Heading to Sintra and looking for info on visiting Pena Palace? Keep on reading – I’m sharing everything you need to know (how to get there, ways to avoid the crowds, the different ticket types, plus a few insider secrets)! Consider it your ultimate guide to Pena Palace!
Pena Palace is colorful and majestic, exuding an overall sense of eclectic whimsy-ness. It’s a true architectural masterpiece, and easily the crown jewel of palaces in Sintra. I totally felt like a Disney princess wandering around, and totally understand why it’s considered one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
There’s a reason it’s one of the most recognizable tourist attractions in all Portugal! Super dreamy and fairy-tale like!
While it’s not the only palace in Sintra, it’s definitely everyone’s favorite, and it’s easy to see why. Just look at all those bright colors – there’s blinding yellow walls, intricate blue tiles, and a red painted exterior. And that stunning architecture against all the greenery – whoa! Don’t miss out on this Romanticist castle standing on top of the hill; it’s truly a sight to be seen. Plus all those beautifully maintained gardens – swoon!
Info About Pena Palace
Where is Pena Palace?
Pena Palace (Palácio da Pena) is located in Sintra, high up in the Sintra Mountains. The palace actually sits on one of the highest hills in the landscape (second highest point actually), so expect some awesome views!
Pena Palace (and Sintra in general) is super close to central Lisbon (Portugal’s capital city). Being only 15 miles or so northwest, there’s really no reason not to go…
I had no clue before visiting, but on a clear day, you can actually see Pena Palace from Lisbon itself! I’ll be on the lookout for it at the many miradouros (viewpoints) in Lisbon on my next visit to the city, that’s for sure.
Hours and Admission at Pena Palace
Pena Palace is open between 9:30am to 6:30pm. You can get to the grounds a bit earlier though (earliest 9am), and walk up the hill and explore the park for a bit. The last ticket for Pena Palace can be bought for 5:30pm and last admission into the palace is at 6pm. Quite early considering the sun doesn’t set until 9pm in Portugal during the summer!
The park opens a tad earlier and closes a bit later, opening at 9am and closing at 7pm. The last ticket (and last admission) is at 6pm.
Both the Palace and Park are open all days of the year, except January 1st (New Year’s Day!) and December 25th (for Christmas!).
Cost of Pena Palace and Different Ticket Types
There are two different ticket options for Pena Palace, with different costs associated to each of them:
- Palace and Park Ticket: The EVERYTHING ticket – you can see it all! You get access and entry into the palace itself, with all the lavish rooms and history. Plus all the grounds, terraces, and gardens. (€14)
- Park Ticket: Access to the grounds and terraces only (no entry into the palace and its staterooms). If you don’t think you’ll wanna go inside the palace and just wanna check out the exterior, save a few euros by grabbing a park ticket. You can thankfully still see the Arches Yard and do the Terrace Walk – the views are phenomenal! Just remember, the Queens Terrace is only accessible to those with a full Palace and Park ticket. (€7.5)
You can either buy tickets to Pena Palace in advance (highly recommended), or at the ticket counter at the entrance to the palace the day of.
As noted before, this is the palace you’ll 100% want to purchase tickets in advance for. However, if you only want a park ticket (without entry to the interior of the palace), you can’t buy this in advance. It’s impossible to know what the line will be like, so if you can’t fathom waiting on line for tickets, just bite the bullet and spend a few extra euros regardless if you’ll be going inside or not.
Brief History of Pena Palace
Pena Palace has a long and fascinating history. It’s been through a lot and has had multiple owners! It was originally built as a medieval chapel (dedicated to Our Lady of Pena), and then King Manuel I overtook it and built a monastery (then donated it to the Order of Saint Jerome).
But then the Great Lisbon Earthquake happened in the 18th century, and the chapel was severely damaged. Thankfully, it wasn’t completely ruined, so the Portuguese King, Ferdinand II, bought the land and monastery! He built what we see today as his summer residence… How cool would it be to wake up in Pena Palace?!
The Romanticist castle was finally completed in 1854, a huge mish-mosh of Romantic, Renaissance, Islamic, neo-Gothic, Medieval, and neo-Manueline architectural styles.
After his death the palace was passed down to members of his family.
Later on, in the late 1800s/early 1900s, the country of Portugal bought the entire site and it was then classified as a national monument and museum. Then, in 1995, Pena Palace was reclassified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is now listed as one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. So cool!
