastion part of the palace began. The furniture was brought from India in the 1940s.

Queen bedroom

The chambers of King Carlos I, furnished in the former home of the abbot of the Jerónimos monastery.

Queen Amelie's bedroom

The chambers of Queen Amelie in the upper floors of the palace.

Photo: hallway

The great hall was first used to receive ambassadors but was later converted into a billiard room.

Stucco on the ceiling

Lace ceilings of halls of the palace are admirable.

Knights Hall

Banquet hall (Hall of Knights).

The copper authentic tableware bears the original palace markings, and the table service porcelain collections are embossed with the coat of arms of Ferdinand II.

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Various themed exhibitions of collections from the museum’s storerooms are often held on the grounds of the castle. The price of the ticket for a visit to the Pena Palace from Sintra, Portugal, includes a tour of their exhibition.

Stained Glass Windows Photo: stained glass windows of the palace

Stained glass windows of the Pena Palace.

The President of the Portuguese Republic and other government officials sometimes use the Pena National Palace for receptions of foreign delegations.

The best view of the palace is from the park from the statue of the castle’s Founding King, Ferdinando II. To get there, you have to climb up the boulders. Of course, shoes and clothing must be comfortable and safe.

Photo: Pena Park

According to the wishes of Ferdinand II, the park at the foot of Pena Castle is arranged as a romantic garden of those times. There are many stone pergolas and stone benches throughout. Winding paths lead to each of them. Throughout Pena Park are planted and grow rare species of trees from around the world and the most exotic plants. The local climate allowed them to acclimatize quite easily and take root for good.

To walk around the vast forest area of 250 hectares (which is about 120 soccer fields!) at one time is impossible for anyone. And to tell the truth, many tourists admit that after viewing the palace from the outside and inside there is almost no energy left for the park. So those who are interested in botany and landscape architecture, it makes sense to spend a day looking around the park.

Pathway of the park

You will find everything here: waterfalls, ponds and ponds, fountains and lakes. The water system of the entire park is connected to each other, and on its perimeter scattered a variety of architectural and decorative objects. Many interesting vantage points of the park around Pena Palace are reflected on a map, which is best taken with you on this mini-trip.

At the entrance to the park are two pavilions and behind them begins Queen Amelie’s garden. You can go into the dovecote to see the 3D model of Sintra on display here.

Photo: garden of ferns

Stroll through the alleys of the Camellia Garden and see the Royal Valley of Ferns.

They are not local varieties, but Australian and from New Zealand, but are well established because they were acclimatized to the Azores before they were cultivated here.

How to get from Lisbon

Several trains an hour (CP line) depart from the stations:

Travel time to Sintra is 40 minutes to 1 hour, with a fare of 2.25 euros (website www.cp.pt). Then from the railway station take bus number 434 of Scotturb for 3 euros (5,5 euros round trip). The distance to the palace complex is 3.5 km and the road is steeply uphill.

By car: Take highway IC19. Navigation coordinates for Palacio Pena in Sintra: 38º 47′ 16.45″ N 9º 23′ 15.35″ W.

If you are already in the historic center of Sintra and prefer leisurely walks through its palaces and parks, this complex can be accessed by footpaths:

  • From the Moorish Palace (Percurso de Santa Maria), hiking 1,770 meters in about an hour
  • From Percurso da Lapa – 1450 meters in 45 minutes at a leisurely pace.
Ticket prices and visiting times

The garden-architectural complex of the Castle of Pena in Sintra (Portugal) in the summer season from March 28 to October 30 works according to the following schedule:

  • Palace from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • The park from 9:30 to 20:00

In the low season the schedule is as follows:

  • The Palace is open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • The Park is open from 10:00 to 18:00

The ticket office stops selling tickets to the palace exactly one hour before closing time, and the entrance to the attractions closes 30 minutes before closing time.

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It is possible to buy tickets for individual visits and combined tickets. The cost is indicated in euros.

Ticket Palace and park Park
For 1 adult 18-64 years old 14 7,5
For children 6-17 years old 12,5 6,6
For people 65 years and older 12,5 6,5
Family (2 adults + 2 children) 49 26

With the end of the main tourist season the prices of admission tickets are usually reduced. Specific ticket prices and changes in the opening hours before the winter season can be found on the Sintra Pena Palace website (www.parquesdesintra.pt).

