In A Word, Pena Palace & Gardens In Sintra, Portugal Is…Overwhelming
I think my theme for visiting the amazing castles and palaces in Sintra, Portugal would have to be underestimation. Even though I planned for spending more time than most, I always found myself wanting more. It proved true at Monserrate Palace, and Pena Palace & Gardens—or more properly The Palacio Nacional Da Pena—was another example.
I literally hiked from the center city/old town area up past the Moorish Castle Ruins, then spent more than half a day at Pena Palace. Didn’t plan well with my Type 1 diabetes snacks, so I had to visit the palace café twice!
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Don’t worry, you can take a quick taxi, tuk-tuk or Uber if you want. But to really enjoy everything your visit to Pena Palace & Gardens has to offer, you’ll want to go beyond the beautiful terraces of the palace and wander around the amazing gardens. Hope this little photo session and history lesson convinces you! If you think it’s as beautiful as I do, please click a share link and tag a friend you want to visit with!
Nerdy History About Pena Palace & Gardens — The Palacio Nacional Da Pena
King Ferdinand II of Portugal began the construction of Pena Palace in Sintra beginning in 1838. Ferdinand died and the palace passed to his second wife Elisa Hensler, Countess of Edla (you’ll see pictures of her crazy chalet later). She later sold the palace to King Luís, who wanted to have it for the royal family. Eventually, The Palacio Nacional Da Pena was bought by the Portuguese State around 1910 and was soon classified as a national monument and transformed into a museum.
The Whimsical Exterior & Terraces Of Pena Palace — The Palacio Nacional Da Pena
Pena Palace was built in a grand romantic style by Prussian architect and engineer Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege who took some of his inspiration from the Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria.
It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The architecture of this Palace is in 19th-century romanticism style—neo-romanticism more specifically—which was very popular in the 19th century. By the end of the 20th century, the Palacio Nacional Da Pena was repainted and the original colors restored.
The Not To Be Missed Interior Of Pena Palace —The Palacio Nacional Da Pena
As you’ll see when we get to ticketing prices and options for Pena Palace, you’ll have the choice of just visiting the terraces and gardens or buying a combined ticket that allows you to enter the palace. I highly suggest you get the combined ticket!
While I’m not usually big on interiors, I was absolutely blown away by the inside of The Palacio Nacional Da Pena! Plus, you’ve made it to Sintra, and this is literally one of the most visited attractions in Portugal—make sure you take the time to enjoy it!
The interior features ornate stuccos, multi-patterned columns, Moorish-arched ceilings (oh the ceilings!), and much of the original monastery’s chapel. Many rooms inside Pena Palace are painted in trompe-l’oeil which is an amazing painting method that gives the illusion of depth and layering while only using paint.
As you can see in these images of some of the rooms inside Pena Palace, they really do look like the room extends into corridors and other rooms…but it’s all just paint my friend!
Much of the rest of the interior rooms were designed to reflect cultural influences ranging from Middle Eastern to baroque European. There is also a lot of Moorish influence, which you’ll find throughout Portugal.
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The Pena Palace Gardens – Plan To Spend Hours Exploring
Again, when I was planning to travel to Pena Palace, I completely underestimated the amount of time I would want to spend there. I had no idea that the Palacio Nacional Da Pena gardens spread over almost 500 acres! The grounds cover a huge portion of the Serra de Sintra—the Sintra Mountains. One of the best things about exploring Sintra and all of the natural areas are the meandering, intersecting trails.
The unique geography and microclimates of Sintra (and many other places in Portugal) allow for plants from all over the world to thrive. So King Ferdinand II ordered native forest species from every continent of the world to occupy specific areas throughout the Pena Palace Gardens. It has become one of the most important arboretums and botanical destinations in Portugal.
Fountain Of The Small Birds
The Fountain of the Small Birds—a small Islamic pavilion situated between the Hot House and the Valley of the Lakes—is one of the more interesting and curious finds in the gardens of Palácio Nacional da Pena. It’s a 19th-century octagonal-shaped pavilion with a spherical dome and outer walls inscribed in Arabic.
While you can’t go in, there is a garden wall seat just outside the pavilion. It’s one of many perfect spots to just sit, listen, smell and take in the vibe of the Pena Palace Gardens.
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Queen’s Fern Valley – My Favorite Area of Palacio Nacional Da Pena
Easily my favorite areas of the Pena Palace Gardens were any of the fern gardens. For a guy who hates selfies, I found myself setting up my camera and trying to get the scale of these things! (Fun fact, ferns are one of my favorite plants, and before I went full-on nomad, my house, deck and gardens were covered in ferns.)
The Queen’s Fern Valley adjoining the Camellia Garden houses a series of tree ferns—some over 20ft tall! Most of the most unique species had been imported from Australia and New Zealand.
The Chalet Da Condessa D’Edla…Whoa
Elise Friederike Hensler—who was later honored with the title of the Countess of Edla—was an opera singer who won the heart of Ferdinand II after he lost his first wife, Queen Maria II. Hensler and Ferdinand built this crazy alpine-style chalet in the western reaches of the Pena Palace gardens to serve as a place of leisure and a romantic refuge for the couple.
The Chalet Da Condessa D’Elda is truly another whimsical creation straight out of a storybook. Obviously at this point it’s been rehabilitated many times, but it would be amazing to see this thing in all of its original glory from over 100 years ago.
