Pena’s Palace or Castle is located at the top of the Serra de Sintra and it is the most remarkable monument of Romanticism in Portugal. Inspired by the romantic castles of Bavaria, it was built by D. Fernando of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, husband of Queen Maria II. In 1838, the King consort of Portugal acquired the ruins of a monastery in the Serra de Sintra to build there his summer residence. The German architect Baron Von Eschwege was in charge of the works, but D. Fernando himself was involved in the project, having introduced the Gothic arches, medieval towers and Arabic elements, as well as an imitation of the Chapter of Christ at the Convent of Tomar.
After the death of D. Fernando, in 1885, his second wife, the Countess of Edla, an opera singer and single mother, inherited the palace causing, at the time, a huge public controversy. In 1889, the widow of D. Fernando accepted a purchase bid by the King D. Luís I, although still reserving for herself the Chalet of the Countess, where she continued to live. After this acquisition, the Palace became part of the Portuguese national heritage. Surrounding it, lays the Parque da Pena, occupying over 494 acres filled with gardens, ponds, bridges, caves, greenhouses and other small houses. Here lie New Zealand ferns, Japanese cryptomerias and araucarias, North America tuias and Lebanese cedars, in a total of two thousand distinct species. A huge sculpture of a warrior dressed in a medieval fashion, placed at the top of the cluster of rocks, appears as it is protecting the park. In 1995, UNESCO classified the Palace and the Parque da Pena, components of Sintra’s Cultural Landscape, as a World Heritage site.
A fantastic architecture
The palace displays a intentional mix of Gothic, the Portuguese Manueline, Islamic and Renaissance styles – giving it an exuberant appearance – and it’s divided into four areas: the outer walls that have two doors, the restored former convent with its Clock Tower, the Court of the moorish Arches and the Palace itself, decorated in the cathédrale style, according to the fashion of the era and with the respective furnishings and ornaments. The following features are noteworthy:
- Triton’s Portico, symbolizing the creation of the world;
- The outer walls, towers and patrol path, with stunning views over the surrounding countryside;
- The original Manueline monastery’s Church with a remarkable marble and alabaster altar piece at the main chapel portraying scenes from the life of Mary and the Passion of Christ, by Nicholas Chanterenne;
- The Cloister, also belonging to the original monastery, has two floors with various rooms decorated according to the nineteenth century’s style.
Visits to the Palace and the Parque da Pena are possible from Tuesdays to Sundays from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (winter time) or 7 p.m. (summer time). The Palace and the Park close on Mondays and on Christmas and New Year’s days. Admission is 12 euros, but young people up to 17, seniors and the Lisboa Card holders pay 9 euros and children under five have free admission. There is also a happy hour every day from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., offering a small discount. A visit to the Countess of Edla chalet is also possible. For those not going by car to the top of the Serra de Sintra, the number 434 bus from Scotturb makes the connection between the Sintra’s railway station and the Pena Palace.