Pena Palace. The place that shows you that anything is possible. A palace that you must visit while in Sintra (or Lisbon). If you are not impressed by this place then nothing impresses you. It is even said that Pena Palace inspired Walt Disney when he created his castle in the stories. No wonder that it is one of the seven wonders of Portugal. It is also a UNESCO world heritage site!
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Everybody wants to visit the Pena Palace
This is not a hidden gem where you will be strolling around by yourself. No this is a huge tourist attraction. This is the place where you need to have your elbows sharpened and where you need to be patient. The best thing for you is to be here in the morning as soon as they open. That is when there is the least amount of people. The thing is that this place is so popular that there will only get more and more and more people during the day.
The Pena Palace will show you some of the finest examples of nineteenth-century Portuguese Romanticism. It started getting built in 1819. But this article is not about the history of the Pena Palace, if you want to know about all that stuff there are better sources for that than this site. This article is about how you can make the most out of your visit while being here.
Go by yourself or take a guided tour
In the entrance fee there are several options. You can either just enter the castle by yourself, you can get a guided tour or you can get an audioguide to take you through the palace. We would recommend you to either go by yourself or with an audioguide. I got the feeling that all the guided tours were made under super stress. The guides would shuffle people from room to room – only making quick photo stops and then they quickly moved on. The guided tours were also super crowded and it might be hard to hear what they are saying if you end up in the back.
If you choose to enter without a guide you can stroll around at your own pace. I think that it is better in this case. Don’t get me wrong, I love guided tours and the fact that you learn so much about the place that you are visiting. The guides will often give you some fun facts about the place and you will get information that might be hard to come by otherwise.
A really rude guide bullied me at the Pena Palace
During our visit to the Pena Palace we got tangled up behind a big English-speaking group. Suddenly I feel someone pulling me to the front of the line. “Walk in front of us” the guide says. Ok, said and done… we started walking in front of the group. But there were so many people so there was really no way to go at a fast pace. And Mini had to wait for the moments when he could snap a few pictures when the place was not super crowded.
And then it all went down. The guide comes up behind me and starts to yell at me. “I let you walk in front of us but that means that you have to move on. You can’t stop! You have to walk faster”. I looked at her and showed her all the people in front of us.
– I’m sorry but I have nowhere to go and we need to take some notes and pictures while being here. I am currently working but I will try not to be in your way. She mumbled something and I turned around again. She really made me feel bad but then one of the women from the group came up to me. She apologized for her guides behavior and said that she was sorry that she was so rude. How nice was that? We stayed behind and waited until the group had moved on! I’m not saying that all the guides are rude, but this one was a really bad apple!
To enter or not to enter the Palace
According to us, there is no question whether to enter the Palace or if admiring it from the outside is enough. YOU HAVE TO ENTER! But after speaking to an American couple we got the news that not all people actually enter the castle itself. They walk around and just admire it from the outside. And even though the couple we met did enter the castle, they were both disappointed. They felt that there was way to many people and that the place looks a lot cooler from the outside than from the inside.
I disagree because I loved it. Both from the outside and the inside. But since the Pena Palace has some amazing and huge gardens that are on the property – you might want to explore this place from the outside instead. But we recommend you to make sure to see this awesome place from the inside to.
All the rooms at the Pena Palace are unique
The first thing that struck me while visiting the palace was how boring humankind has become. Why don’t we decorate our houses and rooms like this anymore? Today all the magazines that show nice houses and interior design are white. All white. At the Pena Palace, each room had its own style and fashion. There are a lot of rooms in the palace and there are not two rooms that are alike.
When this place was built there was no fear of doing “to much”. There are tiles and the wall and all the ceilings are either painted in a fun color or they have huge decorations. I mean, who says that you can’t hang paintings from the ceiling? Why don’t we paint our windows at home? Yes I know that it would cost more to decorate like this but at the same time – you can do a lot by yourself. The guys that built the Pena Palace were not afraid to play with colors, shapes and sizes.
