Pena Palace you stunner! The castle stands on the top of a hill in the Sintra Mountains above the town of Sintra, and on a clear day it can be easily seen from Lisbon and much of its metropolitan area. We’ve seen our share of European castles (remember these ones in Germany?) and we are here to tell you this may be our favorite so far.
The color alone is what attracted me, but the architecture is quite special too! The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. So what’s the insider scoop for visiting this popular spot? We’ve got 5 tips to make sure you get the shots you want while avoiding crowds.
Probably the biggest tip we can share with you! Head to the train station in Lisbon and try to get into Sintra by 9 am (winter season) or by 8:30 (summer season). You’ll want to be at the gates waiting before opening times. If your traveling in the summer months the gates will open at 9:30 am and in the winter months gates open at 10 am. I know it sounds a little excessive to be there that early, I promise it’s worth it.
Once you get off the train, just hire a taxi to take you to Pena Palace. You can also use Uber but there are generally cabs waiting at the station. It should only cost you about $10. We found this is the easiest way up and avoids waiting for the buses. There is a shuttle available at the gates to assist any visitors who are unable to walk up the hill to the palace. If you don’t need this service, don’t take it as it will be a bit of a wait to fill up the seats.
Pro tip: Grab yourself some snacks or a small breakfast to go, and eat while you wait at the gates.
Buy Tickets Online
You can purchase your tickets ahead of time online saving you time and money here. We’d recommend purchasing the ticket just for the park. You won’t need a ticket to walk around the outside. You are fully welcome to purchase a ticket to see the inside but based on our research, the outside is the most impressive part!
Head to the Back Steps First
Once you reach the castle, you’ll be tempted to move slow and take your photos of the entrance. We would suggest making your way through the courtyard to the back steps and finishing your visit at the entrance. We had about 20 mins of uninterrupted photo time before too many people flooded the area.
There is an incredible view of the mountain town below so make sure to take a peak out the beautiful yellow arches before making your way around the towers.
Visit the Surrounding Towns/Castles
Contrary to what I thought before we arrived, Sintra is full of other castles/small towns to tour. I thought we were headed to Sintra soley to see Pena Palace and was delighted there was so much else to see!
Sintra as a whole is a UNESCO World Heritage site and you could spend more than just a day castle hoping. So put on your good walking shoes and get to exploring!
Be sure to spend some time wandering local streets and stop for food! The castles don’t offer great eating options so we found the food in town (not far from the train station) to be delicious!
If you do plan on spending a few days in Sintra, book your accommodation asap! Hotels tend to book up super fast in the area. Summer is especially popular so if you can, book during the off season to avoid crowds.
Do not miss a day or two visit to Sintra when planning your trip to Lisbon! A highlight of our trip for sure and limiting the amount of photos to share with you was so tough!
Happy traveling Gang!