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National Palace of Sintra + Park and National Palace of Pena
How did Portuguese kings and queens spend their leisure time? This guided tour takes participants on a ‘journey’ through two eras in just one day and shows how the Portuguese court made the most of its time in Sintra to rest and relax. In the morning, find out what leisure time was like in the Middle Ages with a visit to the National Palace of Sintra. This is followed by a walk to the top of the leafy hillside, towards the Park of Pena. The Stables, the main building provide support to the agricultural activities at Pena Farm, is the ideal place for a lunch break. Recharge your batteries in this rural setting with a relaxing picnic, before setting off to discover the charms of the romantic garden, characteristic of the 19th century. The day ends with a visit to the Palace of Pena, the creation of King Ferdinand II, who sought refuge there whenever he could, as did the generations that followed him.
This route is planned so that you can enjoy it worry-free Parques de Sintra will accompany throughout the whole tour, welcoming you in Largo D. Fernando II in S. Pedro de Sintra, guaranteeing your transport to and from the starting point and providing your meals. The only thing you have to worry about is making the most of the walk, filling your lungs with pure air and absorbing the countless beauty spots there are to discover. This journey begins with a visit to the National Palace of Sintra, the oldest palace in Portugal, preserved through centuries of the country’s history.
This is the largest room in the palace, where the most important functions were held, such as ambassadorial receptions, banquets and celebrations. It is named after the white swans that decorate its ceiling.
The name of this room is explained by the 136 magpies painted on the ceiling. The birds hold the banner of King João I in their beaks, and in their claws grasp a rose that may refer to the House of Lancaster, the house of queen Philippa, his wife.
Room of the Coats of Arms
Located in the highest part of the Palace, the Room of the Coats of Arms is the finest example in the building of Manueline intervention and the most important heraldry room in Europe.
Queen Maria Pia’s Royal Chambers
Located on the upper floor of the east wing of the palace, these chambers were used as a summer residence by Queen Maria Pia of Savoy (1847-1911), the last queen to live in this palace.
Gardens and the Lion’s Patio
In the Lion's Patio there is a cafeteria with a pleasant terrace perfect for taking a break, where you will be served an invigorating coffee.
Afterwards, you can explore the gardens of the National Palace of Sintra. The Preta Garden, named after the singular relief figure of a black woman that decorates it, has recently been restored.
Moorish Castle Walls
The path leads us to the vicinity of the Moorish Castle, around which it is possible to see the various phases of the castle walls and the remains of the silos, as well as the old church of S. Pedro de Canaferrim, now the Interpretation Centre for the Moorish Castle, where you can see artefacts found in the most recent archaeological excavations of this site.
We now invite you to enter the Park of Pena, to travel its winding paths and encounter the various scenes that emerge and evolve to awaken a range of emotions. Get ready to discover mysterious hiding places, always with something new to find, and beautiful buildings, like the Palace and the Chalet.
Valley of the Lakes
The Valley of the Lakes is the lowest section of the park, towards which all its watercourses run. The path skirts five lakes linked by small waterfalls spread along the shade of the pleasant, leafy valley, always accompanied by the sound of running water. In the lakes, you can also see two duck-houses, structures to shelter aquatic birds, whose architecture invokes the two most imposing constructions in the domains of King Ferdinand II: the Moorish Castle and the Palace of Pena.
Pena Farm and Stables
Moving from the Valley of the Lakes to the western side of the park involves a complete change of scene, prompting different emotions and new flights of imagination. This part of the park was created by King Ferdinand II, according to the concept of the Ferme Ornée (Ornamental Farm), a setting that provided pleasant ‘country walks.’ The central, most distinctive part of Pena Farm is the Stables, a building that provided support functions for farming activities, with stables for the animals. Around the Stables are the enclosures for the farm animals, with goats, sheep, horses and rabbits, a meadow with space to rest or have a picnic, and the greenhouse complex, in which some of the species that are vital for the upkeep of the gardens are bred.
At Pena Farm you will be served a picnic that will allow you to better appreciate this bucolic scenery. There surely can’t be a more idyllic setting in which to revive your energy in communion with nature.
Garden of the Countess of Edla
The pergola that appears after the greenhouses of Pena Farm leads to the Garden of the Countess of Edla, a feature built by King Ferdinand II and his second wife, Elise Hensler, the Countess of Edla. The Garden features meticulously planned botanical collections such as the Countess' Fernery, which brings together the oldest collection of arboreal ferns in the park. The park is traversed by a water line which forms small lakes and waterfalls and a remarkable collection of camellias delicately whose delicate flowers offer a counterpoint to the blooms of the azaleas and rhododendrons. Close to the Chalet and dominating this delicate garden, you will find the Chalet Stones, a towering chaos of granite blocks, exposed at their highest point. From here, through a labyrinth of stone and moss, you can catch a glimpse of the west-facing façades of the Palace of Pena in the distance.
