Pena Palace in Portugal, photo and description

Pena Palace

Pena Palace, a palace in Portugal, is located on a high cliff above Sintra and features a fantastic pseudo-medieval style. The palace is a former summer royal residence that was built on the site of a former abandoned monastery.

Pena Palace is a national monument and a cultural religious ornament of Portugal. Thousands of tourists come here every year to see this monument, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which has been declared one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.

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The history of the palace begins in the Middle Ages. It is believed that at that time there was an apparition of the Virgin Mary on the hill, after which the Chapel of Our Lady of Pena was built in that place.

King Manuel I was very fond of this place, and at his request a monastery was built and added to the temple, and for several centuries it was a quiet place where dozens of monks worshipped and meditated. Altogether a maximum of 18 monks lived there. A great earthquake in 1775 destroyed the monastery, turning it into ruins, but the chapel miraculously survived. The place was deserted and no one visited it for almost a century. In 1838, however, the ruins were visited by the young Prince Ferdinand, who was struck by the beauty of even such a dilapidated structure. The prince purchased the land, including the nearby Moor Castle, in order to build a castle for the Portuguese royal family.

Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege, a mining engineer from Germany, was hired to build it. He traveled extensively and designed the palace in a romantic style, using architectural elements from a variety of countries. The variety of exotic mixture of styles included: eclectic style, neo-Gothic style, neo-Renaissance style, and pseudo-medieval fragments. Prince Ferdinand and Queen Maria II were actively involved in the design of the palace and made suggestions for its decoration and symbolism. At the suggestion of the royals, vaulted arches and sumptuously beautiful windows of the main façade were added. After Ferdinand, the palace became the property of Alice Hensler, his second wife. She, in turn, sold the palace to King Louis of Pena, who undertook its restoration so that the royal family could visit it. After the palace was restored, the king and his family actually came to this luxurious castle quite often. The construction work was completed in 1854. This magnificent palace, however, did not serve as the royal residence for long.

In 1910, Portugal’s last queen, Amelia, spent her farewell evening in this palace before leaving the country for good. The Republican Revolution led to the palace being declared a national monument and opened to the public as a museum. Over the years, the red and yellow colors of the palace facade had faded, and the palace looked gray for many years. By the end of the 20th century the palace had been repainted and the colors had returned, which alarmed many Portuguese, as they had no idea that the palace had once been painted in such bright colors.

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The interior of the Pena Palace has remained as it was after Queen Amelia’s departure. The complex consists of four parts: the base of the palace, with its surrounding walls with locks and drawbridge; the old monastery and the clock tower, restored after the destruction; the courtyard in front of the chapel, decorated with Moorish arches; the palace area and the bastion, cylindrical with interiors presented in cathedral style. Many fragments of the original structures have survived, such as the chapel, the cloister dining room and the sacristy. These structures are surrounded by a wide terrace, from which the best view of the palace, suitable for viewing its architecture.

An interesting attraction of the palace complex is a clock tower from 1843. The tower’s sundial activates a mechanism that produces a cannon shot every day at noon. Another landmark is the depiction of a newt, which symbolizes the personification of the creation of the world.

Pena Palace is surrounded by a huge forest spread over more than 200 hectares. The exotic taste of romanticism is also noticeable in the design of the park. At the order of Prince Ferdinand a variety of plants from distant countries were brought here. North American magnolias, Chinese ginkgos, Japanese camellias, and various ferns from New Zealand are in close proximity here. Paths and trails of the park form a whole system of labyrinths, connecting the palace with different places and exits.

Useful Information

Pena Palace is open daily from 9:30 to 19:00 and the park is open until 20:00. Closed on December 25 and January 1. Price: 13,50 €, children from 6 to 18 years and pensioners – 11 € (from 9.30 to 11.00 discount – 1 €).

Pena Palace: A fairytale castle on a rock

foam palace

Palacio Pena – or Palacio Pena – in Portugal is located in the mountain range of Sintra near the town of the same name. It was built in the 19th century on the ruins of a chapel. Travelled half way around the world and having seen dozens of castles of different styles and eras, tourists note the uniqueness of this unique historical monument: it combines several architectural trends, making it a unique, almost fabulous creation unlike any other castle.

A bit of history

Pena Palace in Sintra

The church of Nossa Senhora da Pena was built on a rock face of 450 meters high where the castle now stands in the early 16th century. It was destroyed by a fire caused by a lightning strike and the subsequent earthquake, leaving the chapel and altar. There were plans to build a convent named after Our Lady of Pena on the site of the destroyed church. King Manuel I wanted to dedicate it to his heir, in whom he had great hopes of uniting the kingdoms of Portugal, Aragon and Castile. Since the child died at the age of six, the plan did not materialize.

