During our day in Sintra, once we had visited Sintra National Palace and the Castle of the Moors, our next stop was Pena National Palace, located just up the hill from the castle. Note that when I say “just up the hill,” I mean the entrance to the palace grounds was there, whereas the actual palace was a considerable (steep) walk further. But no matter, as the grounds are gorgeous, with so much to see. Visitors can choose if they want to explore just the gardens, add on the terrace, or include the palace interior, but our inclusive ticket made it so that we had access to all of the palace.
We started off with a journey up the hill. You can also pay a couple euros to take a tram, but it doesn’t even take you up all the way, and with scenery like this, I certainly didn’t mind walking:
Then, as you approach the top of the driveway, you encounter the palace in all of its colors, something it has become famous for. Built in the Middle Ages as a chapel after an apparition of the Virgin Mary, the building was expanded in the late 1400s/early 1500s to become a monastery. The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 destroyed the monastery, but the chapel remained intact, and in 1842, the process of constructing a palace began (a process that lasted 12 years). Various architectural styles (Neo-Gothic, Neo-Islamic, Neo-Manueline, and Neo-Renaissance) were used in the building, and the iconic yellow and red color scheme was implemented then. Over the next 50+ years, the palace traded hands a few times, with more expansions, like the establishment of different gardens. In 1910, after a revolution took down the monarchy and made Portugal a republic, the royal family went into exile and the palace became a national monument. Today, it’s not only part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it’s also one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
Next we explored the palace itself, though we were unfortunate enough to get stuck behind a tour group that created a bit of a roadblock… so we had to politely but somewhat forcefully make our way through their group to keep going at a pace we wanted. But it was beautiful inside, with elaborate ceilings, light fixtures, windows, and more.
Once we were done touring the inside, we headed down the hill into the Pena Park, which is 200 hectares (495 acres) of plants, trees, flowers, and paths. We probably could have spent the rest of the afternoon there, but we had another palace to check out, so we just walked through until we happened upon one of the exit gates, where a bus was conveniently waiting to take us downhill.
Estrada da Pena
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