King Ferdinand ordered the Park of Pena to be planted in the Palace’s surrounding areas in the style of the romantic gardens of that time, with winding paths, pavilions and stone benches placed at different points along its routes, as well as trees and other plants originating from the four corners of the earth.
In this way, the king took advantage of the mild and damp climate of the Sintra hills to create an entirely new and exotic park with over five hundred different species of trees.
Some highlights about Palacio da Pena, in Sintra (Portuga)
Estrada da Pena, 2710-609
Coordinates: 38.78783, -9.38884
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Sunday – Monday: 09:00 – 19:00 h
Ticket in advance: parquesdesintra.pt
Phone: +351 21 923 73 00
From Sintra’s historic centre:
On foot: There are hicking trails signposted between the historic centre and the National Palace of Pena.
- Santa Maria Trail (Casa INFO > Moorish Castle/Pena; 1770 metres, 1 hour)
- Lapa Trail (Casa INFO > Pena; 1450 metres, 45 minutes)
- Seteais Trail (Seteais > Pena/Moorish Castle; 2410 metres, 1½ hours)
- Vila Sassetti Trail (Historic Centre/Largo Ferreira de Castro > Pena/Moorish Castle; 1850 metrres, 45 minutes)
By car: If driving to Sintra, take the IC19 (from Lisbon), IC30 (from Mafra) or EN9 (turning off the A5 motorway to Cascais). When you arrive in the town’s historic centre, you’ll see a vertical sign showing the way to Pena (3.5 km).
By train (CP): Take the Sintra Line, Sintra (historic centre) > National Palace of Pena. Departure stations: Estação do Oriente, Estação do Rossio, Estação de Entrecampos
By bus (Scotturb)
- From Sintra Train Station – Pena Circuit
- From Sintra, take Scotturb bus No. 434, which runs from the railway station to the Palace of Pena.
The Park and National Palace of Pena stands atop a rocky peak, which is the second highest point in the Sintra hills. The palace is situated in the eastern part of the Park of Pena, which one has to pass through to reach the steep ramp built by the Baron of Eschwege that provides access to the castle-like building. The palace itself is composed of two wings: the former Manueline monastery of the Order of St. Jerome and the wing built in the 19th century by King Ferdinand II. These wings are ringed by a third architectural structure that is a fantasised version of an imaginary castle, whose walls one can walk around which comprises battlements, watchtowers, an entrance tunnel and even a drawbridge.
King Ferdinand began by making repairs to the former monastery, refurbishing the whole upper floor and replacing the fourteen cells used by the monks with larger-sized room, covering them with the vaulted ceilings that can still be seen today. In roughly 1843, the king decided to enlarge the palace by building a new wing (the New Palace) with even larger romos. In transforming a former monastery into a castle-like residence, King Ferdinand showed that he was heavily influenced by German romanticism, and that he probably found his inspiration in the Stolzenfels and Rheinstein castles on the banks of the Rhine, as well as Babelsberg Palace in Potsdam.
King Ferdinand also ordered the Park of Pena to be planted in the Palace’s surrounding areas in the style of the romantic gardens of that time, with winding paths, pavilions and stone benches placed at different points along its routes, as well as trees and other plants originating from the four corners of the earth. In this way, the king took advantage of the mild and damp climate of the Sintra hills to create an entirely new and exotic park with over five hundred different species of trees.
The most fascinating construction in the Park of Pena is the Chalet of the Countess of Edla, also known as the House of Indulgence, which is located at the park’s western end. Its building was commissioned by King Ferdinand II and his future second wife, Elise Hensler (the Countess of Edla), as a private summer residence. It is a two-storey building with a very scenic appearance, denoting a distinctive alpine inspiration and maintaining an expressive visual relationship with the Palace.
The Park of Pena is composed of several gardens and landscaped areas stretching over 85 hectares, where native and exotic plant species originating from the four corners of the earth appear side by side in a luxuriant setting considered by some to be among the most beautiful scenery in both Portugal and Europe.
Here you will find an extensive system of water features that includes waterfalls, ponds, lakes and fountains, as well as small decorative buildings scattered around the park, whose location is based on the careful and systematic selection of remarkable viewing points. All of these details underline the romantic atmosphere of this historic park, whose capacity to seduce and delight still remains very much alive, more than a century later.
The Palace’s history started in the Middle Ages when a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pena was built on the top of the hill above Sintra. According to tradition, construction occurred after an apparition of the Virgin Mary.
In 1493, King John II, accompanied by his wife Queen Leonor, made a pilgrimage to the site to fulfill a vow. His successor, King Manuel I, was also very fond of this sanctuary, and ordered the construction of a monastery on this site which was donated to the Order of Saint Jerome. For centuries Pena was a small, quiet place for meditation, housing a maximum of eighteen monks.
For many decades the ruins remained untouched, but they still astonished young prince Ferdinand. In 1838, as King consort Ferdinand II, he decided to acquire the old monastery, all of the surrounding lands, the nearby Castle of the Moors and a few other estates in the area. King Ferdinand then set out to transform the remains of the monastery into a palace that would serve as a summer residence for the Portuguese royal family. The commission for the Romantic style rebuilding was given to Lieutenant-General and mining engineer Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege. Eschwege, a German amateur architect, was much traveled and likely had knowledge of several castles along the Rhine river. The construction took place between 1842–1854, although it was almost completed in 1847: King Ferdinand and Queen Maria II intervened decisively on matters of decoration and symbolism. Among others, the King suggested vault arches, Medieval and Islamic elements be included, and he also designed an ornate window for the main façade (inspired by the chapter house window of the Convent of the Order of Christ in Tomar).
After the death of Ferdinand the palace passed into the possession of his second wife Elisa Hensler, Countess of Edla. The latter then sold the palace to King Luís, who wanted to retrieve it for the royal family, and thereafter the palace was frequently used by the family. In 1889 it was purchased by the Portuguese State, and after the Republican Revolution of 1910 it was classified as a national monument and transformed into a museum.
The palace quickly drew visitors and became one of Portugal’s most visited monuments. Over time the colors of the red and yellow façades faded, and for many years the palace was visually identified as being entirely gray. By the end of the 20th century the palace was repainted and the original colors restored.
Parks of Sintra Welcome Better Project
Park and National Palace of Pena acess conditions: https://youtu.be/xa10E1Bu5hs
Image credits: “Parques de Sintra – Monte da Lua, S.A." Park of Pena