Tips For Planning To Travel To Sintra And Pena Palace
Portugal is such a beautiful country to visit any time of the year, since the temperatures are moderate, giving that “eternal spring” kind of feel. But you’re going to be a little more comfortable in the spring and fall, which will also help you avoid the heavy tourist crowds typical in summer. The temperatures are still warm and the vegetation and blooms are at their most beautiful.
Sintra is a small place, and Pena Palace & Gardens will fill up with tourists in the middle of the day. The reality is that most people that visit Pena Palace only do the terraces and exterior of the palace. They totally miss out on everything that gardens of Palácio Nacional Da Pena have to offer!
While you could hike up the amazing trails of Vila Sassetti, past the Moorish Castle ruins, then to Pena Palace—like I did—it’s probably easiest just to take a bus, rideshare, tuk-tuk or taxi. And the tourist service bus #435 departs from the Sintra train station, passes through the historic center, and ends drops off at many of the castles and palaces in Sintra.
Getting To Sintra And Pena Palace From Lisbon
Thinking about doing a day trip to visit Sintra and the Palácio Nacional Da Pena? It’s super easy from Lisbon. Trains leave almost every hour of every day, and the cost is only a few bucks. Just keep in mind that you’ll likely want to get to Sintra early and stay late, hoping to avoid the peak tourist hours in the middle of the day.
Opening Hours And Entrance Costs For Pena Palace & Gardens
While these details are accurate as of this writing, always check current conditions! When you visit Pena Palace, You can either purchase a “Palace and Park” ticket, which includes access to the park, grounds, outer terraces of the palace, and interior…or a “Park” only ticket. I highly suggest getting the combined Palace and Park ticket!
Tickets can be purchased on-site, or you can do it online through various apps, which I highly recommend as ticket queue lines get crazy. Keep in mind that the last entry time is one hour before closing, but hopefully you’re planning on visiting for much longer than that!
Pena Palace & Gardens Combined Ticket Prices / Entry Fees
- Adult tickets (18 – 64 years old) – €14
- Children’s tickets (6 – 17 years old) ) – €12.50
- Senior tickets (over 65 years old) – €12.50
- Family ticket (2 adults + 2 children) – €49
Pena Palace Gardens Only Ticket Prices / Entry Fees
- Adult tickets (18 – 64 years old) – €7.50
- Children’s tickets (6 – 17 years old) ) – €6.50
- Senior tickets (over 65 years old) – €6.50
- Family ticket (2 adults + 2 children) – €26
Pena Palace & Gardens Opening Hours
- Summer – 9:30 am – 6:30 pm
- Not Summer – Check with the park!
Typical Spending Costs, Travel Styles and Budgets for Travel In Sintra And Throughout Portugal
I was able to average about $50-60 a day in Portugal, and smaller places like Sintra tend to be a little cheaper than the bigger cities of Porto or Lisbon. Especially with accommodations, since I got an amazing hostel bed in a B&B/Hostel with prepared breakfast and an amazing fireplace for less than €20/night.
Beds in a 4-6 bed hostel dorm run typically run about €15-25. Fantastic sit-down meals at most non-bougie restaurants run €7-15+. And I had some pretty fancy meals for less than €20. And a glass of good port, table wine, or draft beer at those restaurants usually starts at about €2. Credit cards are widely accepted, but carry some cash for the smaller joints. ATMs are readily available, but make sure they’re attached to a reputable bank and not a Euronet ATM.
|Glass of cheap wine or beer while out in Sintra||€2-3|
|Hostel bed in 3-6 person dorm||€15-25+/night|
|Tuk-Tuk or rideshare around Sintra||€3-5|
|Simple sit-down dinner with wine/beer||€7-16|
|Church or Museum entries fees||€3-5 (or free)|
Where I Stayed In Sintra, Portugal
I stayed at the cutest hostel/B&B while I was in Sintra. If you’re planning to travel to Sintra, I highly suggest checking it out! The owners literally make a continental breakfast every day and the folks staying there convene around a small fireplace in the living area and chat. Oh, and the “hostel” bedrooms only have three beds, so it’s pretty quiet and chill! You can check it out here—literally hundreds of reviews and almost a 10/10 rating! Highly recommend!
If you’re planning to travel to Portugal, know that there are hundreds of hostels throughout the country. You can filter by rating, location, amenities, cost, etc., here.
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Planning To Travel To Sintra And Pena Palace & Gardens? Already Been?
Reach out and let me know what you think! Do you think it’s one of the most beautiful palaces in Portugal? I can’t wait to get back, and spending only eight days exploring Sintra (while working of course) just wasn’t enough for me! Please leave a comment below if you’ve already been! What was your favorite part of visiting Palácio Nacional Da Pena?
Travel Planning Tips
Figure out where you are going & how are you getting there…
I suggest using at least 2 to 3 different travel search sites. Start with Skyscanner or Orbitz or Booking …or whatever aggregator site you prefer. Then when you see what airlines to use, check their respective sites for better deals or rewards flights.
Figure out where you’re going to stay…
If you’re interested in hostels, search Hostelworld or Hostelling International. For longer-term or more private digs, look at Airbnb, VRBO, or you can look for hotel rooms in the links from the search engines listed above.
Get comprehensive travel insurance, or in the least, travel medical insurance if internationally…
Especially with Covid not going anywhere, get covered. Start with an insurance aggregator like Insure My Trip, or with SafetyWing, World Nomads, or another. Then decide what is important to you; trip cancellation, baggage coverage, medical, or all of the above. And get a yearly evacuation plan, since you’ll have to get home after your emergency!
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