Explore The Pena Palace Of Sintra

Tour Inside And Outside Pena Palace

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Much To See At The Pena Palace Of Sintra

We explored the Pena Palace of Sintra inside and outside.  This UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sintra outside of Lisbon in Portugal was on our list for a long time.  So it was great to finally visit on our day trip to the palaces of Sintra.  

We sure wish we allocated more time for this massive site.  And we learned some tips that would have helped us on this visit.

Heading To The Pena Palace

It was easy to grab an Uber to Sintra from our stay at the Ritz-Carlton Penha Longa Resort.  We considered booking a time slot in advance.  But a quick look at the online calendar made it appear that the crowds would be small when we visited.  So we were quite surprised by the line-ups at the ticket kiosks when the Uber dropped us at the gate to the Pena Palace (“Palácio da Pena”).

We still booked an entry time slot within 30 minutes of our arrival which got us right in.  But we did not realize that the time slot was for the inside tour of the Pena Palace.  

There was a packed small bus with long lines for transport to the Pena Palace from the gate.  And the bus ran infrequently.  So we headed for an uphill hike for our visit to the Pena Palace of Sintra.  Along the way we saw signs for all there things to see on the grounds in addition to the Pena Palace.

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Our First Glimpse Of Pena Palace

The Pena Palace site was originally a monastery that King Manuel I had built and donated to the Order of Saint Jerome.  That history reminded us of all we learned when we toured the Monastery of São Jerónimo de Penha Longa located on the property of the Ritz-Carlton Penha Longa Resort where we stayed.  

This former monastery was then transformed by King Ferdinand into a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family.  When we toured inside, we got a great look into how the royalty lived.

As we reached the top of the path and cleared the last copse of trees, we got our first view of the colourful Pena Palace.  The bright colours and 19th-century Romanticism design captivated us.  

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We kept climbing and went in through the first gate and then through the arched portal.  And at that point joined the long line for the inside tour.  We made it to the line for our booked time slot.  But it was almost 30 minutes later before we finally got inside.

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The Outside Courtyard

While David held our place in line, I wandered around the outside courtyard at Pena Palace.  Up close, we saw the intricate details of the fascinating architecture.  The colourful clock towers came into focus.  

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We loved the beautiful tile work we found on every visit to Portugal.  So we were delighted by the tile work on the main facade.  The Triton carving over the archway drew our eyes.  

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We were quite excited at our early glimpses of the Pena Palace.

Explore The Inside Of Pena Palace Of Sintra

The tour of the inside of the Pena Palace turned out to be a slow moving snake of people that moved from spot to spot.  

Wandering through the different levels inside the Pena Palace we got a great look into royal life.  We saw dining rooms, sitting rooms, the Great Hall, bathrooms and bedrooms.   

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The upper floor (the “piano nobile”) of the monastery was originally divided into 14 cells connected by a corridor.  Ferdinand II had them restructured into rooms with vaulted arches for the private quarters.  The rooms were decorated in style with quite a variety in the design. The ceilings drew our interest as we moved along. 

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Each room was decorated with interesting art pieces.  Family history and portraits were displayed throughout the palace. 

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The spiral staircase took us down to the lower level.  We saw the dining room on the upper level.  But as we exited we saw the large kitchen.  We could not imagine the process needed to feed the large groups at royal functions.

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Our tour of the inside of the Pena Palace took us longer than we expected.  But it provided us great insight into the history and life at the palaces of Pena.

The Characters Around The Manuline Cloister

As we moved along the open walkway on our inside tour of Pena Palace, we looked into the Manueline Cloister.  We got a good view of the colourful tiles and the palace towers in the background. 

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But the interesting gargoyles that decorated the Manueline Cloister caused us to lean out and look in all directions.  So many fascinating faces!

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Panoramic Views From The Pena Palace

When we finished our inside tour of Pena Palace, we went up on the ramparts and walked around on the outside walls.  It reminded us a lot of our walk around the walls of Obidos in Portugal.  We got an amazing view out over the countryside.  

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We stopped at the Queen’s Terrace and stopped at the interesting sundial.  And got a view down over the main courtyard at the Pena Palace. 