Chalet of the Countess of Edla
In the idyllic setting of the Garden of the Countess of Edla is one of the most beautiful and interesting buildings in the Park of Pena – the Chalet, also known as House of Indulgence (Casa do Regalo) was built as a place of refuge by King Ferdinand II and his second wife, the Countess of Edla. It was the first alpine style chalet built in Portugal, a fashion that later became widespread in the region of Sintra/Cascais, and fits perfectly into this romantic setting with its wooden exterior panelling. Inside, you will discover the couple’s intimate spaces, decorated with refinement according to their taste.
Fountain of the “Preta”
New scenes appear as you leave the Countess’s enchanted garden to explore the park from which you can glimpse magical views of your final destination: a fairytale castle brought to life – the Palace of Pena. On the way, you will be surprised by hidden spots peeking out from the moss, like the Fountain of the ‘Preta’ – a refreshing scene that comes before the steep and invigorating climb up the footpath to the highest point of the hills.
At an altitude of 528 metres, the High Cross is the highest point in the Sintra hills, offering some of the most beautiful views over the green hills, among which you can make out the Palace of Pena and the plains to the north, the Cascais coast to the south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.
Grotto of the Monk
Plunge once again into the dense wood to find a patch of ancient oak at the heart of which you will find the Grotto of the Monk, an ancient place of refuge and contemplation for the monks who lived in the Hieronymite monastery around which King Ferdinand II built the Palace of Pena.
Lake of the Shell and Queen’s Fern Valley
Now follow the sound of flowing water in the Lake of the Shell, which feeds one of the most exotic valleys in the park, the Queen’s Fern Valley, a collection of leafy arboreal ferns from Australia and New Zealand. The valley is flanked by tall deciduous oaks that provide these sensitive species with the ideal conditions of shade throughout the year, and whose tops merge together to evoke a structure like the nave of a Gothic cathedral.
Camellia Garden, Manueline Chapel and Tank of the Friars
It is now time to visit the Camellia Garden, the most important collection of these plant species in the Park of Pena, and distinguished as a 'Camellia Garden of Excellence' by the International Camellia Society in 2014. Native to China and Japan, camellias were introduced here by King Ferdinand II in the 1840s. Since then, they have become the emblem of the Sintra winter, the time of year when they flower, enlivening gardens with their colours and varied shapes. In this garden you will also find the Manueline Chapel and the Tank of the Friars, remains of the ancient wall of the 15th century monastery around which King Ferdinand II designed the Palace of Pena, which you will soon discover.
On reaching the Palace of Pena, a reviving coffee break awaits you, with views of the park whose mysteries you have just unravelled.
Palace of Pena
Surrounded by an enchanting garden, the Palace of Pena is the archetypal dream or fantasy castle brought to life, and continues to fascinate all who visit. Built from 1839 onwards around the ruins of an old Hieronymite monastery acquired by King Ferdinand II, the Palace incorporates architectural references of Manueline and Moorish influence, creating a remarkable setting reminiscent of 'One Thousand and One Nights'. The initial project was merely to restore the building to serve as a summer residence for the royal family, but the King's enthusiasm led him to extend the monastery building with the creation of the palace. Inside the palace, the tour begins in the 16th century Cloister, which was adapted into several rooms, offices and the Dining Room. This was the most intimate area of the Palace, reserved only for the royal family and those close to it. Next, you will visit the so-called ‘New Palace,’ the wing that was added to the original structure of the old monastery and including the larger and most representative rooms, such as the Great Hall. This new wing was completed, to the south, by a circular tower next to the new kitchen. Outside, the two bodies can be distinguished by the dusky pink colour of the old monastery, or Old Palace, and the ochre of the New Palace.
From the palace terraces, you can see the huge expanse of green you have just covered on a journey that has taken you from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, to find out why Sintra was always the destination of choice for the Portuguese court as a summer retreat. The walk then takes you back through the trees to catch the transport that will return you to your starting point, at 18h15.
National Palace of SintraInfo
Park and Palace of Pena (includes the Chalet of the Countess of Edla)Info
Transport to and from S. Pedro de Sintra and the monumentsInfo
Morning coffee, picnic lunch and afternoon coffeeInfo
Accompanied by a guide throughoutInfo
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