When we were planning our trip to Portugal, as soon as we saw Pena Palace we just knew we had to visit. Where else in the world can you find such a colorful fantasy palace right next to an old medieval stone castle? These are the sites of legends and fairy tales. Only 30 minutes out of Lisbon, there is really no excuse to miss it.
Not ones to settle for the bus, we decided to hike up through the forest to the palace. Expect a good 1.5 hour climb, taking time for pictures, and another 45 minutes just to find the trail head when you first reach town. Our day was a summer cooker, but it felt like quite an accomplishment when we reached the top and could see the Castle of the Moors looming behind us.
The Pena Palace is whimsical and immaculately detailed, a UNESCO world heritage site, known for its romantic style architecture. As you walk around the palace walls, there is an impressive view of the Castle of the Moors with the valley below. From the palace terrace, arches frame the view out towards the ocean.
Walking through the inside of the palace is a journey back in time. All the rooms and have been preserved so you can peek in on the interior decor of ancient kings and queens. Walk the grand dining room, the royal quarters, and the best part, the huge chefs kitchen… filled to the brim with copper cookware and everything you can imagine to cook a huge feast.
Some tips for visiting The Pena Palace and Castle of the Moors in Sintra:
- Plan for a long day if you are going to hike up the hill to visit both the Pena Place and Moore Castle. It is a long walk up, and they are not immediately adjacent (read, more walking to get to the second stop). Combination tickets are available.
- The hike up through the forest was a highlight, and on the way down you can take convertible buggy for around 5-euro p.p. which raced us back down the narrow streets to the town of Sintra in about 10 minutes.
- Avoid going on the weekends if you want to miss the crowds, so much as is possible. During the week parking is relatively easy. We had read recommendations to park in the outskirts of town, fearing no spaces and steep one-way streets. This advice was a bit overkill, as arriving by 10:00am into Sintra on a Monday there were parking spots at the castle once we finally made it to the top.
PORTUGAL CITY GUIDES
Portugal is filled with medieval castles of an age gone by, which is part of what makes it so unique and fun to visit. Sintra is a great day trip from Lisbon, especially if you are staying in Lisbon 3 days or more.
If you are planning a trip around Portugal, check out the rest of Sails & Spices Portugal City Guides:
- A Romantic Weekend in Porto
- A Wine Lover’s Dream in the Douro Valley
- Sipping Ginja in Obidos
- Lisbon City Guide
- Pastries and Parapetes in Belem
This trip has inspired me visit the amazing castles and palaces in places like India, Moscow and France.
Have you visited any castles that you thought were really impressive that we need to check out? Let me know in the comments!