The Best Views of Pena Palace & Gardens in Sintra, Portugal

The Best Views of Pena Palace & Gardens in Sintra, Portugal

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El Palacio da Pena is the most famous castle in Sintra, and the one you’ll see on all the Portugal guide book photos.  The brightly coloured red and yellow towers are visible from all around Sintra, as this castle is high on the hillside and the gardens include the highest point in Sintra.  The castle is a dream for Instagram fans and photographers, so take your time to explore the terraces and gardens of Pena Park to find the best views of Pena Palace, you won’t regret it – and you don’t even need to pay full price for the Pena Palace tickets!  Here are all my tips for visiting Pena Palace and Gardens. 

El Palacio da Pena is the most famous castle in Sintra, and the one you’ll see on all the Portugal guide book photos.  The brightly coloured red and yellow towers are visible from all around Sintra, as this castle is high on the hillside and the gardens include the highest point in Sintra.  The castle is a dream for Instagram fans and photographers, so take your time to explore the terraces and gardens of Pena Park to find the best views of Pena Palace, you won’t regret it – and you don’t even need to pay full price for the Pena Palace tickets!  Here are all my tips for visiting Pena Palace and Gardens. #Portugal #Sintra #PenaPalace #Photography #Castle

Pena Palace Tickets

You have two options for visiting Pena Palace and Park, you can choose to just enter the park and the outside terraces of the Palace for €7.50 or pay the full price of €14 to go inside the castle and the gardens.  Being ever the cash-strapped backpacker, and not particularly bothered about the inside, I chose the cheapest option and spent several hours pottering around and exploring the castle from the outside. 

Although I have seen some beautiful pictures from the inside, it seemed a lot to pay so unless you have a particular interest in historical architecture and furnishings, I would say there is more than enough to see from the outside and probably not worth paying the extra to go inside. 

If you do choose to go for the full-priced option, buy your ticket online here to skip the queue at the ticket office outside Pena Palace.

If you are just taking a day trip to Sintra, try to make time to explore at least some of the gardens.  Most tours to Sintra won’t give you time to wander around, but you can find some beautiful views of the castle if you have time.

The Front of Pena Palace from the Castle Walls
The Front of Pena Palace from the Castle Walls

Pena Palace Terraces

As soon as I got inside the gates of the Palacio da Pena, I headed straight up the hill to the castle.  If you can get there early enough there are some great photo opportunities before the palace gets too busy. 

Poseidon Guarding the entrance to the back terrace of Pena Palaca
Triton Guarding the entrance to the back terrace of Pena Palaca

The castle is unlike anything I’d ever seen before – like a fairy tale on steroids!  The brightly coloured walls, beautiful Arabic archways, intricate carvings and tile patterns create quite a spectacle.  I went through the archway guarded by Triton and gazed at the view of Sintra to the sea and beyond.  That courtyard stayed quite quiet for a while, so I climbed up the steps opposite the red clock tower to get some shots of the steps leading up to the chapel with the clock tower behind it (like the cover photo) and vice versa from the chapel back to the yellow part of the castle. 

Pena Palace Sintra - Terrace View of the Yellow Turrets
Pena Palace Sintra – Terrace View of the Yellow Turrets

Pena Palace Castle Walls

From this courtyard, you can also walk around the castle walls for views of the Moorish Castle.  Carry on and you’ll come out back in the main courtyard by the entrance to go inside the castle.  

Natural Stone forms part of the Pena Palace Walls
Natural Stone forms part of the Pena Palace Walls

Once I’d tired of seeing the beautiful castle close up, I went downstairs to the shop and picked up a map to explore the Pena Park and Gardens around the palace.

Pena Park

Pena Park is huge, and a maze of footpaths.  Make sure you pick up a map, you will need it to find your way around!  It was lovely and quiet, and if you have time, you really should explore for some beautiful views of the Palace. 

I expected to see and hear lots of animals and birds around the park, but as the trees were planted by King Ferdinand, they are not natural to the area, so not many animals have become accustomed to the ‘new’ environment.  In places, it is eerily quiet, but lovely to get a break from the hectic Pena Palace.

