Painted in vivid shades of yellow, red and blue with highly detailed ornamental trim, it’s the kind of palace one would expect to see at Walt Disney World. But the only roller coaster you’ll find here is the one that carries you through 800-plus years of tumultuous history.
Pena Palace sits on the second-highest peak in the Sintra hills, and offers incredible views of the sprawling, forested lands below.
In the 12th Century, a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pena sat atop this hill. It was built after an apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared.
In 1503, Manuel I funded the building of the Royal Monastery on this site. The monastery was home to the Order of Saint Jerome. The original niche from the monastery was remarkably preserved and can still be seen today. It was decorated with shells, stones and porcelain pieces. It was later used as a storeroom.
Unfortunately, the earthquake in 1755 nearly turned the entire monastery into a pile of rubble, but the chapel remained relatively unscathed.
In 1834 the monastery was abandoned after religious orders in Portugal were abolished. The site remained untouched for four years. King Ferdinand II acquired the monastery and surrounding lands in an auction, including the nearby Moorish Castle. Restoration work began on the monastery almost immediately. By 1843 construction started on the “New Palace”. The palace consists of two wings – the old 16th Century Manueline monastery and the 19th Century wing, built under King Ferdinand’s watchful eye. This is the cloister, an open gallery in the center of the monastery:
The two wings are easily distinguishable by their paint colours. Ochre for the new wing:
And red for the old monastic wing:
A German architect named Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege designed the palace in the Romantic style. His designs were heavily influenced by the German castles along the Rhine.
However, King Ferdinand and his wife Queen Maria II had a vast amount of input into the design details. The king had vaulted arches and Medieval and Islamic influences added.
There are numerous oceanic symbols in the architecture as well. My favourite element was this whimsical newt above the entryway:
Doesn’t he look both furious and hilarious at the same time? He reminds me of the Dancing Faun statue at Pompeii. Notice the clam shells and detailed barnacles around the doorway as well. Magnificent architecture.
They didn’t hold back on the interior design either. This was the vaulted ceiling in the reception room:
The reigning royal family lived at the palace until the Portuguese Revolution of 1910. They then went into exile with King Manuel II, the last king to live at Pena Palace. The palace became a museum in 1911. And yes, all of the interior is just as elaborate and exquisite as the exterior:
Even the kitchens – one of the most utilitarian rooms in any home – were spectacular:
How would you like to cook a meal in here?
Extensive grounds surround Pena Palace, and it’s great to go for a leisurely stroll through the quiet, park-like area.
It was so serene and lush that we could have easily spent a full day taking it all in. Even the ducks had little castles to call home!
Address: Estrada da Pena, 2710-609 Sintra, Portugal
By Train: ( CP ) – Sintra Line
Stations of origin:
• Rossio Station • Entrecampos Station
Sintra (historical center)> Pena National Palace
By bus ( Scotturb )
• Sintra Station – Circuito da Pena
From the village of Sintra, bus number 434 of Scotturb takes the connecting route between the train station and Pena Palace.
By Car: You can get to Sintra via the IC19 (from Lisbon), the IC30 (from Mafra) or the EN9 (by the A5 / Cascais). Once you’re in in the historic center, follow the signs pointing to Pena National Palace (3.5 km).
38º 47 ‘16.45 “N 9º 23’ 15.35” W
Hours of Operation:
Palace: 09h30 – 19h00
Park Grounds: 09h30 – 20h00
Combined tickets are also available for a lower price when visiting multiple venues.
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