Park and Palace of Pena

A German once had a lovely dream. He wanted to build a legendary castle high on the mountain range of Sintra, which is a mystical place that is often revered and worshiped.

Fortunately for us he realized his dream and created the scenic Park and Palace of Pena. In my opinion, it’s a must visit for everyone.

I visited the National Palace of Pena and it reminded me of the whole history of this magnificent place. I loved to walk through the paths of the Palace and wander around the beautiful Park. It was the 4th stamp in Lisbon Passport!

It is a regularly visited place by Portuguese and mainly tourists from other countries of the world. But perhaps some do not know a few things that this magnificent site … here we go. In order to make the characters closer to their reader, I would refer to royalty only by their names. No titles.

1 – There was a monastery in the place where is known today as Palace of Pena

There was a Portuguese king, D. Manuel I, who had the intention of establishing 12 monasteries dedicated to the Order of St. Jerome in Lisbon. The most notable one is the we visit even today in Belém, the famous Jerónimos Monastery.

Another Monastery that was founded by his authorization was the one of Nossa Senhora da Pena, in Sintra, exactly in the same place where the National Palace of the Pena is currently.

Part of the Monastery Chapel resisted the 1755 earthquake and remains intact. On a visit to the Palace do not miss the altarpiece of the high altar and the stained glass of the nave. If you look too close to the stained glass, around the figure at the lower left corner you will see the stained glass window itself pictured.

Chapel entrance, Palácio Nacional da Pena, Sintra, Portugal
Chapel entrance
Stained glass of the chapel, Palácio Nacional da Pena, Sintra, Portugal
Stained glass of the chapel

Also interesting from the time of the Monastery is the cave of the Monk located in the Park that surrounds the Palace currently. It was here that the monks practiced moments of silence and recollection.

Monk's cave
Monk’s cave

2 – The Monastery was bought by a son of a German prince

From the union between a Prince (and Duke) and a princess from the German city of Coburg, Fernando Augusto Francisco António was born. He had an excellent education, passed in royal courts, where he developed the artistic talent he exhibited throughout his life.

Bust of King Fernando, Palácio Nacional da Pena, Sintra, Portugal
Bust of King Fernando

Even though he had never visited Portugal or known his Queen, it was decided that he would marry her. He was 19 years old then. A contract was signed which indicated that the marriage would be held in Lisbon and that Fernando would receive an annual pension that would be maintained even if he became a widower.

In this context, Fernando left Coburg and went to Lisbon, having married the day after his arrival and assumed the position of monarch. But he never wanted to be … It did not interest him at all to rule a country; he wanted to dedicate himself to art. Fernando collected art, drew and sang, and became known as the artist king.

Shortly after moving to Portugal he met Sintra and quickly fell in love, and immediately bought the place where the Monastery of St. Jerome was situated (which was in ruins) and all the forest surrounding it, including the Castle of the Moors. This purchase was made with his personal fortune.

He had an access road to the top of the mountain where the Monastery was, until S. Pedro de Sintra created conditions for the construction of his Palace.

3 – The son of the German prince married a Portuguese Queen

Maria de Bragança was born in Rio de Janeiro when it was Portuguese territory and the Portuguese monarchs lived there. Her father had to abdicate from the throne of Portugal and so at seven years old (yes, seven!), he became Queen of her country, on the condition of marrying her uncle. The marriage materialized but was eventually annulled, because Mary’s uncle did not fulfill her part of the contract.

Meanwhile, Mary lived in England and France, preparing to take up the post of Queen one day, to which she was entitled. It was when she reached the age of fifteen that it happened.

The following year she married a German prince who died two months after the ceremony and shortly afterwards she married the son of a prince who was also German, named Fernando.

4 – The German Baron Von Eschwege traveled to get inspiration to create the Palace of Pena

Fernando when he bought the land that currently accommodates the Park and Palace of Pena, intended to build a summer residence that had Medieval, Manueline and Moorish features.

To help him realize this dream he sought the help of the German Baron Von Eschwege. When he presented his ideas, Fernando realized that the Baron did not understand exactly what he intended to build. And so he proposed that the Baron make a trip to southern Spain, North Africa, Italy and France to get inspiration from the Mediterranean.

After this trip the Baron designed the Palace that we see today.

Triton, a mythological monster (evoking the Discoveries), Palácio Nacional da Pena, Sintra, Portugal
Triton, a mythological monster (evoking the Discoveries)
Facade with Arab and Indian influence, Palácio Nacional da Pena, Sintra, Portugal
Facade with Arab influence
Indian inspired lookout, Palácio Nacional da Pena, Sintra, Portugal
Arabic inspired lookout


5 – The Palace has two different wings

The Pena Palace consists of two wings, The area where the former convent was located is where the visit to the Palace begins. The rooms here are small, which reveals a familiar proximity and familiarity of the time (contrary to what existed before).

Dining room, Palácio Nacional da Pena, Sintra, Portugal
Dining room

All the most salient halls are in the so-called new zone, because it was built outside the zone of construction of the old Monastery. This is the formal wing, where Fernando and Maria received their visits.