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We walked for hours at this point so we headed to the on-site cafe.  But the long lines deterred us.  We found a table and ate the snack we brought with us.  And got yet more views out over the courtyard at Pena Palace in Sintra.  

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Once we got back to the main courtyard we went through the Triton gateway to the back terrace.  From the walkways on this side we got more great views out over the countryside.  And we were excited when we got our first glimpse of the Moorish Castle sitting stark on the rocks.

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Everywhere we stopped we got amazing panoramic views of the Pena Palace of Sintra and the surrounding countryside.

Inside The Palace of Pena Chapel

When we were on the back courtyard we saw the pointed roof of a small building.  We thought it was an interesting structure but did not really know what it was.

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Inside we found the Palace of Pena Chapel.  We stopped at the altar.  And then admired the statues and the beautiful stained glass windows.

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After we visited the Palace of Pena Chapel, it was time to head out.  We wound our way out of the Pena Palace and back down through the grounds.

A Final Stop At The Garden of Queen Amelia

We had one more stop at the Pena Palace before we left.  So we found the Garden of Queen Amelia by the entrance and went in.

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We were sure that the gardens were a wonderful spot to unwind after a long visit to the Pena Palace of Sintra.  But our visit to the palace was much longer than we expect.  So we quickly moved on.  We had more of the palaces of Sintra to explore on this day trip.

Tips For Visiting The Pena Palace Of Sintra

Despite doing lots of research before our visit, we learned some lessons on our visit to the Pena Palace of Sintra.

1) Book Online

Don’t count on the online number of visitors being at all accurate when you reach the site.  Far better to have a booked time slot for entry.

2) Arrive Early For Your Booked Time Slot

We thought the time slot was for entry to the grounds.  But it was in fact for the inside tour.  It took us close to 30 minutes at a meandering walk to get to the line for the inside tour.

3) Come Prepared For Walking

The walk up to the Pena Palace from the gate was all uphill.  While there was a bus, the lines were long and we chose to walk.  Coming back down was easier.

4) Plan Enough Time To Explore The Grounds

The Pena Palace site covered 200 hectares.  There are numerous paths around the grounds that provide much more to see than just the palace.  And don’t forget to leave some relaxing time in the Garden of Queen Amelia.

We planned one day to see three of the palaces of Sintra.  And we really needed far more time at the Pena Palace.  

5) Get An Inside Tour

The outside of Pena Palace is colourful and playful.  Many are content to just get an outside view at a reduced price.  

But we were glad we booked the palace tour.  It was amazing to see the inside and take a trip back in time.

6) Bring A Snack And Water

We spent several hours walking up to and around the Pena Palace.  There was a cafe on the site.  But when we visited the line up was really long.

We found a seat on the cafe patio and ate the snack and water we brought with us.  And waited for a great lunch when we visited the town of Sintra.

A Great Day At The Pena Palace Of Sintra

We started our visit to the the great palaces of Sintra at the Pena Palace.  It was great to finally see the colourful and fanciful Pena Palace of Sintra from the outside.  And was definitely a highlight of this return visit to Portugal.  

We wandered around different sides of the palace and got great views out over the countryside.  Our stops for this day trip to Sintra were laid out below us.

A tour of the interior of the palace brought another dimension to our visit.  We were so glad that so much of the inside was restored.  It gave us a good view into life at another time.

From the Pena Palace we walked to the Moorish Castle.  And then finished with the Quinta da Regaleira.  Each of the palaces of Sintra was very different but fascinating in its own right.

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75 Comments

  1. The scale of Pena Palace looks really impressive on the outside but I actually was distracted with all the crowds and no time to relax inside the rooms with constant moving and barely time to take pictures. The rooms were nice for their summer palace.

    • We were surprised the crowds were bigger than checking in advance indicated. We too did not enjoy the line for the inside visit. But we often stepped out of line and just stopped to enjoy a room or two. We were glad we were there when the crowds were manageable.

  2. Ah, Portugal – you are high on my bucket list…And now, so is the Pena Palace of Sintra! I love exploring historic attractions like this, especially as they tie into history. The arched ceilings and intricate details of the interior are just splendid! The detailed tile work and parts of the architecture make me wonder what part the Moors played in this space, if any beyond the local influences. And the exterior – it’s truly like something out of a fairy tale! Perched on high with incredible views, and with such interesting artifacts like the sun dial, a visit to Pena Palace is certainly in my future travels. What a great place to explore!