It is possible to hire a personal guide on site, the price depending on the length of the tour, from 5 euros. Tours are conducted in Portuguese, English or Spanish. Russian speaking guides, our compatriots who live and work in Lisbon, also offer their services.

Prices are listed in March 2020.

In Lisbon, you can also buy a day trip to the Palais de la Pena for about 80-85 euros (children’s ticket is half price). It is very full and includes a guide, travel and meals.

What distinguishes this museum complex from other museums both in Portugal and in many European countries, is that here you are allowed to film the internal museum exhibit. So all tourists who have visited Portugal do not miss the opportunity to take photos of Pena Castle and many of them even make a video. We offer you one of them.

Sintra has always inspired poets and bewitched kings. Be sure to go there and visit Pena Palace, this fantastic and so eclectic monument of the Romantic era. It is one of the most visited architectural monuments in Portugal.

High-quality aerial shots of the castle, its interior and the park – watch a short video.

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Very beautiful castle, the pictures are simply mesmerizing. I would like to see all this beauty with my own eyes.

Tatiana, everything in your hands)

Hello, could you please tell me whether to walk around the walls, terraces and towers of the castle Pena is needed to visit the palace or buy a ticket for the park. Thank you

Good afternoon Elvira! To visit the castle you will need to buy a combined ticket “palace + park”. A ticket for the park does not entitle you to visit the palace.

Pena Palace in Portugal

Pena Palace in Portugal

Pena Palace, which is located on a high cliff in Sintra, Portugal, is a beautiful historical and cultural monument built in the 19th century. The unique building, which combines many architectural styles, was built especially for Duke Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

The beautiful castle and park were founded on the ruins of a small monastery. And now it is a favorite tourist attraction and home to a museum.

Pena Palace in Portugal

Tickets to Pena Palace

The most budget-friendly option includes only a visit to the park. From here you can admire the exterior of the Pena Palace.

  • Admission ticket is 7.5 euros (18-64 years);
  • For schoolchildren, seniors – 6,5 euros;
  • Family ticket (2 adults + 2 children) 26 Euro.
  • Entrance ticket – 14 euros (18-64 years);
  • For pupils, seniors – 12,5 euros;
  • Family ticket (2 adults + 2 children) EUR 49.

Excursions

Pena Palace in Portugal

Visitors should be prepared for the fact that the tour of the Pena Palace in Portugal can take at least 4-5 hours. From the ticket office you will have to travel a long distance, as well as a lot of stairs and climbs, which makes the visit with children uncomfortable.

It is worth noting that inside the building you can not always get in quickly because of the long lines. Inside, visitors will be shown the rooms of the kings with all the furnishings: furniture, decorations and utensils. A walk through the halls will take about an hour. Not all rooms can be filmed and photographed.

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The castle has a cafe where you can eat, toilets, and a souvenir store. Prices for souvenirs are quite high.

Hours of the Palace of Pena vary depending on the season. You can get a tour of the palace every day according to the schedule listed on the official website of the Pena Palace.

Video: “Aerial view of Pena Palace”

History of Pena Palace

On a rock that is located at an altitude of 528 meters above sea level, a monastery was built in 1511. By the time the palace was planned, the church was no longer functioning. At that time, only the chapel and the altar survived; the wooden part was burned in a thunderstorm, and everything else was destroyed by an earthquake. This tiny chapel was planned to be rebuilt into the convent of Our Lady of Pena at the behest of King Manuel I in the sixteenth century, but the prince died while still a child, so the plans did not materialize.

The project of the Pena Castle in Sintra, which resembled a fortress, was created at the wish of Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. His romantic nature demanded something more exotic than the National Palace of Sintra, and he chose the ruins of a cliff-top monastery. Construction began in 1838. It was supervised by the architect and engineer Ludwig von Eschwege. The place became the residence for Queen Maria II of Portugal and her husband King Ferdinand II. In 1840, a beautiful park appeared here.

The huge castle was constantly completed and modernized, on its construction were spent a lot of money. They worked on the interior finishing up to 1885. To this day it is possible to observe the premises in the same form.

After the death of Ferdinand Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha in 1885, the castle was taken over by Queen Amelia, who had to leave Portugal in 1910. In the same year a museum was opened in the castle. It became part of the Cultural Landscape of Sintra. In 2013, the Palace of Pena was included in the Network of European Royal Residences.

The residence is now open to the public. Tourists can explore the surroundings, visit the park and the royal rooms.

