S for Sintra Palácio Nacional da Pena

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The  town of Sintra, Unesco-listed thanks to its extraordinary castles, palaces and country houses, is popular with Lisbon day-trippers. There is a lot of flamboyant architecture to see.

(please click on an image to enlarge)

S - sintra pena palace

The Park and Palace of Pena above the old town of Sintra  are the finest examples of 19th century Portuguese Romanticism and the integration of natural and built heritage. It is another example (along with Rossio Station in Lisbon and Count Guimaraes Palace in Cascais) of neo-Manueline style, a revival architecture of the 19th/20th centuries.


This is as far as you go if you haven’t bought the full ticket. The coat of arms above the gateway is of Don Fernando II of Portugal and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. He died in 1885 leaving the property to the Countess of Edla.


An alcove you pass on the way up to the second terrace, charmingly filled with a stone urn and lush tropical plants.


Allegorical gateway of the Creation. Half-man half-fish figure.


On your way up to the entrance you go past a lovely border of tropical planting, which all looks in much better shape than the actual Palace buildings, which I thought were rather tired and scruffy looking. I wanted to get a paintbrush out there and then!

It is a steep walk up to the Palace and you may prefer to  take the 434 circular bus route from the railway station (regular trains to and from Lisbon make it an easy day out) to the historic centre of the Old Town, the castle and Pena Palace. If you walk from the station then you can enter the lovely Parque de Liberdade.

S - Sintra parque

I went there on a very humid day in May, and found it a little disappointing. The exterior of the Palace and the Palacio Nacional de Sintra were in need of some TLC and I found the historic centre to be very crowded and it was very hot and sticky. Climbing up hill in those conditions do not suit me, but I would like to go back as there are many other sites to visit that are very interesting.

Have you visited Sintra? Did you go to the Pena Palace and Gardens? What are your thoughts?

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I live in the UK, but when I was younger I spent several years travelling the world followed by a period living in South Africa. I look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

41 thoughts on “S for Sintra Palácio Nacional da Pena”

  1. What an interesting place Jude. I have never been to Portugal, so know little of the country, outside of travelogues about Lisbon and Porto. I have drunk a lot of Port, but I hardly think that qualifies…
    The place does look a little shabby, as you say, but perhaps that it also why it retains interest, outside of the well-manicured places we are more used to.
    Regards as always, Pete. x

    1. I think a lot of the neglect has to do with the economic crisis in Portugal, if you look at any tourist information you will see that the palaces look in beautiful condition, rich colours or sparkling white façades, but the reality is that they are very much in need of a lick of paint. Inside is better. Not a reason not to visit because it is a fascinating place, but I suppose I was expecting it to look as it does in the brochures.

    1. I think you need 3-4 days to do the place justice (Sintra) as there are several interesting sites to visit and because it is so hilly, there is only so much you can do in one day. We stayed in Cascais so an easy bus ride away, but only went the once and it does get busy!

  2. was here nearly 20 years ago and had forgotten what is was called – thanks for memory jog. Did not do the full tour and thought it a quaint folly – now I recall the steepness!

  3. Jude we spent a day in Sintra and hiked up to the Pena Palace from the main town site. We were there in September and there were tourists but it wasn’t that crowded. I loved exploring it.

      1. Maybe it was just the day? It was warm hiking up but a stiff breeze helped. We had been cycling in the Picos de Europa prior so perhaps anything in comparison seemed easier 🙂

        1. It was very humid, and I don’t do humid well, I get all swollen and bloated and feel awfully tired so that probably affected how much I enjoyed the palace. We took the bus, but it is still a hike through the grounds to the palace itself, which wasn’t all that busy. The old town was crowded though. I’m sure if you had been cycling in those mountains this would have been a piece of cake 🙂

        2. Jude I found the hike up challenging. My lead in line in the blog post is …
          ‘Truth be told, the cycling tour in the Picos de Europa was training for the hiking slogs to the castles of Portugal.’
          I think we are like minded on this one. 🙂

  4. Ahh.. Unesco listed!! I know you were going to look into this, I seem to remember. Never been to Sinitra, or Portugual come to that but if I did I would love to visit the Palace 🙂

    1. Portugal is lovely – just ask Jo 🙂
      And thanks for the reminder! So I have been to two UNESCO sites so far, I wonder if there are any more that I have visited?

      1. Yes, I thought of Jo. You won’t believe it Jude, but this morning I haven’t been able to comment on a few blogs and it’s only because I just heard from one blogger I follow that my comment went to spam that I’ve found out the same thing is happening as before. I can’t believe it! Have you had any problems?

        1. Not that I know of, but I have only replied to comments in my notifications, I haven’t tried on a blog yet. Getting your comments OK though 🙂

        2. Yes, I was able to comment on your blog and a couple of others then it all went wrong 😦 Oh I do hope this isn’t a repeat of spamgate…let’s hope it’s just a glitch…

        3. Oh no! I’ve found the old email to Akismet and have emailed them to ask for help.Not going to take any chances this time! Wasn’t it something to do with Sky and BT last time and only in the UK? I went on a forum but only one person on there as of today with the same problem and no reply…let’s see what happens! Thanks for letting me know…

    1. Looking at photos of the site it hasn’t always been like this, the paintwork has definitely deteriorated. I’m not saying it isn’t an interesting place to visit, but it is not as colourful as it looks. And actually it is a bit Disneylandish …in a shabby way 😉

  5. Not Scarborough, then 🙂
    Like an idiot I walked all the way from the town up, with a very unhappy partner alongside. It was pretty amazing when I finally got there though.

    1. Yes, it is quite a climb up that hill! haven’t been to Scarborough in decades, though drove through a few years ago when staying in York. I once applied for a job in Scarborough, wasn’t successful though.

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