This post is about one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal: The Pena Palace.
The Palace of Pena is the most important element in the cultural landscape of Sintra, acknowledge by UNESCO as World Heritage of universal value since1995. It is also integrated into the Network of European Royal Residences since 2013.
Where is it
At 40 min by train from Lisbon, or 26 km by car. Also, noteworthy to mention that it is on the top of a rocky peak, in the Sintra hills, which is the second highest point. More than 500 m above sea level.
Actually, if you google „how to get to Pena“, everyone says „don’t walk there, take the bus, you’ll thank me later“. Well, it’s true.
What is so special about it
- A former monastery was transformed into a fairy tale castle;
- The Romanticist style in which it was built, remind of the Stolzenfels and Rheinstein castles on the banks of the Rhine, as well as Babelsberg Palace in Potsdam. Legends say all 3 were a point of inspiration for the Pena Palace;
- On a clear day, it can be seen from as far as Lisbon;
- the Castle is listed as one of the seven wonders of Portugal
How it came to life
It all starts with Our Lady of Pena, a small monastery, built in 1511, on the top of a hill. It was a small, quiet place for meditation, housing a maximum of eighteen monks, for centuries. Then, in 1834, when the religious orders were suppressed in Portugal, it had been left unoccupied and deserted. But of course there is no tale without a prince, right?
In 1838, King Ferdinand II was enchanted by the monastery of Our Lady of Pena and acquired it. It was in a poor shape as it was left untouched for decades. He restored it and five years later, decided to enlarge the monastery by building a new wing (the New Palace). The work on the estate took 22 years.
Ochre and pink are the original colors for the monastery and the new palace wing which were last time restored in 1994.
The Park of Pena
King Ferdinand II ordered also the creation of Pena Park, which is a vast forested area completely surrounding the palace. It spreads over 200 ha of uneven terrain. You can see the exotic taste of Romanticism also in here. The king ordered the plantation of a flora which created micro-forests originating from very different climates: North American Sequoia, Cypress, Magnolia, Western Redcedar, Chinese Ginkgo, Japanese Cryptomeria are just a few of the 500 species co-existing in the park.
It is a labyrinth of paths and narrow alleys, with ponds, bridges connecting the palace to its two exit gates and its points of interest.
Walking trough the park was like walking out of time and dimension. Birds happily chirping everywhere, some of them I have never heard before. Cypress trees next to palm trees, Amazonian jungle next to Alps forests. A whole ground vibrant with life and diversity.
From Portugal with Love