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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Each room was decorated with interesting art pieces. Family history and portraits were displayed throughout the palace.
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.
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.
But the interesting gargoyles that decorated the Manueline Cloister caused us to lean out and look in all directions. So many fascinating faces!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Inside we found the Palace of Pena Chapel. We stopped at the altar. And then admired the statues and the beautiful stained glass windows.
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.
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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