    • We did not plan enough time for our visit to the Pena Palace. Most people squeeze in all the palaces in Sintra in one day. We got 3 in and were exhausted and still feel like we rushed. Hope you get to visit this gem. Hopefully you visit when it is not super crowded so you can enjoy your visit to Pena Palace.

    • The Pena Palace of Sintra looks amazing! Thanks for showing intricate details specially the ceiling decor. The antique and vintage look must have given visitors a glimpsed of what its like to be royalty.. We don’t have a proper old castle in the Philippines, guess our tribe royalties during those times didn’t see the means to build one.

      I saw there were lots of tourists too, guess its the reality of what its like sometimes to be on a tour. 🙂

  3. This palace looks amazing and the crowds are a clear proof of its worth as a UNESCO site. I wish to be traveling the whole world like you when I will retire. For the moment, I am just searching for models and you are one of them. Traveling and writing on a blog = that’s how the perfect life looks like for me.

  4. I heard many conflicting things about visiting Sintra. Some people say it’s very beautiful, some say it’s kitsch. I am intrigued and from your guide, it looks very beautiful to me. The architecture and the decor inside are definitely very eclectic. I am fascinated by those incredible ceilings inside the palace. Imagine dining under such a masterpiece. Good advice to prepare for walking and to arrive early for the booked time.

    • So many people visit Sintra, snap a pic or two and then move on. There is a lot to see if you wander slowly. We were glad we visited and will go back to see the palaces we missed on this visit.

  5. Pena palace architecture looks so impressive. Those red towers evoke childhood memories of princesses and warriors. The “piano” rooms area is pretty big and interesting. This is a really nice place to visit I will keep in my to do list of places.

  6. I visited Lisbon back in 2021 and COMPLETELY fell in love… Just so magical. i wish I had known about this sooner!

  7. The Pena Palace looks and sounds amazing and I love touring places like that. BUT I wouldn’t be happy with the long lineups and crowds like that.

    • Sintra is such a popular spot, we knew there would be crowds. But we thought we were there early enough in the year. I can’t imagine visiting in the middle of summer! Still worth a visit for this iconic spot.

  8. The Pena Palace is one of the craziest buildings I’ve ever visited. I find it more suitable for a theme park – for instance Lego land due to the colors, obviously. It certainly is fascinating, but I’m not decided if I found it really beautiful. I like the garden a lot, though. The sceneries are just amazing. Also, I visited other mansions in Sintra that are quite impressive. Certainly a must-do day trip when in Lisbon.

  9. The palace looks amazing and the clock tower reminds me of the big ben in London. It looks colorful with a good taste. The castle in general is fascinating. It sounds like you had an amazing time there.

  10. The Pena Palace looks beautiful with its colors, although I wonder if it’s the original colors. Even in a supposed to be low visitors slot, there were still lots of visitors. I can’t imagine being there and moving slowly from room to room. The view of Moorish Castle from the Pena Palace is amazing!

    • We were very surprised at how many people were there. It means that online sales are probably a low part of sales so can’t be counted on to show how busy it will be. But even with the crowds we were very glad we saw both outside and inside Pena Palace.

  11. Reading this brought back good memories of my visit here. Pena Palace is so beautiful but my favorite were the panoramic views from the top. The chapel was so busy when I was there so I didn’t get to full see it. Definitely one to see in Sintra!

    • We were glad we started with Pena Palace and spent some time inside and outside. Luckily the outside was not as crazy busy as our inside tour. One to not miss in Sintra for sure.

  12. I never made it over to Sintra when I was in Portugal. I know that a visit to Quinta da Regaleira is always a bucket list spot for most because of the infamous Initiation Wells! But I guess I never really heard much about Pena Palace which is a shame because it looks quite intriguing!
    Personally, the ornate decor of the interior never interests me, but all the architecture does. I love all of the tile work in and around the whole place especially with that view of the cloister. Also the Triton & Gargoyles and other carvings just put me in awe.
    Will definitely have to add this when we go!

