Visit of the Pena Palace – Sintra Portugal

The Pena Palacio is an astonishing example of the 19th Century Romantic architectural mouvement. Envisioned by King Ferdinand II as a perfect Royal retreat residence, the palace stands proudly above the town of Sintra. Not so far from Lisbon, yet in a total different environment, the Palace offers incredible views on the surrounding landscape, on the Castle of the Moors and the Atlantic Ocean.

 

The Palace of Pena - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

 

The Park and Palace of Pena is part of the landscape of Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage site sin 1995.

 

For a change, I’m not going to lay out this post in my usual way. If you would like to know more about the history of the Pena palace, you should check out the official website which includes lots of details: www.parquesdesintra.pt

Instead, I want to tell you a bit about the Romantic mouvement!!

 

The Romantic architecture mouvement

The Romantic architecture mouvement was mostly about reviving the Gothic architecture. A certain nostalgia for medieval times and the fondness for this fancy style were at the origins of the mouvement which was in complete opposition to the restrained and ordered classicism style.

Bu Romantic architecture wasn’t just about the architecture of monuments, it included the landscape. Following the Renaissance period, where nature was tamed (think of the structure and symmetry of the Park of Versailles), during the Romantic mouvement, the landscape created was to give an impression of nature in its pristine state. Parks were carefully designed and enhanced with cliffs, waterfalls and scattered temples, statues, fountains or other decorative pieces. Various areas were designed to host specific plants, to accommodate the taste of its creator.

A park from this period was to give the impression, to the person walking though it, of experiencing proximity with nature. It was to be “artistically laid out and developed so that nature could flourish in its setting as if in an unspoiled wilderness“. (William Gilpin, 1724-1804).

So artificially laid out but in an artistic manner in order to recreate the perfection of nature! Quite a concept when you think about it!!

And, surprisingly, it works. There is something magical, something whimsical about strolling through the Park of Pena. I guess that, in a way, we were lucky to have bad weather on the day of our visit. The mist and fog added to the mystery of the park.

 

Lose oneself… only to find oneself again through sensitivity and intuition….

 

The Pena Palace in the fog - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

Fog in the park of the Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

The park - Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

View in the park of the Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

A foggy day at Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

 

The Pena Palace is quite astonishing on its own but the highlight of your visit will certainly be when you take the time to loose yourself in the park.

 


 

OK so I can’t let you go without showing you some pictures of the inside of the Palace. I just can’t!! So here is a small selection:

 

You may want to start your visit by going to the Church. Pass the Triton’s gate and you will find it on your right.

The Church is part of the remains of the 16th century monastery. The Altar piece is quite astonishing.

The 16th century altarpiece of the Pena Palace chapel - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

The Altar piece above dates from the 16th century. The picture below shows the monks’ stalls to the right of the chancel. Admire the lierne vault.

Manueline vaulted ceiling of the choir - Pena Palace Chapel - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

The vaulted ceiling of the Chapel - Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

Detail of the lierne vault above and Manueline arch below.

The 16th cent. Chapel of the Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

 

Go back to the Tunnel of the Triton, where horse-drawn carriages would stop to allow their passengers to exit, being sheltered from rain or sun and to enter the Palace. Walk up these stairs…

The entrance staircase of the Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

You will next enter the palace through the 16th Century Cloister. A route reserved for the Royal family as their private apartments were located around such Cloister. The gallery arches were once closed with windows and was used by the Royal family as interior walkways between their different rooms.

The fern in the middle of the Cloister is several decades old.

The 16th Cent. Manueline Cloister of the Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

The private apartments of the Royal family included their bedrooms, office and study and the below dining room, the former monastery refectory which still has its 16th century Manueline rib-vaulted ceiling. Tiles are from the 19th century.

The Royal private Dining room of King Ferdinand II in the Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

Here is a map of the Palace!!

Floor plan of the Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

Once you walked around the 2 stories of the Cloister (left on the map), you will continue your visit with the other rooms of the old palace.

Pictures below is part of  the bedroom of the lady in waiting. I loved this ceiling so much, I had to show you.

Bedroom of the lady in waiting - Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

Queen Amelia tea room seemed quite nice as well!

Queen Amelia tea room - Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

If you pay attention during your visit, you will notice that there is only one Royal bedroom in this part of the Palace. King Ferdinand II shared a bedroom with his second wife. Something very unusual at that time!

I must show you this incredible piece of furniture: This is a portable bidet. You will often find bidet in France, but I had never seen a portable one and especially not one covered with velvet!

A Royal portable Bidet - Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

All the rooms you will pass by, display a fair amount of diverse furniture. The below desk was the favorite of Mr A. A sort of architect desk where you can raise or lower the central piece to drawn comfortably.

Desk in the Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

All the rooms in the old palace, are configured the same way: 2 doors on each side which enable you to walk in the center while admiring the furniture on each side and the room decoration. This, to me was pretty unusual. Most French chateau have rooms ‘en enfilade’ like this, but doors are rarely in the middle.

Rooms of the Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

Before arriving to the new Palace, one room you will pass by is the telephone room. The picture below doesn’t show the original telephone but it’s still pretty cool! 😉

The Telephone Room -Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

Stop for a while in the arabic room to admire the Trompe l’oeil and try to figure out what’s real and what’s not!

The Arabic room - Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

Once you arrive in the New Palace, you will most likely be taken by the size as you realize the ceiling heigh in the old palace was much much lower.

Below is the Great Hall which was, of course, used to host dinners and balls.

The Great Hall ceiling - Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

Last, you will get to visit the kitchen with an impressive collection of iron pans!

The Kitchen - Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

 

So what about the outside? Well as you can guess from the fog in the Park, the Palace was also surrounded by such fog!! Still pretty cool!!

Tours of the Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

Below is the Triton gate.

Triton - Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

The entrance of the Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

Yes very very foggy!! And windy!! And cold! And all of this in May. It seems that Sintra has a very specific micro climate which makes this possible!

Entrance gate - Pena Palace - Sintra, Portugal - Learn more on roadtripsaroundtheworld.com

 


 

The Technical bits: 

 

The official website: www.parquesdesintra.pt

 

People seems to have mixed feelings about their visit to Pena. In my humble opinion, it does mostly have to do with the considerable amount of tourists who flood the place. Most also seems to regret paying the entrance of the palace. Again in my opinion, it has to do with the amount of people cramped between the ropes in each room.

The architecture inside the palace is very impressive and worth your time. Each room has a totally different look and you can only admire the intricate details of the ceilings, the decorations and furniture. Talking about furniture, maybe there are too many pieces in each room and it makes it hard to really appreciate each and every ones of them. But at least you get to see lots of surprising pieces.

So how do you avoid being disappointed?

  • Visit on a rainy day. Bad weather will put off most people!
  • Visit early in the morning, or late in the afternoon. What is a common advice for most places is particularly true for Sintra as most people come with a morning train and go back to Lisbon, in the late afternoon. Sintra is overall much quieter in the early evening.
  • Bonus: Take your headphones and cut out the noise of petty conversations. 😉

 


 

If you’re interested to find out more, check out this guide on Amazon (affiliated link). Scala seems to be the editor of all the Portuguese guide books and I have no doubt this guide is as good as the other ones I got (for Pena mine is called ‘Park and Palace of Pena’).

 

 


 

Next I’ll take you to the Castle of the Moors where you get the best view of the Pena Palace. 

Stay tuned!

 


 

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