Sintra – Palacio de Pena and Castle of the Moors – 29/12/2018

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After lots of reading we had discovered there is very little parking nearby the Palace and Castle and without having to pay extra to catch shuttle buses the other alternative was a very long uphill hike.  Nevertheless we solved this by having an early morning start.  We arrived in Sintra by 9.00 and after driving the winding road uphill we found plenty of carparking between the Palace and the Castle of the Moors, which required no more walking than those who caught the shuttle bus and better yet it was free.

We did purchase tickets to Palacio de Pena the morning of our visit and lined up, one of the first in the queue but I will admit it was very chilly.  After about a 40 minute wait we were first in and did the 500 meter uphill hike to the palace and were the one of the first to arrive.  Arriving early meant there was time to read the signs in the rooms without the crowds and you could get photos without hundreds of people being in them.  I have to say within 45 minutes of us arriving there was a line up to get in, which continued to grow throughout our visit, we were very pleased that we came early.

History of the Palace

This Disney-like castle is a glorious conglomeration of turrets and domes awash in bright redish-brown and ocher. The palace stands on what was once  1503 the Monastery of Nossa Senhora da Pena which was constructed in 1503, but fell into ruins after the religious order was expelled from Portugal in 1832.

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In 1839, Maria II’s consort, Ferdinand August Franz Anton from Austria of Saxe-Coburg, purchased the ruins.  Ferdinand was inspired by the Bavarian castles of his homeland and commissioned a German architect, Baron Eschwege, to build his castle which incorporated a range of styles from Arabian to Victorian.  The castle was completed in 1885.

When Maria II died, Ferdinand married an opera singer, Elise Hensler, later known as the Countess d’Edla.  Upon Ferdinand’s death Elise, the castle was sold to the state and Elise lived in a chalet on the property until her death.  After the regicide of D. Carlos I and Prince Luis Filipe, the remainder of the royal family went into exile, leaving Manuel II the last king to have inhabited Pena in 1910.

The Palace

As you enter the palace you begin your tour of the ground floor which consists of the 16th century convent which is organised around a small cloister.  The cloister is decorated with Hispanic-Moorish style tiles, elaborate gargoyles and the Moorish style arched windows.  The other notable room on this floor is the Royal families dining room.

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 On the top floor were the rooms used by Queen Amelia and her entourage, which had previously been used by King Fernando and his second wife Countess of Edla. The rooms include Queen Amelia’s bedroom with an exquisitely decorated vaulted ceiling, her ladies in waiting rooms, sitting rooms and others.

From Amelia’s rooms you enter the Queen’s Terrace, which probably offers the best views of the front facade of the palace.  By this stage of our tour the crowds had started to gather.

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There are a series of rooms used for entertainment that can also be explored, as well as a courtyard and walk around the exterior walls, which offers a wonderful view of the Castle of the Moors.

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The exterior of the palace though is probably the real draw-card for a visit.  Not only is it elaborately painted but the middle section is covered in blue tiles with detailed decorations.

We did walk around the gardens some, but being winter the flowers were not in bloom, a lot of the trees were leafless and it was cold and windy.  I imagine along with the vast forested area it would be spectacular in the spring and summer.

After a quick lunch at the cafeteria we continued onto the Moors Castle, just a 10 minute walk from Pena Palace. The castle of the Moors spreads along the cliff face overlooking the town of Sintra and other stately homes on one side and the Atlantic Ocean and Pena Palace on the other.

History 

The original fortification was built during the 10th century after the Iberian Peninsula was conquered by the Muslims.  When the Christian forces led by Dom AFonso Henriques in 1147 retook Lisban the fortress was handed over to the Knights Templar and it eventually fell into ruins. 

P1090443 (554x800)Ferdinand undertook restoration work to restore it to its 9th century beauty as well as undertaking reforestation around the castle.

The Castle

There is nothing to see inside the castle, however there is a long walk along the walls and towers which give amazing views over Sintra, Pena Palace and the Atlantic Ocean.  The castle towers and wall are pretty amazing in that they follow the contours of the land.  Well worth the walk.

Information

Pena Palace

  • Palace and Gardens: Adult (18 – 64 years) – €14 │ Young ticket (6 to 17 years) – €50 │ Senior ticket (over 65 years old) – €12.50 │ Family ticket (2 adults + 2 young people) – € 49
  • Gardens: Adult (18 – 64 years) – €50 │ Young ticket (6 to 17 years) – €6.50 │ Senior ticket (over 65 years old) – €6.50 │ Family ticket (2 adults + 2 young people) – € 26

Opening Times:

  • 28th October – 31st March: 10 am – 6 pm
  • 1st April – 27th October: Garden: 9 am – 7 pm │ Palace: 9.45 am – 7 pm
  • Closed: December 25th, January 1st

www.parquesdesintra.pt

Castle of the Moors

Price:

  • Palace and Gardens: Adult (18 – 64 years) – €14 │ Young ticket (6 to 17 years) – €50 │ Senior ticket (over 65 years old) – €12.50 │ Family ticket (2 adults + 2 young people) – € 49
  • Gardens: Adult (18 – 64 years) – €50 │ Young ticket (6 to 17 years) – €6.50 │ Senior ticket (over 65 years old) – €6.50 │ Family ticket (2 adults + 2 young people) – € 26

Opening Times:

  • 28th October – 31st March: 10 am – 6 pm
  • 1st April – 27th October: Garden: 9 am – 7 pm │ Palace: 9.45 am – 7 pm
  • Closed: December 25th, January 1st

www.parquesdesintra.pt

The Pena Palace and the Castle of the Moors are located on the second highest point of the Serra da Sintra range and is a tough uphill hike from Sintra’s historic center.  We drove and at 9.15 we had a choice of car-parks.  In fact we parked between the Castle of the Moors and the Pena Palace so an easy walk to both.  There are several methods of transportation including the 434 tourist bus, which connects from the train station as well as taxis and tuk tuks. 

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