Noble hall, Palácio Nacional da Pena, Sintra, Portugal
Noble hall

6 – In the Park of the Pena there are about 2000 species of trees

The Pena Palace and the 85-hectare Park that surrounds it, were planned simultaneously. Fernando and the Baron in charge of the project, created a lush landscape where we can find species from various places of the planet. The microclimate that is felt in the region of Sintra is conducive to this happening. Among many other trees we can find a yew (poisonous tree), a group of redwoods and some magnolias.

The park looks like a wild forest, from which a romantic and bucolic environment emanates. The paths are winding in a way that one can lose themselves within its landscapes.

Pena Park, Palácio Nacional da Pena, Sintra, Portugal
Pena Park
Bench in the middle of the vegetation, Palácio Nacional da Pena, Sintra, Portugal
Bench in the middle of the vegetation

It was all thought out in detail.

7 – Parque da Pena has more than 30 places to be discovered

Those who enter the Park complex and Palacio da Pena can choose to go by bus to the top of the mountain and visit the Palace or walk the path. I advise going straight to the Palace and then wandering within the Park for a few hours.

The garden is inspiring romantic and invites you to a long walk through its tangle of paths. There are beautiful surprises in the course that we least anticipated, such as the grotto where the monks meditated, the valley of lakes, a chapel or a zone with only camellias.

Valley of the lakes, Palácio Nacional da Pena, Sintra, Portugal
Valley of the lakes

Do not miss this experience. Walk through the park without haste and let yourself be dazzled.

8 – Fernando remarried

Fernando and Maria had 11 children, and the birth of the latter was the reason for the mother’s death. Several years after this event, Fernando fell in love with an opera singer named Elise Hensler, when he saw her perform at the Teatro São Carlos. They spent a few years traveling through Europe and eventually married.

Elise was awarded the title of Countess d’Edla and built in the Park of Pena a garden and chalet with her name. In the green zone surrounding the building, Elise and Fernando collected botanical species from around the world, such as Chile or Australia.

The chalet is a beautiful recreational building with alpine inspiration so that the Countess could thrill her home lover. Access to the chalet is paid separately but I recommend you go. Its cork-lined exterior is very interesting and the interior decoration too. There is a room that seems to be lined with lace, and another with a stucco, for example.

Chalet of Condessa D'Edla, Palácio Nacional da Pena, Sintra, Portugal
Chalet of Condessa D’Edla
Dining room of the Chalet of the Countess d'Elda, Palácio Nacional da Pena, Sintra, Portugal
Dining room of the Chalet of the Countess d’Elda

9- Fernando died and the countess was the heiress of the Palace and Park of Pena

When Fernando died he left the Park and Palace of Pena in testament to his wife, Elise. This decision was greatly contested by Fernando’s family and public opinion.

Luís, one of the children Fernando had had with Maria, was already king of Portugal and intended that his father’s property should remain for him, not for his second wife. After five years of legal proceedings, the Park and Pena Palace were bought by the state and Elise got the villa’s lifetime usufruct. She resigned a few years later.

10 – There is a French garden dedicated to the last queen of Portugal

Fernando’s grandson, Carlos, married Maria Amelia, daughter of the Count of Paris. During the years that Elise lived in the villa, the royal couple Carlos and Maria Amelia stayed in the Pena Palace on their way to Sintra. The ladies were even close friends, seeing each other and writing to each other regularly.

Given the French provenance of Maria Amelia, a vegetable garden that existed in the Pena Park was transformed into a French-style garden. It is situated by the shop close to the entrance of Parque da Pena. It is a very discreet place, but it is very interesting to know, even by its huge difference with the remaining green area of ​​romantic inspiration.

Here we find very well defined paths with some flowering shrubs that allow one to observe almost everything that is around. After the murder of Carlos and their son, the queen began to spend long seasons in the Palace of the Pena, until 1910, year of declaration of the Republic (and end of the monarchy).

I imagine that she had walked a lot in this garden which reminded her so much where she was born and lived the first years.

Garden of the Queen D. Amelia, Palácio Nacional da Pena, Sintra, Portugal
Garden of the Queen D. Amelia


Stamp # 4 from my Lisbon Passport! Challenge accomplished

Lisbon Passport with the stamp of the Park and Pena Palace
Lisbon Passport with the stamp of the Park and Pena Palace

Do not forget to take the Lisbon Passport and stamp it at the store, at the end of the visit! Since I have this passport I decided to visit once a month one of Lisbon’s attractions and write about them. The National Palace of Pena was my 4th stamp!

Travel Guide

When to go: Between June and September for warmer temperatures.

Documents: To enter Portugal, you may need a passport and / or visa, depending on your country in which you live. Citizens of the European Community do not need a visa to enter Portugal. Passports must be valid for up to 6 months (depending on your nationality) and are required by all, except for nationals of the European Union and nationals of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Malta, Norway and Switzerland holding valid national identity cards. Brits, Australians, Canadians, Americans and Japanese need a valid passport.

Although it is not mandatory to have a return ticket, it is advisable to have one, because if you do not, you may have to prove sufficient means of financial support to return.

Currency: The local currency is the euro.

Time zone: GMT.


Language: Portuguese.