Sintra: Pena National Palace
The Pena National Palace is now on my top ten list of castles/palaces that I have seen thus far. It blends a number of interesting elements into its gaudy, romantic architecture that make it aesthetically appealing. The interior is detailed with rich ornaments, paintings, and priceless porcelain, and the exterior is straight out of a fairy tale with a drawbridge, turrets, ramparts, battlements, domes, and gargoyles.
At the top of a hill like a crowned jewel, it was originally Hieronymus Monastery of Our Lady of Pena, which was left in ruins after it was struck by lightning following the earthquake of 1755. In 1839, it was converted into a summer retreat for Fernando II of Sexe-Coburg.
There is also a park and garden, covering 200 hectares. Although the gardens and numerous ponds were refreshing and relaxing after taking our precious time admiring the palace, we realized that we were (unsurprisingly!) lost. On the bright side we got to see part of the gardens, which we originally did not intend to do, and took the ”unbeaten” path (literally!). Thanks to Google Maps, we got back on the traditional track that did not involve fallen trees and unpaved paths
Afterwards, we had lunch in the charming town of Sintra and had its famous queijadas – loved them! We also visited the Castle of the Moors in Sintra.
- The name Sintra comes from ‘Cynthia’, the Roman goddess of the moon. In Roman time it was a place of moon worshiping. The Moors also liked it and built a hilltop castle
- The Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage and Cultural Landscape.
- A display of architectural styles: Moorish, Neo-Gothic and Neo-Manueline motifs, Neo-Renaissance, the Wagnerian spirit of Central Europe’s, Schinkel castles, and a hint of late Victorian and Edwardian styles.
- First Romantic palace in Europe, having been built about 30 year prior to the Schloss Neuschwanstein, in Bavaria.
- 7 July 2007, it was selected as one of the seven wonders of Portugal.
- The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 practically destroyed the monastery but, the chapel was saved.
- The surrounding park features ponds, fountains, statues, walks and a number of exotic plants from former Portuguese colonies – trees and ferns from China, Australia, New Zealand, North America and more.
- Admission is €11 with a €2 discount with the Lisboa Card; Pena Park is €6
- Palace – 10am – 6pm – last ticket at 5pm.
- From Lisbon, it is a 30 min train ride away – free with the Lisboa Card.
- You can walk from the town to the castle, but it is a steep hour-long walk.
- There is a bus that stops at all the main attractions; the cheapest ticket is €5.
- Recommended to spend at least half a day in Sintra, if not the whole day.