Pena National Palace – Sintra, Portugal - Atlas Obscura

Pena National Palace

This unreal Portuguese palace looks as though it's made from a pile of different castles. 


Perched high atop a lush hill in São Pedro de Penaferrim, Portugal, the Pena National Palace is a popular national landmark that looks as though it was created by mashing up towers, facades, and architectural flourishes from a bunch of different castles.

Built in the 19th century by King Ferdinand II, the palace was meant to be a summer home for the Portuguese royals. Ferdinand’s opulent tastes were imposed on the builders and designers, creating a schizophrenic manse that, at least from the outside, seemed to indulge any and all of the king’s passing tastes. One portion would resemble a medieval European castle complete with ornate parapets, then the portion directly next to it would be modeled after an Islamic tower dome. Each section of the facade was also presented in a different color; a long purple wing is flanked by a red clock tower, and a yellow minaret and so on. It is said that Ferdinand wanted the palace to look like an opera. It is now seen as one of the grandest examples of Romantic architecture.  

The interior of the palace was no less opulent or eclectic. Many of the rooms were designed to reflect a certain cultural influence ranging from Middle Eastern styles to the European Baroque.

When the royal family fled Portugal during the Revolution of 1910, the palace and its grounds were abandoned and fell into disrepair. However the site was restored later in the 20th century, and is now classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The palace can now be visited by any peasant willing to make the trek, and it is well worth it since visitors essentially get to experience a whole world of architecture in one stop.       


Know Before You Go

Walking from the train station to the palace after taking the train from Lisbon is very worth it, a little long but beautiful hike. No problems taking photos inside the palace.  

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