The impossibly colourful Pena Palace is the crowning jewel in Sintra's crown, a splendid Romanticist castle overlooking the city. Thanks to its fascinating history and striking appearance, Pena Palace is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it's also one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal (along with Lisbon's Belem Tower and Braga's Castle of Guimarães, among others).
Back in the Middle Ages, the first structure was built on this very spot: a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pena. In the 15th century, King Manuel I ordered the construction of a monastery here, and the hill became a spot for quiet reflection among the 18 or so monks that lived there.
Lightning damage and the catastrophic Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 reduced the monastery to ruins, and it remained untouched for decades. However, in 1838 King consort Ferdinand II discovered the ruins and decided to acquire the land. He then set out to transform it into a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family, choosing the Romantic style of architecture that it's now famous for. Its reconstruction took place between 1842 and 1854, and the palace was used by the royal family until the late 1800s. In 1889, it was purchased by the Portuguese State and it soon became one of the top visited monuments in the country.
If you look closely, Pena Palace is a melange of architectural styles including Neo-Gothic, Neo-Islamic and Neo-Renaissance. The arches in front of the chapel take their influences from Moorish arches, and the drawbridge harks back to medieval castles. Have a walk around the building and see how many different influences you can spot!
One of the most famous elements of Pena Palace is the lush 200-hectare garden that surrounds it. Pena Park was created in the 19th century and features exotic plants from all over the world including American Sequoia, Japanese Cryptomeria and Chinese Ginko. Stroll through the verdant labyrinth of trails and narrow paths and prepare to be enchanted! Even if you're not that interested in history or architecture, visiting Pena Palace is worth it simply for the gardens.
Throughout the Year
Entry to Pena Palace and Park
Estrada da Pena