Some will love it, others will thik it looks like it was built by a child with a box of colorful building blocks, but I absolutely loved it! Palacio da Pena is a 19th-century castle that lies on top of a mountain in a lovely town called Sintra, near Lisbon. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the seven wonders of Portugal.
How to get there
Sintra lies near Lisbon, so it’s pretty easy to get to the castle if you’re staying in the city center. The best is to go there with public transport. There is a direct train connection between Lisbon and Sintra and there are also busses going from Estoril and Cascais to Sintra. I wouldn’t recommend going to Sintra by car, since the road get really steep and narrow and there are almost no parking spaces. From the town of Sintra, you can take another bus to the Palacio da Pena, which costs €5,- for a round trip per person and which can be bought at the bus stop. The bus goes so far up the mountain that my ears popped! From the last bus stop, you will also need to walk a small distance upwards to the castle.
Be prepared for crowds
Looking back, we probaby weren’t very smart about when we went to Sintra. We went on the 15th of August, a national holiday in Portugal, so a lot of Portuguese people were probably there on a daytrip as well. And we didn’t want to get up too early, so we were there around 11:00 AM. We had to stand in a long line to get on the bus and only could get inside the third bus. Inside the Palacio da Pena, we were often waiting in line to get to the next room. It felt like we were moving through the castle standing in line. It was beautiful nonetheless, but it was a shame that it was so incredibly busy. I would advise anyone who wants to visit Palacio da Pena to get there either really early or to go there a little later on the day and to not go there if there’s a national holiday.
What to see inside the castle
When you enter the castle, you’ll first walk through an old monastry. It was built in the 15th century, when Pena was a quiet place for meditation. Unfortunately, the monastry was left in ruins after an earthquake in the 18th century and in the 19th century, the king Ferdinand II bought the ruined monastry and the surrounding lands, so that he could restore the monastry and build a summer residence palace around it. Inside the chambers of the palace, you will find beautiful ceilings and walls and also some wonderful furniture.
Around the castle
If you’re interested in plants and nature or if you’re just looking for a nice place to walk around after having visited the Palacio da Pena, there’s a beautiful park around the castle. Even though the surface is a little uneven, there is a great diversity of trees to be seen here. The North American Sequoia, but also trees from China and Japan can be seen here and there are some tree ferns from Australia and New Zealand as well.
As you can see, there’s much more to the Palacio da Pena than a colorful building. The palace has an interesting history, a beautiful interior and an amazingly diverse garden. I wish it hadn’t been so busy though. If I ever return to this place, I will go early in the morning, so I can take my time to enjoy the beauty of Palacio da Pena even more.