On top of Monte da Pena mountain you find Sintra’s dream castle. The pinnacle of romance and royal atmosphere. Palácio Nacional da Pena consists of many turrets and colours, it has all the looks of a fairytale palace.
A visit to Sintra is equivalent to a visit to Palácio Nacional da Pena. This beautiful castle from the 18th century is definitely worth a visit. The reason that the palace has different architectural styles and colours is because the palace has had several owners who added their own style to the building. The palace is a mix of different architectural styles from the 19th century.
In the 16th century there was a monastery on the site of the palace, some of the elements were included in the palace, such as the chapel. This is unchanged and still contains a large portion of the religious sculptures.
Our tip: buy tickets online and skip the line. Buy your ticket(s) via getyourguide.co.uk
The interior is still exactly like when the kings lived there. You can not enter the rooms, they are guarded by a plastic fence, but you can have a peek inside the rooms. Like many palaces you walk one route through the palace and during that tour you pass all the rooms.
Don’t forget to look outside the windows. In good weather you can see at least 19 miles far.
Summer residence of the king
The palace was the summer residence of the Portuguese royal family until the king was deposed in 1910. Since then it is a tourist attraction, but for a long time nothing was being done about maintenance. The multitude of colours faded, but around 1998 they decided to paint the gray palace back in the original colours. Much to the delight of the residents of Sintra, because it was a long time ago that the palace had been shining on the mountain top.
Guided tour in the palace
Every day at 2.30 p.m. seven days a week, there is a guided tour, reservations are not necessary. The tour lasts from 1 to 1.5 hours and is given in Portuguese, English and Spanish. If you really want to know everything about the interior of the different rooms and the history of the palace, this tour is a must.
Terrace to enjoy the view
When the weather is nice, it is worthwhile to have a cup of coffee on the terrace and enjoy the views. On the terrace there’s a sundial and a cannon, the special thing is that these two are connected to each other by means of a mechanism. This was set so that every day at 12 o’clock in the afternoon, the cannon was fired.
Parque Palácio Nacional da Pena
Not only is the palace spectacular, you can stroll around in the 85 hectare (170 football fields) of large exotic gardens. A couple of the must sees in the garden are the cave where the monks retreated to meditate, the 16th century cloister garden, the many lakes and the greenhouses that were used to grow vegetables.
It is a bit of a search, but it is certainly worth looking for Trono da Rainha in the park. This is a throne cut out of the rocks for the queen Amélia. If you see it, it’s good to remember that the queen went here with her hoop skirts to enjoy the view. The throne is not easy to reach, you’ll be climbing for a while and you can only get there on foot.
Are you still climbing, then go to Estátua do Cavaleiro (statue of the knight). The statue is not all that special but the view that comes with it definitely is. To continue the climb, walk to Cruz Alta, the highest point in the park of 529 meters. Here you have the most beautiful view of the park. When you go to the palace in the late afternoon, make sure you are around Cruz Alta to enjoy this.
The sunset brings a very nice atmosphere with it.
Early birds are rewarded
If you visit the palace, make sure you come early. We recommend that you arrive before 10:30 a.m. At that time there usually are no queues in front of the gate and it is very quiet in the castle so you can take the time to view every part.
Another big advantage is that you are certain of a parking space near the palace. If you have passed the entrance of Castelo dos Mouros, enter the 1st parking lot on the right. This is as close as you get to the palace. You will find the next one after you have driven down a steep road. If you have difficulty walking, make sure you are dropped off in front of the entrance. From this last parking place it is a steep climb to the palace. If you missed the nearest one, you can not drive back. It’s a one way street.
If you come in high season, keep in mind that it is very busy with tourists. So busy in fact that you would probably think about avoiding it if it weren’t such a gorgeous place.
Take the train
Once in the palace you can go up with a ‘train’, which is actually a converted bus. For this you buy tickets at the reception and / or internet for 3 euros, which includes an audio tour. If you walk then it is a 10 minutes walk up, over a well-walked path. Even if you go up with the ‘train’, remember that it does not go all the way to the entrance gate. A short firm climb is still necessary to reach the palace.
Buy your tickets online, that will save you a lot of time if you arrive after 10:30. You can then go straight through the gate, pass the queue. If you have tickets to the palace then you can also also visit the garden. If you just want to visit the garden there’s a discounted ticket for that.
Children and Palácio Nacional da Pena
A visit to the palace is easy to do with children of all ages. Like the many sights in Sintra, it is not recommended walk around with a stroller. In the palace itself a buggy is not allowed, so if you plan a visit with a child that is not able to walk on its own, make sure you have a baby carrier with you.
Since 2014, Parque de Sintra has been made wheelchair friendly, meaning that there are paths in the park that are accessible for wheelchairs and buggies. These are not the most exciting roads in the park, but at least you get to see some of the beautiful gardens.
A visit to the palace and the garden will keep you busy for at least 2 to 2.5 hours.
How to get to Palácio Nacional da Pena
Address: Estrada da Pena, Sintra
Opening hours: daily (except 25 December and 1 January) from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (last tickets are sold at 5:00 p.m.).