Planning Your Perfect Trip to Pena Palace
A few important Pena Palace tips before we get started:
Buy your ticket in advance.
Pena Palace is by far the most popular (and therefore most crowded) of all the attractions in Sintra. Buying a ticket in advance will mean you can bypass the ticket line at the palace itself, and hop right on the entry line. Since most people just buy their tickets at the gate (how silly!), you’ll bypass the potentially long line for tickets.
Thankfully, buying tickets online is super easy; just know you need to choose a designated time to enter the actual palace itself.
→ Buy your ticket to Pena Palace here, and I guarantee you’ll save time! Most tour group guides force you to buy a ticket in advance so you’ve got ample time at the palace and don’t waste time waiting on unnecessary lines!
Wear comfortable shoes and bring layers.
Any visit to Sintra involves a lot of walking – there’s no way around it. Including Pena Palace. No matter how you get there, you’ll need to get yourself up the steep hill (although there is a cheap bus that’ll take you right to the entrance). But still I swear, there’s tons of walking! The palace and park are pretty large, so expect to walk a decent amount (leave your high heels at home!).
The weather at Pena Palace is pretty inconsistent, even in summer (Sintra’s high up in those mountains!), so bring along a light jacket or sweater.
Keep hydrated and bring snacks!
There’s a cafeteria at Pena Palace, but the food’s not the best you’ll find in Portugal. Plus, why spend time sitting at a restaurant when you can be exploring the palace instead?
I recommend bringing a few non-perishable snacks with some protein and fiber that’ll keep you full – I love peanut butter filled pretzels, bananas, plain nuts or trail mix, and roasted edamame/chickpeas.
Get there early… or much later in the day.
Never visit Pena Palace smack in the middle of the day. It’ll be beyond packed.Visiting in the morning? Plan to arrive at the gate no later than 9am, then make your way up to Pena Palace before most people even get to Sintra!
After 3pm the palace will be less crowded as the guided day tours have all left to explore other attractions in Sintra (or Cascais/Cabo da Roca).
How to Get to Pena Palace
Getting to Pena Palace is fast, cheap, and efficient from nearby Lisbon. You’ve essentially got three options on how to get to Sintra:
1. Driving to Sintra: Renting a car in Lisbon? You can drive to Sintra in 30 minutes or so, making it the fastest way to get there. BUT there are a bunch of negatives – which is why I honestly don’t recommend it.
The roads are steep, windy, and narrow (they definitely didn’t think about all the tourists when planning out the streets), parking can be crazy difficult (basically nonexistent), and the train is just too easy (and cheap!) not to take.
2. Guided Day Tour: Does navigating the train and multiple buses sound super complicated or time-consuming? Would you rather have someone else (a Sintra expert!) drive you around (in AC!) while delving out interesting info along the way?!
Book yourself on a guided day tour from Lisbon! I personally felt it was the easiest option, and got to see SO much during my short time in Sintra.
3. Public Train and then Public Bus: Getting to Sintra via train is super easy, and super cheap! Trains leave from Rossio Station in Lisbon’s historic city center every 15-30 minutes or so (depending on time of year), and cost less than €5 round trip. It doesn’t get cheaper or more convenient than that! The trip from Lisbon to Sintra by train should take about 40 minutes or so.
Once you make it to Sintra, hop on Tourist Bus #434 from Sintra Train Station (€4) and make the quick ride to Pena Palace. Psst – there are two different tourist buses with two different routes (#434 and #435), so make sure you get on the right one!
Once you get off the bus or exit the parking lot (whether driving yourself or on a guided tour), you’ll be at the bottom of the hill where Pena Palace stands. So yes, you’ll need to get yourself up that hill! There’s two main options for this:
- Walk up the Hill: Looking for an-early morning (or late-afternoon) workout? Walk on up to Pena Palace! It’s not crazy difficult (and only takes 10-15 minutes or so), but I definitely broke a sweat in that summer sun. The path is easy to follow (albeit pretty steep) and it kinda feels like you’re walking through a fairytale forest – well worth the short hike!
- Take the Tram: Don’t feel like getting all hot and sticky and gross before even getting to Pena Palace? I feel you. While I’ve never taken the tram before, at just €3, it’s worth the short price to stay feeling all fresh so clean-clean. Note this is a different bus than the 434 Tourist Bus and you’ll need to pay for another ticket.
