The crown jewel of UNESCO-listed Sintra, Pena National Palace never fails to inspire. The fanciful red and yellow palace is an exotic mix of Gothic, Egyptian, Moorish, and Renaissance elements, commissioned by King Ferdinand II and completed in 1854 on a hilltop high above Sintra.
This Disney-like castle in the clouds is one of the most-visited attractions in Portugal and a popular day trip from nearby Lisbon. A shady, winding road leads travelers up through Parque das Merendas to the palace, perched 1,476 feet (450 meters) above sea level. Within the palace, it’s possible to walk the walls and see inside the turrets, marvel at the Victorian and Edwardian furnishings within, and explore the surrounding Pena Park and its spectacular landscaping. The most convenient and rewarding way to explore the complex is on a guided half- or full-day tour from Lisbon, which could include other stops such as Cascais, Quinta da Regaleira, Queluz Palace, or even a local winery for a tasting.
Things to Know Before You
- This site is a must-visit for history buffs.
- Free WiFi is available at several locations on the grounds, including at the main entrance, restaurant, and cafeteria terrace.
- Day trips from Lisbon can last anywhere from 5 to 8 hours.
- Due to ongoing restoration, not all parts of the palace are always open.
- Nearly the entire Pena complex is wheelchair accessible.
How to Get to the Pena National Palace
The town of Sintra is set about an hour from Lisbon by train or 40 minutes by road. From the train station, Bus 434 continues on to the main part of town and then ascends the hill to Pena Palace. From the Sintra town center, it's also possible to make the hour-long climb to the palace on foot.
When to Get There
The palace is generally open daily from 9:45am to 7pm, while the park grounds are open from 9:30am until 8pm. July and August tend to be the busiest months in Sintra, particularly between 10am and 4pm when many visitors from Lisbon come for a tour of the royal palaces and Moorish castle. Expect temperatures in the high 80s during this time of year. To avoid the crowds (and the worst of the heat), arrive at the ticket office first thing in the morning, preferably on a weekday.
Other Things to Do in Sintra
If you’re in Sintra to see the Pena Palace, you’ll find a range of other attractions to check out as well. Many visitors choose to make a circuit of the area’s three royal palaces: the National Palace of Pena, National Palace of Sintra, and the Palace of Quelez. The Castle of the Moors, another part of the Cultural Landscape of Sintra UNESCO World Heritage site, is also worth visiting.