The gorgeous Pena Palace

Verica Sitnik

Pena Palace is a castle situated on the top of a hill in the Sintra Mountains in São Pedro de Penaferrim Portugal. It is an excellent example of the architecture of 19th-century Romanticism, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the Seven Wonders Of Portugal. Pena Palace is open to visitors during the day and occasionally used by the state to host government events and functions.

The structure dates back to the Middle Ages. The chapel which stands on top of the hill above Sintra was dedicated to the “Lady of Pena.” For many years, the castle was a quiet place, a small building that housed eighteen monks.

The building stands on a rock in the Sintra Mountains. Author: Husond CC BY 2.5

In the 18th century, the building was damaged by lightning, and the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 brought the palace to ruins. However, the chapel escaped without significant damage. For many decades, the site was left untouched, but in 1838, King consort Ferdinand II fell in love with the property and acquired the ruined monastery and its surrounding lands.

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The Romantic castle of Sintra, Pena Palace. Author: Singa Hitam CC BY 2.0

The King transformed the ruins of the structure into a residence for the Portuguese royal family and renovated the old monastery into a beautiful palace. Pena Palace was rebuilt in a Romantic style designed by the engineer Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege. He was an amateur architect from Germany but had gleaned knowledge of castle architecture during his travels.

Interior view of the chapel of the castle. Author: Husond CC BY 2.5

The main period of the castle’s reconstruction was between 1842 and 1854. Maria II and Ferdinand II decorated the castle with details and symbols that were common in the Romantic period. King Ferdinand included Medieval and Islamic elements in the design of the palace and created an ornate window for the main facade.

The palace is decorated with 19th-century Romantic motifs. Author: Yuka CC BY 2.0

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The dining room in the castle. Author: Bex Walton CC BY 2.0

Elisa Hensler was Countess of Edla and the second wife of Ferdinand. After his death, the palace passed into her possession. Pena Palace was then sold to King Luís who used it as a retreat for the royal family. The Portuguese State purchased the castle in 1889. Later, the construction was classified as a national monument after the Republican Revolution of 1910 and was adapted into a museum. Queen Amélia, the last Queen of Portugal her exile, spent her last night in Portugal in Pena Palace.

One of the bedrooms in the palace. Author: Yuka CC BY 2.0

The palace quickly become one of the country’s most visited monuments. Over the years, the building’s yellow and red facade faded to gray, but in the late 20th century, it was repainted in its original bright colors.

The kitchen. Author: Husond CC BY 2.5

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The superior room. Author: Husond CC BY 2.5

The Pena Palace interior is decorated with a profusion of styles including Neo-Islamic, Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, and Neo-Renaissance. Its structure is separated into four sections. The first section contains two gateways, the surrounding walls, and foundations. One of the two gateways is protected by a drawbridge. In the second section, there is a clock tower and the restored structure of the old convent. The third part is the Arches Yard stands in front of the chapel. The final section is the palatial zone, with interiors decorated in the cathédrale style. Pena Palace was adapted to serve as the residence of the royal family during the summer.

Detail from the gardens at the palace. Author: Brigitte CC BY 2.0


The Park at the castle was created by King Ferdinand, who also designed the Palace. Author: Adam Jones CC BY 2.0

The walls are painted in trompe-l’oeil and decorated with painted tile revetments. The cloisters, the sacristy, dining room, and the Manueline-Renaissance chapel are the sections of the palace that have been preserved best over time.

The Queen’s Terrace provides a remarkable view overlooking the whole palace. Pena Park, the forested area covering over 200 hectares around the palace, was created by King Ferdinand II and Baron von Eschwege and was planted with a variety of tree species from around the world.