The Pena Palace stands on the top of a hill in the Sintra Mountains above the town of Sintra, and on a clear day it can be easily seen from Lisbon and much of its metropolitan area. It is a national monument and constitutes one of the major expressions of 19th-century Romanticism in the world. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. It is also used for state occasions by the President of the Portuguese Republic and other government officials.

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. 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. For centuries Pena was a small, quiet place for meditation, housing a maximum of eighteen monks.

In the 18th century the monastery was severely damaged by lightning. However, it was the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, occurring shortly afterwards, that took the heaviest toll on the monastery, reducing it to ruins. Nonetheless, the chapel (and its works of marble and alabaster) escaped without significant damage.

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 Baron 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.

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 last queen of Portugal, Queen Amélia, spent her last night at the palace before leaving the country in exile.

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.

In 1995, the palace and the rest of the Cultural Landscape of Sintra were classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

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Founded: 1842-1854
Category: Palaces, manors and town halls in Portugal

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User Reviews

Deepa G (3 months ago)
Beautiful place!!! Very well maintained, clean and a pleasure to walk through. The displayed items are magnificent. The view from the top is nice. Also Restaurant on the top is great and they serve really nice portugal sweet.
Igor Ghicavii (7 months ago)
Very beautiful place, but a lot of climbing, windy on top.
Ricardo Carvalho (8 months ago)
One of most amazing views in The WORLD! how magical and magnificent place this is. Built into the rocks respecting but enhancing the nature around. Just incredible to visit in a summer day. Word of advice, bring water, good shoes and come prepared for some cardio
Andrew Gotti (8 months ago)
Fantastic views around the park and from the palace! You can see both the landscape and out to the ocean from the palace or from various lookout points around the park. We went in early July 2020 and there were all of about 10 other people there. Amazing experience to visit somewhere so popular without any crowds. A must visit if you are staying in/around Sintra or if you want a day trip from Lisbon.
Stoyan Nedev (9 months ago)
One of the most beautiful places in Sintra. Be prepared for huge crowds. There is a bus which you can use to reach the castle. The view from the top is amazing. The castle is very colorful and it's a perfect background for pictures. Keep in mind that the photos are not allowed in the castle. It's a must see if you're in Sintra!
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