The Pastel Paradise of the Palácio da Pena
The Palácio da Pena is located in Sintra, forty minutes outside of Lisbon. Trains run frequently from Lisbon's Rossio Train Station to Sintra Train Station.
From the train station, the number 434 Circuito da Pena bus runs in a loop around all of Sintra making stops at the most famous locations, including the palace.
Wear comfortable and sturdy shoes; beyond the palace, and probably even more magical than the building itself, is its grounds full of fairtytale forests full of trees and ferns sourced from around the world.
If you plan on seeing multiple locations within Sintra, buy the Scotturb bus pass; it costs €12, lasts all day, and covers unlimited boardings of buses. Additionally, a €15 pass can be bought from the Rossio Train Station that includes both the bus pass and the train ticket from Lisbon to Sintra.More information about the buses can be found here.
The 434 bus trundled along the mountain curves leading down from the peak hosting the Castelo dos Mouros to the neighboring summit. It rounded the narrow mountain roads, dappled with sunlight and covered by arching trees, to ultimately drop us off at the main entrance to one of Portugal's most visited monuments — the pastel grandeur of the Palácio da Pena.
From the adobe yellow gates, the palace was still hidden from view behind the growing hills and the rich forests that blanketed the palatial grounds. Seeded with trees and ferns from all over the world — including North American Sequoias, Chinese Gingko, and Australian and New Zealand ferns — the grounds radiated a magical romantic beauty.
Up (and up, and up) away from the main gate, along ever climbing stone-slab walkways, the palace's grounds expanded. At the top of a summit, the palace itself remained nearly entirely hidden behind forested drapes until you stumble into the clearing in which it stands. There, painted in brilliant yellows and reds among the vibrant verdure, Pena Palace glowed in its Romanticist style.
Built in a historic mixture of styles in the 1800s to reflect the history and culture of Portugal, the palace contained vaulted Moorish gateways, a massive dome, neo-Gothic detailing, and a tower constructed to resemble in miniature Lisbon's famous Belém Tower.
What all of this means, for those not versed in architectural history (*cough* us *cough*), is that the palace is stunningly designed to evoke a sense of grandeur and magic. Like much of the rest of Sintra, the palace radiated a sort of pure Disney wonderment conjuring up a sense of whimsy beyond the everyday.
No wonder then — with the palace's sprawling grounds, distant views of Lisbon, stunning pastel coloring, wondrous architecture, and enchanting details (after all, who doesn't love a relief of Triton) — that the palace was a summertime favorite getaway for the Portuguese royal family.