The “Palácio Nacional da Pena” (Pena National Palace), a former Summer residence of the Portuguese Royal family, is the main landmark and tourist attraction in the picturesque Portuguese town of Sintra. It is considered one of the major expressions of 19th century Romanticism in the world.
The Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
The history of the Pena National Palace began in the 14th century, when a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pena was built on the top of the hill above Sintra. In 1503, this chapel gave place to the “Real Mosteiro de Nossa Senhora da Pena” (Royal Monastery of Our Lady of Pena), built by order of the King D. Manuel I and donated to the Order of Saint Jerome.
The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 reduced the Monastery to ruins, which remained untouched until 1838, when the King Consort D. Fernando II acquired it and had commissioned the German architect Baron Von Eschwege to construct a summer palace.
In 1889 the Palace was purchased by the Portuguese State and, after the Republican Revolution of 1910, it was classified as a national monument.
Pena Palace is the supreme example of Portuguese romantic architecture. Extremely fanciful, the Palace brings together Moorish, Gothic and Manueline influences.
The cloister, the dining room, the sacristy and the Manueline-Renaissance Chapel were all preserved from the remains of the former Monastery.
The Portico of the Triton (half man half fish), an allegorical Portico of the creation of the world is a noteworthy feature of the Palace.
Chapel – its main decorative features are the natural motifs, royal arms, the Cross and the five wounds of Christ and the armillary sphere. The tiles date from the 16th century. On its floor, we find tombs dating back to the 17thcentury.
Great Royal Hall – also known as the “Ambassadors Great Hall” during the time of D. Fernando II and as the “Billiards Room” during the reign of King Dom Carlos. The furniture on display dates from the 19thcentury.
Arab room – this name derives from the exotic oriental air created by the painted motifs on the walls and ceiling. The furniture is in the neo-gothic and Indo-Portuguese style.
Queen’s Terrace – may be the best place to obtain an overall picture of the architecture of the Palace. In the time of King Dom Carlos a cast iron structure was built to support an awning. We find there a sundial with an automatic mechanism used to fire a small cannon every day at noon time.
King Dom Carlos Atelier – The old Chapter House was transformed into a studio by Dom Carlos. All the paintings present there are his work.
Surrounding the Pena Palace we find the Pena Park. This park, designed by D. Fernando II, is a natural environment of rare beauty and scientific importance.
The formal austerity of the classical gardens was rejected and the park was designed in such a way that it appears to be natural and it offers contrasting ambiences that create a magical and mysterious aura.
There are lakes linked by waterfalls, bridges, grottoes, pavilions of different architectural styles, fountains. Several species of plants were brought from different places in the world, such as Camellia sasanqua from Japan, tree ferns from New Zealand and Araucaria from Brazil.
On the highest point of Sintra Mountain (529 meters), one of the limits of the Pena Park, we find a stone cross erected by order of D. João III in the 16th century. Because of that, this place is known as “Cruz Alta” (High Cross). This point provides a panoramic view of the Park and of the Pena Palace.
Not too far from “Cruz Alta”, there’s the “Alto de Santa Catarina” (Saint Catherine’s Height?), the favorite spot of Queen Amelia, where we find the “Queen’s Throne”, a seat carved into the rock.
The bronze statue of the Warrior stands on a rock, representing the King D. Fernando II as a guardian of the Palace.
16th October to 31th March: 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m.
1st April to 15th October: 09.45 a.m. to 7.00 p.m.
Closed: 1 January and 25 December
Scotturb bus 434 (connection between Sintra’s railway station and the Pena Palace)