Amazing views from up here
This whole historical place offers some of the most amazing views. But let’s be honest here – no one is looking at the views. Everybody is admiring the fairytale castle instead of the views. Being one of the most visited monuments in all of Portugal, this place has also gotten on the UNESCO world heritage list. I hope that it will be kept in such a good state forever!
What I also wish is that the Portuguese government will rethink their decision of letting people smoke on the queen’s terrace. Today when smoking is not common any longer, there is no reason to let people smoke at such a beautiful place. It felt so wrong to be standing on the huge terrace amongst people that were smoking. And even if they have ashtrays – we all know that a lot of people just throw their cigarette butt on the floor when they finish.
How to best experience the Pena Palace
Our tip to people that want to visit Sintra and the sights there is to have a least two days to do so. If you visit Pena and the close by Moorish Castle in one day – that is enough. A lot of people just walk up to the castle and take a look inside and then they move on. But there is more to see at the Pena Palace than just the castle. The whole area is more than 200 hectares in all. There are paths that take you through a labyrinth-like walk to several other points of interest.
Different buildings and trees and flowers from all over the world make this walk magical. And once you have your entrance ticket to the palace and the gardens, you are allowed to wander the property all over. This is most suitable for fit people because it is a lot of uneven terrains and you have to walk up steep hills at times. And from here you can also walk to the Moorish Castle and you don’t need to take the bus from one place to the other.
Getting to the palace
Since this is one of the biggest attractions in Portugal there are several different ways to get to the Pena Palace in Sintra. Well, actually if you go from Lisbon there are six different ways to get here – by train, bus, taxi, Uber, car or rideshare. It takes about 30 minutes to go from Lisbon to Sintra and then you have several options to get to the actual Pena Palace:
- Walk: If you are really fit and you don’t mind a steep walk uphill, you could walk from the train station to the palace. However, we don’t recommend this because it is a tough hike. You want to be able to walk around once there.
- Bus 434: Leaves from the train station. This bus has a circular route and will take you there and back for 5 euros. If you get a “one way ticket” it will cost you 3 euros instead. You buy your ticket straight from the driver.
- Hop on Hop off: Usually, we LOVE the hop on hop off buses and they have one in Sintra to. It costs 18 euros and it will take you to 16 different stops. However, in this case we recommend you to take the “regular” bus. Let’s face it – you want to visit the Pena Palace and not go round and round on a bus that you spent a lot of money on!
- Taxi: This will set you back about 10 euros but it is the quickest way to get from the train station to the Palace.
Take the shuttle to the top or walk
Once you get off the bus you are almost there. It is now to either show your prepaid tickets and enter, or you buy your tickets in a machine here. There is a small tram that costs 2 euros and that will take you straight to the Palace. If you prefer to walk – it will take you about 15 minutes and it is all uphill.
The tram goes all the time but the earlier you are there – the better. During the day it gets crowded and the tram becomes full really quickly.
Most people will tell you to start with a visit to the Moorish Castle and then make your way up to the Pena Palace. According to us it is better to take the bus to the Pena Palace first. First of all it is because this place becomes incredible crowded during the day. And second of all is that it is a walk downhill from Pena to the Moorish Castle. If you start with Moorish you will have to walk uphill instead!
Choose the right ticket for you
There are so many people that offer different kinds of tickets and excursions to the Pena palace. You can buy your ticket online or buy it at the door before you enter. There are lines of machines setup so even if there are a lot of people there you will not have to wait that long in a line.
There are also combination tickets that allow you into several of the main sights in one discounted ticket. Make sure to find the right option for you. If you want to buy the tickets at the door – here are some options to choose from:
- Visit the palace inside and outside: 14 euro (2018).
- Visit the outside of the palace and the gardens: 7,50 euro (2018).
- Take the tram up to the castle: 2 euros (2018).
Opening hours at the Pena Palace
April to September: 09.45 – 19.00.
October to May: 10.00 – 18.00.
Make sure to be there first thing when they open!