Places to visit

Pena Palace and Park in a glance


The Pena Palace is on the Portuguese Riviera. This beautiful monument can be easily seen on the hill in the mountains. It is a national monument of the 19th-century and is probably most romantic palace in the word. The building is considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.

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Evgeny Praisman (author)
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0.64 km
0h 27 m
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The Pena Park is a vast forested area completely surrounding the Pena Palace, spreading for over 200 hectares of uneven terrain. The park was created at the same time as the palace by King Ferdinand II, who was assisted in the task by the Baron von Eschwege and the Baron von Kessler. The exotic taste of the Romanticism was applied to the park as it was to the palace. The king ordered trees from diverse, distant lands to be planted there. Those included North American sequoia, Lawson's cypress, magnolia and Western redcedar, Chinese ginkgo, Japanese Cryptomeria, and a wide variety of ferns and tree ferns from Australia and New Zealand, concentrated in the Queen's Fern Garden (Feteira da Rainha). The park has a labyrinthic system of paths and narrow roads, connecting the palace to the many points of interest throughout the park, as well as to its two gated exits.

The castle'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.

Public toilet is for use. The toilet is suitable for disabled guests.

In the 18th century, the monastery was severely damaged by lightning. However, it was the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, occurring shortly afterward, that took the heaviest toll on the monastery, reducing it to ruins. 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 and 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. The current main entranceway into the Palace lies at the end of a ramp built by Baron von Eschwege on the site of a pre-existing pathway that provided access to the walls of the Manueline convent. Over the course of this rising route, there are a series of garden terraces with flowerbeds and first passing through the Alhambra Gate, itself possibly inspired on the Alhambra Gate of Justice in Granada.

The Monumental Door is a mixture of the triumphal arch and a fortified gateway, signposting the entranceway to the tunnel that leads to the residential wings and the Palace of Pena reception rooms, which, being more private, were set in a better “protected” and secluded corner. Its architectonic composition contains references to the most emblematic buildings in Lisbon from the Era of Discoveries and the Manueline period, such as Casa dos Bicos (House of the Spikes) through to the diamond points in a chequered pattern as well as the Tower of Belém through the two cylindrical bartizans with twinned cupolas, resting on lion’s heads (feasibly representing a lion and a lioness). Similarly, the Cunhal das Bolas in Lisbon’s Bairro Alto neighborhood served as the model for the spheres in relief around the arch (the same solution was adopted for the opening access to the Round Path and, as with the tunnel, represents a military architectural feature). The perfectly aligned archway rests upon depictions of serpents with the foundation stone sculpted into a great medieval helm. On the upper turrets, the lateral merlons display animal skins from which hang Crosses of Christ while the central merlon features two overlaying swords in an allusion to the knightly character of the Palace of Pena. Behind the Monumental Door was the Drawbridge, which formed an obligatory feature to the defensive systems of Central European medieval castles from which Baron von Eschwege took his inspiration for the Castle of Pena project as the Palace was known at the time of its construction.

The Terrace of the Triton opens up onto the eastern landscape while its western most extent borders the New Palace. To the north, there is the Old Convent, reachable through the two galleries of overlaying canopied arches built in the 19th century. On the ground floor of the New Palace there are two vaulted passageways (tunnels) that enable carriages to get around the Patio of the Arches on the west hand side and return to the tunnel. On the Terrace of the Triton, the High Cross may be spotted on the highest point in the Sintra hills (528m above sea-level), as well as the statue of the Knight far distant in the Park. This may have been designed deliberately as a scenographic feature contributing to the “medieval” ambience intended for the “Castle of Pena”.

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