Photo Tour of Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal
We’ve seen our fair share of European castles but this was definitely the most colorful one we’ve visited. One of the attractions we looked forward to seeing in Portugal last month was Pena Palace or Palacio Nacional da Pena. One of the reasons I have wanted to visit Portugal for years was because of this palace. Known in English as The Feather Palace, it sits high above the hills in the magical city of Sintra. This was a quick 40-minute train ride from Lisbon. Go behind the scenes with us on this photo tour inside what many have accurately described as “flamboyant” and extravagant castle.
The original building on this site was the monastery that was built in 1511. The 1755 earthquake left the buildings in ruins. King Ferdinand II procured the monastery in 1838 and began construction to repair and renovate the upper floors and rooms. A few years later, a new wing, known as the New Palace, was built with larger rooms, a Great Hall and a circular tower.
The creation of this magical palace was left at the hands of Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege from Germany. The king requested that this palace should reflect an opera. The result was an architectural style called “19th century Romanticism”.
The Portuguese government bought the palace in 1889 and converted it into a museum. In 1994, the palace’s exterior’s was painted back to its original colors. The pink areas reflected the old monastery and the yellowish-brown was for the New Palace. The palace became a National Monument in 1910 and is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Sintra. It has also become part of the Network of European Royal Residences.
Visiting Pena Palace
Pena Palace was the last attraction we visited during our day trip to Sintra. The local bus that loops around the city dropped us off at the entrance where we caught a closer glimpse of the castle behind the trees. Reaching the hillside castle requires approximately 15 minutes of walking up or waiting in line for the tram to shuttle visitors uphill.
The tram cost 5 euros round-trip. There was a long line so we chose to walk up since it was a nice day. It really wasn’t as bad as we expected and despite my kids’ complaining along the steep portion. The paths were wide and paved and there were staircases as we neared the castle. We got there the same time as the tram!
This was one of our views from below. It was worth every step and climb for me. We felt like we stepped into a fairytale world. At times, it also felt like being in a Disney fantasy movie set. It was very hard to stop taking pictures here.
There were towers, turrets and spiked walls covered in vivid colors and even a drawbridge. We loved how cheerful and colorful it was! The sun was hiding behind the clouds during our visit but seeing all the colors brightened our day.
This was the top of the arch that greeted us. I think I was expecting something a bit more playful and bright like fairies or adorable animals to welcome us instead of spiked walls.
I recommend sitting at one of the benches along the walls and taking in the whole surroundings. From the views below to the remarkable stone carvings, it was amazing to see the thoughts and details put into building and decorating this castle. Tiles were everywhere in Portugal so it was no surprise to see them in both the exterior facade as well as the interior walls.
This was one of my favorite features in one of the buildings. It looked like some sort of nautical creature surrounded by seashells. He looked scary!
Below this decorated building was the entrance into a back courtyard. I expected to see gardens or grass but was surprised to see a plain lot.
The best part here though was the lookout into the surrounding areas and the town of Sintra. The views were stunning even on a somewhat cloudy day. It’s no wonder the king decided to build a palace from this location.
The kids decided to follow a walk along the castle walls. They loved exploring the nooks and crannies that included lookouts and more turrets. We also found boulders here and I still find it astonishing how they were able to build all of these structures on a high, rocky outcrop during that time period and without modern equipment.
Our ticket also included a short tour of the castle’s interior. One of the first things we saw was this beautiful courtyard filled with various tiles.
The tour followed a red carpet route with the various sections of the rooms roped off. It was too bad that there really wasn’t much of a description for each room. Though, they were well preserved with many historical pieces and furniture, paintings, frescoes and some with very ornate ceilings.
Most of the staterooms were made to look like how they were left in 1910 before the Portuguese royalty escaped to Brazil during the revolution. It was a wonderful glimpse into the lives of the royal family in that era. I’ve always found their bedrooms and bathrooms interesting.
Most of the interior was very opulent much like many European castles we’ve visited. Though, they were a bit drab and traditional compared to all the bright and whimsical features of its exterior with the exception of this magnificent chandelier and room.
Touring the palace and its staterooms took a little over two hours for us. It’s evident why the Pena Palace is one of the most visited attractions in Portugal. Our visit here exceeded my expectations. It was a memorable castle visit for its uniqueness, location, architecture and most of all, its lively colors. Sintra is a can’t miss day trip from Lisbon and if you can only see one attraction in this enchanting town, make it be this palace.
Basics and Tips for Visiting Pena Palace
- Prices (as of December 2015): Pena Palace only – Adults – 11.50€; Children (ages 6-17) 9€. Discounts are available if tickets are combined with other Sintra attractions like the National Palace and Moorish Castle. There is a 5% savings if tickets are booked online. Check the website’s price simulator to get the exact pricing.
- Getting Here: We took the 40-minute train ride from Lisbon’s Rossio train station. You can take the public bus 434 which goes on a loop for 5€ per person (no discounts for kids) and takes about 20-25 minutes. The last stop is Pena Palace. Taxis, open top tour buses and even tuktuks are also available to go up to the palace.
- Guided tours are available daily at 2:30 PM for an extra 5€. Tours for other times can also be booked via firstname.lastname@example.org
- Go early to avoid the tour groups. Since we went later in the day, we waited awhile for the bus back to the train station and the bus was crowded.
- The palace complex has a restaurant, café and bookstore/souvenir store. The Queen’s Terrace was a great place to have some coffee or hot chocolate during our winter visit plus it had some fantastic views of the palace.
- The palace was surrounded with romantic gardens and the Park of Pena. There are believed to be over 500 varieties of trees and plants from all over the world within the park along with ponds, lakes and fountains. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit.
*Have you visited this palace? What’s your favorite palace?