→ Check out my crazy detailed Sintra day trip post for tons more info on getting to Pena Palace and Sintra in general.
Weather and When to Visit Pena Palace
Time of Year
In general, summers in Sintra are warm, dry, and mostly clear (although probably too hot for most). Winters are cold and wet, with at least some clouds and you run the risk of it being gross and gray. It’s pretty windy year round, but with the chilly temps in winter, it’ll feel pretty frigid! You’ll definitely need to take along your layers!
The weather is quite unpredictable from mid-autumn to early spring, so you never really know what you’re gonna get. But this means there’ll be less crowds… really depends what you want!
Of course it’s way more crowded during the prime summer months, so if you’ve got max flexibility, I’d recommend visiting in either May or October.
For reference, I visited Sintra in early August – and it was cool and a bit misty in the morning, much warmer later in the day, and the crowds were outta control (especially in the morning).
Time of Day
First things first, know that Pena Place is the most crowded between 10am and 3pm. Avoid these times at all costs! This is when guided tour groups start coming in, and trust me – they kinda take over the place!
I recommend visiting Pena Palace either FIRST thing in the morning (as soon as entry is allowed), or later in the afternoon (once most of the guided tours have moved on to other Sintra attractions).
Don’t expect to visit Sintra at sunrise – Pena Palace (and all the other palaces and castles) don’t open up until around 9am. I’d aim to get on an 8am train from Lisbon, arrive in Sintra around 8:45, and hop right on the bus headed to Pena Palace.
I visited in the morning (around 9:45am or so with a tour group), and then again much later on in the day, around 4pm. In the afternoon, the sun was casting nasty shadows on the palace and backlit parts of it, so I would have preferred to take photos earlier in the day. BUT it was foggy and kinda misty earlier, so ya take what you can get, right?
Whatever you do, DO NOT VISIT PENA PALACE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY. It’s ridiculously jam packed and will drastically impact your experience in the worst way possible. Plan to either get to Pena Palace as soon as the gates open (at 9am) or even a bit before, or much later in the day, after 4pm.
For less(er) crowds, plan to visit Pena Palace midweek, preferably on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. And whatever you do, avoid weekends at all costs if your schedule allows it.
Remember to time it right; the palaces and castles don’t stay open all night. They actually close quite early, even in summer when the sun doesn’t set until 9pm. The last entry for Pena Palace is around 6pm, so give yourself plenty of time to walk up that hill and explore.
Guided Tours of Pena Palace and Sintra
Full-Day Highlights Tour of Sintra: This is the tour to pick if you wanna see a little bit of everything! We saw 3 palaces/castles (Pena Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, and Monserrate Palace and its exotic gardens), PLUS had some free time in Sintra Town for lunch. That’s practically unheard of! Here’s the exact tour I took!
Know it was fast-paced and you won’t get to see each palace in detail, but it’s a great introduction to the area. The tour was such a good value (it was just $65; I’ve seen others going for around $90), and my guides were so helpful and knowledgeable! Highly recommend it!
Sintra, Cascais, and Cabo da Roca: If you’d rather combine a visit to Sintra with Cascais (such a cute beach town) and Cabo da Roca (the westernmost point of Europe), there’s plenty of tours that do just that! Choose this tour to Sintra and Cascais if you wanna explore other areas of Portugal as well in one day. Just know you won’t have as much time to explore the palaces in Sintra themselves, but perfect if all you wanna see is Pena Palace!
Small-Group Sintra Tour: I always prefer small-group tours over the big bus ones, as they feel more personalized and you spend less time waiting around for everyone. And this one is just 8 people! The tour not only makes stops at Pena Palace and the historic center of Sintra, but Cabo da Roca and Cascais as well!
Important: I should add that almost ALL day tours to Sintra do not include admission to the palaces/castles themselves. Our guides helped us book skip-the-line tickets to all palaces we were visiting, which was so helpful since we got to essentially cut the line!
You’ll need to pay for these separately (either paying for a ticket in advance – highly recommended, or by waiting in line at the individual palace ticket booths). Just something to keep in mind so you’re not surprised when your tour guide asks you to buy tickets and shell out more cash.
What to Bring to Pena Palace
You’ll need to carry your stuff around the whole day, so I wouldn’t take too much.
