Pena Palace and Park
Looking up from the pool, and almost everywhere from the grounds, you see Serra de Sintra, the Sintra Mountain. On the top of it, a colourful palace is erected. What now is one of the most visited monuments in Sintra and in Portugal, used to be a chapel, constructed in the middle ages, dedicated to our Lady of Pena. A monastery was built around the chapel and for centuries it was a quiet place of worship. The 1775 earthquake reduced the monastery to ruins – and it stayed that way until King Consort Ferdinand the 2nd bought it and the surrounding lands, including the Moorish Castle, and had it built in a romantic style by Baron von Eschwege.
The construction took 12 years, the palace was decorated by Queen Mary and the Palace became the Royal family’s summer residence. After the queen died, King Ferdinand remarried, and after his death, the palace fell out of royal hands. Later King Louis bought it back from his father’s widow so that the royal family could continue residing in it. In 1889 Portugal’s last queen, Queen Amélia, sold the palace to the State as the royal family was short on money. In 1910 the Pena National Palace was declared a National Monument. The 200 hectares of forest land was turned into Pena Park at the same time with much care and attention. Exotic trees were ordered from all around the world, including Redwoods from America and Camélias from Japan.
The palace features everything a fairytale castle needs: drawbridge, turrets, ramparts, battlements, domes, gargoyles, all in a array of pastel colours.
At night the Palace is lit. As the highest point reaches 529 meters, the low clouds often cover the palace which looks like it is in flames as the lights fold from the clouds. The colourful palace is often featured in book covers and films, and is one of the favourite monuments of our guests.
What makes it so nice to visit, is that it looks like someone still lives there: the beds are made, the tables are set, there are clothes hanging and small items on site. You see the bathrooms and even go through the kitchen. Also it is interesting to see the restoration work, as the palace has not been closed during restoration works, but the visitors can admire the men and women diligently working on the walls and furniture.
The park is fabulous. Monte da Lua, Parques de Sintra organization takes care of the palace and its grounds, and does so well. The park is truly fairytale, a magic forest with lakes, white swans, black swans, winding paths, small water falls, bridges, rare species of flowers and trees… Near the queen’s fern garden, there is a place where someone I know swears having seen fairy’s. I have not, but it is true, that if I were a fairy, that is where I would like to live!
How to get there? There are two entrances to the Palace, the main gate and the gates of the park. If walking a bit of uphill is not your thing, you should go in the main gates as there is a small bus (paid) to take you up. But if you can do a bit of walking, going in through the park entrance is certainly worth the walk. Straight to the palace from the park entrance takes about 15 minutes, but most people love to wonder in the park a bit longer.
The way up the mountain can be done in various ways: you can walk, take a horse and carriage, a bus, drive, or take a taxi. From the city center by road it is about 3-3,5 kms.
Using the footpaths, from Casa do Valle, it takes approximately 45 minutes to the gates of the park (though many take longer as they stop and take pictures and just enjoy the sights on the way). If this is your option, make sure you ask us for instructions to find the best footpaths.
The horse and carriage is the most romantic way to go up and it certainly is the greatest way if you want to take in all of the nature and views. You have two choices: either one way or two-way, including the waiting time. Many go up only, as they don’ t want to be bound by timings, and want to visit the Moorish Castle as well, once up the mountain.
The bus (#434) is for those with a strong stomach and great nerves – those who easily get nauseated or don’t like to wait should skip this option due to the winding roads and an easily full bus. In the summer, even if there are 3 buses an hour, you may have to wait a long while for the bus – traffic jams slow the buses down and they are often too full to fit everyone in.
If you choose to drive up in your own car, there are free parking places both before and after both the gates.
A few last notes:
In the summer months, it is best to go up early, 10 am the latest to avoid large cues.
- Summer or winter, it is always cool up the mountain, it is worth taking a long-sleeve something along.
- Plan ahead: if you want to go to the Moorish Castle as well, buy a combined ticket to save money. Even if you cannot see them both on the same day, the ticket is valid for a month.
- There is a coffee shop and a restaurant at the Palace.
- No inside photography is allowed, but it is easy to ‘get lost’ with photography in the park.
This is the first blog entry in the series ‘in our view’ – short stories of the things you do see in our view, from the garden, by the pool, from the rooms.