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Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, who married Queen Maria II of Portugal, became King Ferdinand II. The new king did not like Sintra’s national palace: a lover of art, he wanted something more unusual. Wishing to build a new palace in Sintra and choosing for it the very spot on the cliff where the church used to be, he bought the area around the former Chapel of Our Lady of Pena.

Pena palace Portugal

Construction began in 1838 under the direction of the German architect Ludwig von Eschwege, and in 1840 a beautiful park was laid out here. The castle of Pena became the residence of Queen Maria II of Portugal and King Ferdinand II.

Notably, Ferdinand II did not see the Pena Palace completed: he died in 1884, a year before construction was completed.

Portugal’s last queen, Amelia of Orleans, was forced to leave the country during the Republican Revolution of 1910. When Portugal was proclaimed a republic, the castle’s history as a royal residence ended and it became a national cultural and tourist attraction. A museum was opened here, and a century later Palacio Pena became part of the European Royal Residences Network and was recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. It is included in the UNESCO list of cultural heritage and occupies a place of honor among the 20 most beautiful European castles.

How to get to Pena Palace

How to get to Pena Palace

The distance to Pena Palace in Sintra is 3 kilometers from the historic center of the city, but it will be difficult to get there on foot because the road climbs steeply uphill.

Bus 434 from Sintra

  • The cheapest way to get there is to take bus 434 from the Sintra train station. It departs every 20-40 minutes and costs 4 euros one way and 6.9 euros round trip.
  • The most comfortable option is a cab which will take 10 minutes.

From Lisbon to Pena Palace:

  • A train ride from Oriente, Rossio or Entrecampos stations will cost 2.2-3 euros and take 40 minutes to an hour. At Sintra train station you have to change to the 434 bus, the fare is 4 euros.
  • The journey by car will take about 30 km along the highway IC19.

Bus 434 stops at the entrance to the park. You can walk up to the palace itself or take a bus. Be realistic about your strength, especially if you are traveling with children: the way is not easy – the palace is located at the top of the hill.

Exterior and interior of the palacePena Castle construction

Construction of the castle of Pena lasted until 1885: it was constantly being completed, improved. Von Eschwege was inspired by the palace of King Ludwig II of Bavaria, a relative of Ferdinand II. The Portuguese king himself adjusted the project more than once. His German roots and the king’s love of art played a part in the unusual appearance of the creation. So it was the royal couple who suggested adding vaulted arches, medieval elements, oriental details, and luxurious window decoration of the main facade.

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As a result the building is a mixture of different architectural styles. This can be seen both in the exterior appearance and in the interior decoration.

The exterior of .The palace itself

The palace complex consists of several parts:

  • Surrounding the castle is a fortress wall with two entrances, with a drawbridge leading to one of them;
  • The former monastery on the top of the cliff, the tower with the clock and the battlements;
  • The building of the palace itself;
  • The courtyard opposite the chapel, the walls of which are decorated with Moorish arches.

Castle-like palace

The architecture has a distinctive feature typical of German Romanticism – a fortress-like palace. The resemblance to the fortress is emphasized by the observation towers and the tunnel entrance, characteristic of the defensive buildings of that era.

The walls are wide enough to be walked on and today tourists take advantage of this by walking around the perimeter of the building from a height of 500 meters to admire the stunning views of Sintra Park. From here you can also see the cross on its highest point.

Triton sculpture

The architecture is a mix of different styles, making the palace unique and impressive, with Gothic, Renaissance, Moorish, Oriental and Neo-Manueline elements. Domes and minarets are decorated in oriental style and towers in gothic style. This eclecticism is typical of the Romantic period.

Above the entrance gate, symbolizing the creation of the world based on the four elements, is a sculpture of a newt with a sea shell and coral. This half-man-half-fish with hair reminiscent of a vine has an intimidating appearance that impresses tourists.

In 1994, the Pena Palace was significantly reconstructed. Initially it looked unassuming, but in the process of renovation it acquired bright colors, presenting today a palette of red, yellow, terracotta, gray and brown.

According to tourists who have visited the Pena Palace, despite the rich interior decoration, the outside of the palace looks more impressive. However, opinions are divided on this, it is better to make your own idea by visiting it in person.

InteriorFrescoes in the Arab hall

To get inside, you have to stand in a long line even in winter early in the morning, but the wait is justified.

Through the Arc de Triomphe you can walk to the living quarters. The door leading to the center is completely preserved from the time of the original construction.

The Pena Palace differs from many ancient castles in its richly filled interior. Visitors can see halls preserved in their original state: furniture, kitchenware, tiles of azulejo on the walls and floor, bathroom with bath and shower – everything is as it was during the life of the royal family, except that it has been slightly restored.

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The rooms, of which there are more than ten, are decorated mainly in the Portuguese style with lots of wooden elements.