Just the essentials will do – a light jacket/sweater, some snacks, sunscreen, camera, power bank (to recharge your phone), reusable water bottle, wallet with money/credit card/via viagen reloadable train card, and your phone! If you’re visiting in winter you’ll wanna be prepared for rain as well.
Since I visited in summer, I chose to wear a lightweight white dress (that popped perfectly against the bright colors of the castle), and some comfy sandals. If you’ll be more comfortable in closed toe shoes walking up and down the hill, I highly recommend wearing sneakers or soft cloth shoes like TOMS.
Other FAQs About Pena Palace
Is there a restaurant at Pena Palace? YES! If you’re spending all day here, you’ll undoubtedly get hungry – grab some food and a coffee if it’s chilly. There are two spots for food – the cafe and a restaurant. The food at the cafe is reasonably priced (actually surprisingly cheap), with Portuguese pastries, sandwiches, and other small food items.
The food at the restaurant is mediocre at best and understandably overpriced, but there if you’re exceptionally hungry and want a full meal! I recommend bringing some snacks if you’re just visiting for a few hours and wanna save the cash.
Is Pena Palace accessible? Pena Palace is the most wheel-chair friendly out of all the attractions in Sintra. The Pena Palace store, restaurant, and cafeteria have recently been refurbished and are accessible to all visitors. Find more accessibility info here.
Can you stay at Pena Palace overnight? Not in the palace itself, but there are a few hotels in Sintra worthy of spending the night! If you wanna explore Sintra in depth (and have more than just a day trip to Sintra), consider booking a room for a night or two.
Check out Seteais Palace (a 5 star hotel near the Quinta da Regaleira with views of Pena Palace), Lawrence’s Hotel (the oldest hotel in Portugal and Spain), and Sintra Boutique Hotel (with themed rooms representing different era’s of Portugal’s history).
Is it worth seeing the inside of Pena Palace? That’s entirely for you to decide, and how long you have at Pena Palace. Depending on when you go, the lines will probably be quite long, so keep that in mind.
Once inside, it takes about 45 minutes to an hour to walk through the interior of the palace. If you have less than 2 hours to spend at Pena Palace, I’d honestly skip the interior and use that time exploring the outside terraces, watchtowers, and gardens.
How Long to Stay at Pena Palace? You can spend a few hours at Pena Palace or you can easily stay all day! The choice really is yours! Whatever you do, don’t wait in that crazy long line to see the interior – either do that first thing or later on in the day.
For reference, you’ll probably need 45 minutes or so to get from the Sintra Train Station to Pena Palace, an hour and a half to wait in line and see the inside staterooms (or longer, depending when you visit), and another hour or so to explore the terraces and outdoors/take photos. I would give yourself 3 hours at a minimum to see Pena Palace, and that’s rushing it.
If you wanna explore the gardens, the interior rooms in depth, and have a bite to eat in the cafeteria/restaurant as well, plan for 5 hours or so.
What to See and Do at Pena Palace
Pena Palace Entrance Gate
Before visiting the rooms, gawking at the views from the palace terraces, and simply taking in all the colors, you’ll need to walk through the Palace Gate! This entryway into the palace is called the Door of Alhambra – and was actually inspired by the Alhambra Door of Justice in Granada, Spain (built way back when in 1348).
Look at it closely – it’s covered in colorful ceramic tiles depicting flowers, leaves, and knights in armor. Ferdinand really got his wish – it totally feels like you’re crossing over from reality and stepping into his dream fantasy world.
Inside Pena Palace
One of the main draws of Pena Palace is its interior – if you’re into lavish and intricately-decorated architecture and styles, don’t miss it!
The palace is made up of two different wings, distinguishable by the different colors. Ochre for the new wing – a light brownish-yellow, and burnt red for the old monastic side. One of the first things you’ll see is the Hieronymite Convent Cloister – covered in brightly colored azulejos with gargoyles staring down at you. Plus that shell sculpture in the middle, whoa!
Once inside, you can check out all the rooms of the palace, including the royal dining room (with the most fascinating ceiling), palace kitchen (with all the original pots and pans, kitchen utensils, and other old-fashioned culinary tools), and the Noble Hall (where the King threw his large parties).
You can even see the King and Queens bedrooms (yes, they slept in different rooms) and bathrooms (decked out with luxurious furniture and lined from top to bottom in impressive tilework)! I loved the Arab Reception Room the most – the ceiling is extraordinary!