Pena Palace in Portugal

Architecture

The castle of Pena consists of two parts: the old monastery of the Order of St. Jerome, which dates back to the sixteenth century, and the wing built in the nineteenth century by King Ferdinand II. These sites were united by the fortress that surrounded them. The style of German Romanticism was applied, with the two wings being designed as a fortress-like residence. The building had the appearance of a fortress only by 1860. And then only the interior was changed. The walls were built so wide that a person could easily walk along them, looking down from a height of over 500 meters incredible views. The idea to make it look like a fortress was a success. High wall, tunnel entrance, observation towers – all this is typical for the defensive constructions of bygone times.

First, the monastery was reconstructed. Even King Ferdinand II made a huge contribution to the repair of the facility: almost completely rebuilt the upper floor, redid the ceilings. In 1843, the construction of the second wing, which was then called the “New Palace” began.

A major reconstruction of the Pena Palace in Sintra took place in 1994, when the structure was painted in bright colors that were not used 150 years ago: the monastery was painted in pink, while the New Palace was painted in yellow or ochre.

Gothic features, Renaissance, Moorish, Oriental and Neo-Manueline styles are noted in the architecture of the palace. In the Arabic hall there are decorative elements in the form of frescos, which create an optical illusion, porcelain pieces, stained-glass windows. Minarets and domes are made in the Oriental style. Towers are built in Gothic style.

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Great attention should be paid to details: the most attractive sculpture is the monster that hangs over the entrance arch. The creature is depicted on sea shells and corals and symbolizes the four elements: fire, earth, air and water. Its demonic gaze gives visitors an unusual feeling.

Pena Palace in Portugal

Park at the Palace of Pena

The park was created by King Ferdinand in the mid-nineteenth century. The garden was planned in the style of Romanticism with gazebos and pavilions, ornate paths and lanes, and stone benches. Narrow stone paths permeate the entire park. Exotic plants were to be the main highlight of the garden. Sintra’s climate made it possible. Soon about 500 species of trees were planted.

The area of the garden is 240 hectares. Now the park looks like a forest, it is well groomed and features a lush greenery, eucalyptus aromas and a large variety of exotic plants: ferns, Japanese camellias, Chinese ginkgo biloba, blooming magnolias. There are artificial ponds, the surface of which reflects the bright greenery.

From the viewing platforms you can even admire Lisbon, and from here you can see Sintra and the Mauritanian castle. Deep in the garden is a statue of a knight in bronze, which visitors could see from the palace terrace. From all corners of the park there are various views of the castle of Pena. It is enough to visit at least Pena Park to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the place.

Pena Palace in Portugal

Reviews about the Pena Palace

Many tourists who have been to the National Palace of Pena agree that it is more attractive on the outside than on the inside. However, the place is worth a visit because of the beautiful views from the mountain and the beautiful, fragrant garden. The grounds are always crowded, so it is not the best option for those who like quiet walks in silence.

If budget and time are very limited, experienced tourists recommend getting at least to the Palacio de Pena in Sintra to see the surroundings, enjoy the beautiful garden and the bright colors of the building built by King Ferdinand II.

Pena Palace in Portugal

How to get to Pena Palace in Portugal

The distance from the center of Sintra to Pena Palace is 2 km. It is quite difficult to get there on foot because of the elevation.

There is a bus number 434 to the landmark from Sintra. It departs from the train station, passes through the city center, Pena Palace, and then heads to the Moorish Castle. The bus runs every 20-40 minutes, with the first trip at 9:15 and the last at 19:50. The one-way fare is 3.90 euros, and the round-trip fare is 6.90 euros.

By electric train to Sintra you can get two trains: Linha da Azambuja, Linha de Sintra, getting off at the station “Portela de Sintra”. And then go to the fortress by bus number 434.

Take a cab to the site in about 10 minutes. The following cab services operate in Sintra: Taxintra-Cooperative Radio Taxis Sintra Line, Portela de Sintra and others.

It is about 30 kilometers to travel by car from Lisbon. Take the A5, A36, A37, then the N375 and turn off at Estrada da Pena.

Route from Lisbon by car – Google maps

Parking at the Pena Palace

There is a small free parking lot right in front of the gates and ticket office at the palace. It is designed for literally a few dozen cars. From it you will have to overcome a long distance on foot or take a bus that runs from the ticket office to the place of interest.

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