The Pena Palace is unlike many ancient castles

In the Arabic room there are frescos that create an optical illusion, stained glass and porcelain pieces.

The largest area is occupied by the royal kitchen with three ovens, two of which have fully preserved their original appearance (photo below).

Construction of the new part of the palace began with the smoking room. The walls and ceilings here are finished in the muhader style.

The chambers of King Carlos I and Queen Amelie are richly furnished with bright decorative elements.

The whole of Sintra is in the palm of your hand,

The big hall was originally meant for reception of diplomats of different countries; later the king transformed it into a billiards hall. Nowadays, there is elegant furniture, a grand piano, and exquisitely painted walls.

In the banqueting room there is a table served with porcelain with the coat of arms of Ferdinand II. The cabinets are filled with authentic copperware with palace markings. Everything is arranged exactly as it was under the king, as confirmed by historical photographs. This room is also called the Hall of Knights.

From several halls you can step out onto a balcony or terrace to see the delightful scenery all around. The whole of Sintra is in the palm of your hand, you can see the Moorish castle and you can even see Lisbon.

The ceilings of the palace are fascinating with exquisitely carved elements reminiscent of lace patterns.

Palace Collections a collection of antique furniture,

The halls of Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal, house a rich collection of antique furniture, porcelain, fine ceramics, stained glass by famous masters, ornate chandeliers, and a variety of period furnishings.

Fancifully decorated chandeliers and clocks are placed everywhere.

The chandelier in the smoking room is fully authentic and is decorated with elements resembling plants. The furniture for this room was brought from India.

The walls of several rooms are decorated with paintings and portraits.

There are often thematic exhibitions, the entrance to which is open on a regular ticket.

The park around Pena Castle

The park around the castle of Pena occupies 240 hectares. It was created by Ferdinand II in the style of Romanticism. There are stone pergolas and pavilions everywhere; paths with narrow paths are intertwined throughout the territory, and there are stone benches along them. The garden is filled with exotic flora from different parts of the world, hundreds of species of trees.

The modern park resembles a forest of lush vegetation. Magnolias from North America, ferns, Japanese camellias, Chinese ginkgo. The territory is decorated with waterfalls, fountains, small ponds connected by a single system.

A map on which all the main points are marked.

In order not to get lost and see the most interesting objects, it is better to get a map in advance, which indicated all the main points.

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Along the path leading to the center of the park, you can come to a bronze statue of a knight. The prototype is not exactly known, but according to one version, it is King Ferdinand II, as historians see the similarity in his face.

On the highest point of the Sierra da Cintra mountain range, at 528 meters above sea level, there is a cross. It is not easy to get here, but the most desperate tourists who dare to overcome this way will see the palace from a stunning angle.

The panorama of Sintra, the Moorish castle, and all the architectural landmarks of the city can be seen from the observation deck of the park. On a cloudless day you can see Lisbon, and on the horizon you can see the Atlantic Ocean.

From almost anywhere in the park you can see the Pena Palace. On a clear day you can see it in detail, and the clouds and fog give the castle a mystical and mysterious look.

Ticket prices and visiting time

Visiting Pena Palace

You can visit the park with the castle daily.

  • The park is open from 10:00 to 18:00, admission until 17:00.
  • The Castle is open from 10:00 to 18:00, the entrance until 17:30.

Ticket prices for Sintra Park and Pena Castle:

  • Adults 18-64: 14 euros.
  • Youth 6-17 years old: 12.5 euros
  • Over 65 years old: 12.5 euros.
  • Children under 5 years old: free of charge
  • Family ticket (2 adults and 2 children): 49 euros

Sintra Park ticket price:

  • Adults 18-64 years old: 7.5 euros.
  • Young adults 6-17 years old: 6.5 Euros
  • Over 65 years old: 6.5 Euros
  • Children under 5 years old: free of charge
  • Family ticket (2 adults and 2 children): 26 euros

How much does it cost to visit Pena Palace

If you visit several attractions in Sintra, you can get a discount.

Opening hours and entrance fees may change throughout the year. Check the official website for up-to-date information.

To make your visit to Pena Palace as informative as possible, you can book a guide on the spot. However, tours are only available in English, Portuguese and Spanish.

If this option is not suitable, it makes sense to download a map to your smartphone at the entrance. On it you will be able to track your way, knowing exactly where you are now. Or use local guides to show you around Sintra.

Parking at the Pena Palace

Near the ticket office, near the entrance, there is a free parking lot that can accommodate a small number of cars. From the parking lot to the palace is quite difficult, if you are not sure that you can overcome it on foot, a special bus will take you. *** Opinions of tourists about the castle of Pena are divided: some consider it a masterpiece, an example of architectural eclecticism, a fabulous creation, others claim it is tasteless, not worth the time. One thing is unchanged: it leaves no one indifferent.

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