Although we didn’t know very much about Sintra, before our 3-day visit, we did know that Pena Palace was the attraction that visitors flock to by the millions.  And, that the views from the hilltops were reportedly breathtaking.  It was with those notions in mind, and the forecast of a clear day, we chose to visit Pena Palace on our last day in Sintra.  Here’s how we did it.

pena palace

Pena Palace as seen from High Cross with the Atlantic Ocean in the distance.

How to Visit Pena Palace
  • We bought all of our bus and palace(s) tickets the afternoon of our arrival in Sintra.  This saved us from standing in line upon arrival.  Be sure to purchase a “Palace & Park” ticket for Pena Palace.
  • We caught circuit bus 434 just before 9:00 a.m.  The bus stop is next to the train station.  It was maybe a 20-minute ride to the Pena Palace.
  • As soon as we stepped off the bus we made a beeline to the palace entrance, which is about a 15-minute walk up a fairly steep hill. This is when having our prepurchased tickets really paid off, that and not being with a group.  Groups have to gather and wait for their guide, etc.
  • We walked right in to the palace, which opens at 9:30 a.m. in the summer.  Although there were a lot of people, we were able to take our time as we moved through the rooms.
  • After viewing the state rooms, we visited the small 16th century chapel and took in the views from the palace balconies which were spectacular.  Total time spent maybe 90 minutes.
  • The next hour or so we explored the park gardens with the highlight being the stunning views from the High Cross.
  • We caught the circuit bus 434 for our return to the city center.  Buses drop off/pick up at the gates of Pena Palace.
An Eye for Color

Pena Palace served as the summer residence of King Ferdinand and family. Remodeling of the old monastery portion of the palace began in 1840 and those buildings were painted red.  The new additions built in 1845 (approximately) were painted yellow under direct orders of the king.  Seemingly, Ferdinand had quite the eye for color and style.

Pena Palace

The vibrant colors and architectural styles of Pena Palace

Daily Life at the Palace

The Pena Palace is fantastic. It’s definitely well-worth the time and effort to visit as long as visitors keep in mind the best tips for visiting.  The tours through the palace state rooms are self-guided, although there were people walking with private guides. It might actually be interesting to tour with a private guide in that you’d glean a much more in-depth understanding of the history of the palace.  Depending on the guide, of course.

The state rooms are furnished with time period pieces. Visitors get a good sense of daily life, in 1910 at the palace, which is when the royal family escaped to Brazil to avoid the revolution.

Pena Palace

The dining room of Pena Palace

High Cross

Built by King Joao in 1522, High Cross sits atop the highest point in the Pena Palace Park.   To get to the point we took a walk from the palace through the gardens along a paved path.  Actually, there are miles of hiking trails, it just depends on your time and how much you want to experience.  Our goal was to reach the High Cross, which of course is a replica of the original, in order to take in the views.  It did not disappoint.

Pena Palace

High Cross sits atop the highest peak in the park.

Timing is Everything

Just before we walked away from the palace to explore the beautiful gardens and to find High Cross, we captured this photo of the line of visitors waiting to enter the palace.  We spent about an hour or so wandering the gardens and after, as we made our way back to the entrance gates, this same line of those waiting to enter the palace wound it’s way nearly all the way back down the hill to the gates.  Most likely, they stood in line for two to three hours before gaining entrance.  Timing is everything when it comes to visiting Pena Palace.

Pena Palace

The line of visitors waiting to enter the palace.

Sintra, More Than a Day Trip

If you Google search Sintra, you’re bound to find a lot of articles about how to spend just one day in Sintra.  I suspect it’s because so many visitors, to Sintra, only take a day trip from Lisbon.  To do it justice, I think Sintra deserves a three night stay, which allows for a travel day plus two full days of sightseeing.  It would be a shame to make the trip and not visit the Palace of Monserrate and Quinta da Regaleira, plus so much more.

If You Go:

Search and book Sintra accommodations here.

Circuit Bus 434

Lisbon Urban Trains

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