Palácio da Pena

DESTINATIONS sintra palacio-da-pena


Palácio da Pena

This Disney-like castle is a glorious conglomeration of turrets and domes awash in pastels. In 1503 the Monastery of Nossa Senhora da Pena was constructed here, but it fell into ruins after religious orders were expelled from Portugal in 1832. Seven years later the ruins were purchased by Maria II's consort, Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg. Inspired by the Bavarian castles of his homeland, Ferdinand commissioned a German architect, Baron Eschwege, to build the castle of his fantasies, in styles that range from Arabian to Victorian. Work was finished in 1885, by which time he was Fernando II. The surrounding park is filled with trees and flowers from every corner of the Portuguese empire, as well as hidden temples, grottoes, and Valley of the Lakes, where black swans sit regally. Portugal's last monarchs used the Pena Palace as a summer home, the last of whom—Queen Amália—went into exile in England after the Republic was proclaimed on October 5, 1910. Inside is an ostentatious and often bizarre collection of Victorian and Edwardian furniture, ornaments, and paintings. Placards explain each room. Visitors can walk along high castle walls, peek into turrets, and finally reward themselves with a drink and a snack at one of two on-site cafés. A path beyond an enormous statue (thought to be Baron Eschwege, cast as a medieval knight) on a nearby crag leads to the Cruz Alta, a 16th-century stone cross 1,782 feet above sea level, with stupendous views.


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