(continuer en français) – Published: January 28, 2023

Pena Palace, Sintra
Ferdinand II

Sintra is about 18 miles, 30 kilometres, from Lisbon, on the hills away from the coast. It was here in 1839 that King Consort Ferdinand II (1816-1885), husband of Queen Maria II of Portugal, bought the ruins of a Hieronymite monastery and transformed it into a summer residence for the royal family, and the place was subsequently renamed Pena Palace.

The Pena Palace is the main reason for the high number of tourists to Sintra, more than one million people a year. At weekends and during the summer season, the number of visitors can make it uncomfortable to visit a palace with generally narrow rooms, despite a system of hourly reservations, which is supposed to make the queues more fluid.

The Pena Palace in Sintra has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995.


King Ferdinand II was German by birth, so he chose a German architect to build the new palace from the ruins of the monastery. Their choice was to mix styles from different periods, especially those that existed in Portugal, in a romantic syncretism that continues to attract today. Thus, there are Moorish influences and Manueline design, as well as Gothic and Baroque, and even some touches from India, where Portugal had colonies at the time.

There is also the use of colour, according to the fashion of the moment. The different parts of the building are contrasted by the use of bold colours, blue, yellow or red.

Royal suites

The accommodation was initially arranged around the preserved cloister of the former monastery. On two floors, the galleries connect the rooms. In this part of the palace the rooms have remained small.

The decoration is quite extensive, incorporating trompe l’oeil effects. The palace was fitted out taking into account improvements in hygiene, as shown by several bathrooms. Living conditions continued to improve, however, until 1910 when the last king was replaced by the republic. The palace then became a museum.

Dining room
Trompe l’oeil

New palace

The refurbished monastery was not sufficient to house the royal family and to organise the activities expected of the monarch. The new palace was therefore built in the middle of the 19th century with larger rooms. Here, official functions could be held with a larger number of guests who did not have to enter the private side. A large kitchen was also provided to accommodate a large number of people.

Great Hall
Banqueting hall

The rear patio

The original chapel that preceded the monastery has been retained and embellished. It can be accessed through the rear patio, which opens onto a vast landscape.

Pena Palace, Sintra

Visiting Sintra

There is a train service from Lisbon, the journey takes less than an hour. There is a tourist bus that operates from the station and stops in front of the main points of interest. For example, the National Palace, which is located in the town, with its two large characteristic chimneys.

A short distance from the Pena Palace is the Castle of the Moors. It occupies the top of a ridge fortified by the Muslims during the occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. Its abandoned walls have been reconstructed and offer magnificent views of the surrounding area.

National Palace
Castle of the Moors
Castle of the Moors

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