Note that you’ll need to follow the crowds of people – meaning you can’t really go back and revisit a room. So soak it all in and let people pass you if you wanna spend longer in a certain spot.
I read on a few sites that photos are not allowed inside the palace itself, but I took plenty no problem. And others did the same. I’m guessing that rule was overturned a while ago? Regardless, always be respectful and NEVER TOUCH ANYTHING.
There’ll most always be a line to get into the palace, which is why you need to buy a timed ticket in advance. You cannot buy one at the palace door itself, but you can buy one the day of at the Pena Palace entrance at the ticket booths (before climbing up the hill).
However, you’ll still need to stand on the line to get into the actual palace. I’ve heard of people waiting for hours to get in! Depending on how much time you have, decide if this is how you wanna spend your time (no judgements either way – you do you)!
The Terraces (my favorite part!)
While the inside of Pena Palace pleasantly surprised me in more ways than one, it was the outdoor terraces that really took my breath away. I mean, they’re SO fun, and full of weird and wacky architecture!
Think onion-domed rooftops, pointed turret watchtowers, medieval ogee arches, gored domes, a massive red clock tower, quatrefoil stone cutouts… the list goes on. I swear, every single architectural element from the last few hundred years is here! It’s absolutely mindblowing and Ferdinand really made one remarkable spot. Best on a clear day so you can really see the views!
Do this first thing if you’re here early in the morning – get those stunning pictures without the crowds! But don’t wait too long – you don’t want the line to the palace rooms to get too long…
A few outdoor spots to point out:
Queens Terrace: Ohhh – this terrace has the best view of the palace exterior and the surrounding greenery; it’s actually the highest terrace in the building! Note that the Queens Terrace requires a complete palace and park ticket, as you enter from inside the palace itself.
Arches Yard: The back terrace with the Moorish golden-yellow arches has become a popular IG photo spot, and it’s gotten very popular! To get here, you’ll enter through a large gate guarded by a mythical titan (a monster who is half man, half fish).
Psst – you’ll notice lots of aquatic symbolism here at Pena Palace and in Portugal in general (because yes, the Portuguese were a seafaring nation).
From the Arches Yard, expect gorgeous panoramic views of the Sintra Valley and countryside below – I swear it seems like the view goes on and on and on and on!
Here you’ll also find the white and emerald green tiled church steeple, plus the popular set of stairs (another popular photo spot). You can actually go inside the church, although most people skip it because they don’t even realize it’s there!
Terrace Wall Walk: Crouch down and enter the small passageway – you can essentially walk around the back part of Pena Palace. This was one of my favorite parts of visiting Sintra – the views seem to go on forever! Not for the faint of heart or for those with a fear of heights though – parts of the wall walk have steep drops! Don’t worry, there’s barriers, so just don’t look down.
Pena Palace Restaurant Terrace: Hungry? This is a great spot to refuel with great views of the stunning red clock tower and the yellow onion domes.
Pena Palace Park and Gardens
Leave all the crowds behind – it’s time to get lost in the gardens of Pena Palace! By looking at the map you’ll see it’s quite large, actually pretty huge, covering over 200 hectares of land around the castle! Wander around the wooded paths and you’ll undoubtedly come across lots of secret paths, exotic trees, pavilions, and even lakes and ponds.
Check out the Hot House (greenhouse surrounded by large stone walls), the Statue of the Warrior sculpture, the Islamic-style domed pavilion in the lower portion of the gardens, the Duck Houses, and the Grotto of the Monk. There’s soooo much to see here, so don’t get discouraged if you can’t find it all.
The guide on my day trip to Sintra from Lisbon explained that the gardens were full of exotic plants from all around the world. Plus some native Portuguese flora of course!
See if you can find these exotic trees:
- Sequoias from America
- Gingkos from China
- Cryptomeria from Japan
- Ferns from Australia
- Succulents from Africa
- Ferns and tree ferns from Australia and New Zealand
You can spend as little or as long in the gardens – just remember, if you keep going up, you’re getting further and further away from the entrance. And if you’re visiting in the winter (when the sun sets early), I’d definitely be out of the garden before sunset. There are signs but can still be quite confusing, considering how large the space is!
Hope this helps you plan out the most perfect trip to Pena Palace and Sintra in general! Get ready to feel like a fairy tale Pena Palace princess!
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