    • We started with Pena Palace and it took far longer than we expected. It did mean we short-changed our visit to the other palaces in Sintra. Post coming soon 🙂

  13. I have been to Pena Palace so many times and these are some great tips! I wasn’t the biggest fan of inside part, bet it is absolutely stunning from the outside and the views are just breathtaking 😍 Thank you for putting this together, makes me want to go back!

    • I am sure that Pena Palace is one of the places you can see over and over again. I would like to go back and enjoy more time on the grounds. With that lovely view!

  14. This is one of my favorite spots in Portugal! I still remember the long, hot day, trying to find the palace, walking down a wrong street and dogs everywhere barking at me, lol, but found it! Great walkthrough of the area and wonderful photos!

    • We were glad our Uber let us off right at the gate. Most of our rambling walking was after this stop in Sintra. But we were glad we finally made it and enjoyed the inside and outside.

  15. The grandeur, the arches, the carvings, the various rooms decorated in style, portraits and the ceilings makes Pena Palace of Sintra a place that I would love to explore. I like turning the pages of history and being lost in these palatial structures which transport me in an entirely different era. The views from the Queen’s Terrace look lovely. I could do with less crowd for sure but then I am sure its unavoidable because it looks like a popular place.

  16. Love this place – it’s so quirky. I did a housesit here a couple of years ago, Sintra especially when the crowds leave is such a gorgeous place to visit.

  17. Wow! This looks beautiful both inside & out. I’ve not been to Sintra but seeing this it’s very tempting. However, I think the queues could really put me off so your tips about booking online & arriving for the inside tour at the start of your timeslot are invaluable.

  18. The Pena Palace is one of our must-sees when we finally get to Lisbon. The colorful towers and interesting gargoyles will delight me no end. But I would also love to see the garden in person and the views from the palace.

  19. Such a unique sight in Portugal – hope I could visit again and again! I´m also always in love with the beautiful tile work – can´t get enough of local pettery either!

  20. Excellent and very thorough piece on this beautiful palace. I’ve been there and would love to go again. In fact we have talked about spending a couple months in Portugal in the future. Such a great country. Loved your photos and your hubs was color coordinated with the palace! LOL.

    • It would be wonderful to spend a few months in Portugal. That is definitely something we would do. It was great to finally see the Pena Palace. And dress to match 🙂

  21. All the intricacies and details of Pena Palace are just amazing! There are some interesting statues as well, ha! I love the decor and colors inside.

  22. Every year I plan to visit Lisbon and Pena Palace but never get there. Once again after reading this post and seeing the photographs I want to visit! I love how unique the design is and the Moorish influences. And that interior is so decadent. I would also love to wander around the gardens you mentioned.

    • We too planned on several visits to Lisbon to get to Sintra and kept missing it. So it was top of our list this year to finally see the palaces in Sintra. I hope you do get to visit the Pena Palace.

  23. It has always been a dream for me to visit the Pena Palace. Thanks a lot for these super useful tips!

  24. This is such a fun place to visit when in Portugal. I, too, was enthralled with the beautiful ceilings. The only downside when we visited was the hordes of tourists. I would definitely recommend a shoulder season visit.

  25. I have often seen many videos of Sintra and this is the top featured place. Many say this palace was built by a crazy ruler. This was the first detailed post I have come across of Pena Palace. Thanks for the insights and pictures.

  26. I LOVED visiting Pena Palace!! I had read about how busy it gets though, so my mom and I got there early and were literally the first people through the gate. I highly recommend doing that if you can because that meant we avoided the crowds at all the palaces for the rest of the day, since most people start at Pena. It’s such an amazing place though!

  27. Having visited here in 2018, it’s interesting to see how much it’s changed – mainly in that there seem to be bigger crowds, longer waits, and the online time slot reservation system. I don’t remember having to wait in line at all, but maybe I went on a slow day. You also captured the architectural features of the palace beautifully! I loved the tiles as well, and I don’t remember seeing those gargoyles. I’ll have to keep an eye out for them the next time I’m there!

    • We were certainly misled by the online reservation system and learned that a lot of people don’t book in advance. We would have arrived earlier if we thought there would be so many people. But we still enjoyed our visit to the Pena Palace and loved the chance to explore inside and out. So many little details that it is hard to see it all on one visit.

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