Pena Palace Sintra: A Castle in the Sky
A fairytale castle in the sky…
Those are probably the best worlds to describe the enthralling Pena Palace, straddling a rocky mountain high above the town of Sintra in Portugal. The Palace is perhaps the most astounding example of eclectic 19th century Romanticism architecture. It reminds me of fairy tales I used to know as a little girl!
Sintra is a postcard pretty Portuguese town set amidst the pine covered hills of the Serra de Sintra, only 30km to the west of LisbonLisbon, making it a perfect day trip destination from Lisbon!
In the older days, the slightly cooler more pleasant climate enticed the nobility and elite of Portugal, who constructed exquisite palaces, extravagant residences and gorgeous decorative gardens. The picturesque town itself is lined with winding cobbled streets and traditional buildings filled with shops, cafes and restaurants.
A unique and mind-boggling feat of architecture of Pena Palace itself is the fruit of King Ferdinand II’s creative genius, who in 1838 acquired the former monastery of Our Lady of Pena, originally built in 1511 at top of the hill above Sintra. The refurbished remains of this monastery now constitute the northern section of the Palace (the Old Palace).
A few years later, King Ferdinand II decided to enlarge the palace by adding a new wing (the New Palace) with large rooms and ending with an imposing circular tower next to the new kitchens. He also ordered the Park of Pena to be planted – here you will come across many exotic plants originating from all over the world and over five hundred species of trees – in the palace’s surrounding areas in the style of the romantic gardens of that time. A park is a real joy to spend an afternoon in with its winding paths, pavilions and stone benches placed at different points along its routes. Unfortunately during our visit, it started raining cats and dogs
The inside of the palace is just as lavish as the outside… and it has recently been restored to how it was left in 1910 when the Portuguese nobility fled from Portugal with the fall of the monarchy. To experience and see the living quarters of the royal family, showcasing the wealth and culture of time long gone, was fascinating!
Pena National Palace was designated the status of UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995. The dreamlike Pena Palace, with its breathtaking 360 degree views over the plains of central Portugal, is the standout monument of Sintra. However there are several others notable sites including the Castle of the Moors, a hilltop medieval castle ( as seen from Pena Palace in the picture above) and the National Palace in the Sintra town centre.
A few more shots of this spectacular edifice…