The Temple of Columns in Pena Palace Park
The Temple of Columns in Pena Palace Park

Where to Get the Best Views of Pena Palace from Pena Park

There are several viewpoints all around Pena Park where you can catch a glimpse of the castle, but these are my favourites:

Temple of Columns

When the King and Queen lived here, the temple used to offer a wonderful view of the castle, but now the trees are all too tall to get a decent view.  I had a break here and had a little picnic as I’d left before breakfast, so it’s still worth taking a look.

The View from the Temple of Columns is now covered by trees
The View from the Temple of Columns is now covered by trees

St Catherine’s Heights

This was my personal favourite, as this was apparently the favourite spot of the Queen.  There is a seat carved in the rock where the Queen used to sit, it’s always nice to know that you’ve followed in the footsteps of royalty!

The View from St Catherines Heights (zoomed)
The View from St Catherines Heights (zoomed)

La Cruz Alta

The cross is the highest point in Pena Palace Park and the view from the top is worth the walk!  There are lovely views all around, and if you have a decent zoom on your camera you can get some corkers of the castle.  It is further away from the castle though, so don’t miss St Catherine’s Heights on the way to La Cruz Alta.

The Zoomed View of Pena Palace from the Cruz Alta
The Zoomed View of Pena Palace from the Cruz Alta

This is the sunniest part of the park, so if you visit Sintra in winter like I did, you will be glad of the sunshine up here!  It can get chilly in the shade of the trees, although in the summer it will be lovely and cool.

The Cruz Alta Viewpoint in Pena Palace Park
The Cruz Alta Viewpoint in Pena Palace Park

Top Tips to Make the Most of your Visit to Pena Palace

Buy Your Tickets Online

Buying your ticket online not only gives you a 5% discount, but you also get to skip the queue to buy tickets at the gate.  There may still be a queue to actually get inside once you have bought your tickets, but if you go early enough (aim to be there before the gates open) you can be one of the first through the door. 

Buy your ticket online from the official website here.

Walk Up from The Gate to the Castle

When I got inside the gates there was a little shuttle bus waiting to take visitors up to the castle entrance, which is about 10 minutes’ walk up the hill.  There is a fee to use this bus, and you have to wait for it to fill up, so if you’re feeling energetic then save yourself the cash and the wait and hike up the hill yourself.  Despite there being a tour group in front of me at the main gate, as they were waiting for the shuttle bus I walked on ahead and managed to get photos of the palace without anyone in them!

Entering Pena Palace - Before Everyone Else!
Entering Pena Palace – Before Everyone Else!

Take Your Time

I realise you might not have much time to visit the Palace and Pena Park, but it really is worth it to explore if you can.  Even if you only have the ticket to visit the park and the outside area you can still walk all around the outside of the castle, including along the castle walls for beautiful views of the countryside and the Moorish Castle below.

Get A Free Map of the Park and Gardens

The park area is like a maze, you will need the map!  If you don’t get one with your ticket you can pick one up just inside the gift shop at the palace. 

Walking through Pena Palace Park & Gardens
Walking through Pena Palace Park & Gardens

Take Plenty of Water

If you’re exploring the park, take plenty of water with you.  It is very hilly and there is p lenty of ground to cover so make sure you stay hydrated.  Use the bathrooms at the castle before you go exploring as there aren’t many dotted around the park.

Take a Picnic

If you do have time to properly explore, why not make a day of it and take a picnic with you?  There are plenty of lovely spots to sit and have a snack.

Use the Free Shuttle Bus

Travel fail on my part, I didn’t realise the shuttle bus around the park was free.  It seems you only pay for the first part of the journey from the entrance to the castle gates, and the rest of the shuttle route around the park is free.  Check the route here or on any of the bus stops around the park, they are really handy if you want to go right the way over to the Chalet.

How to Get to Pena Palace

Walking

The road up to Pena Palace is fairly quiet in the morning, but it is a quite a steep walk uphill all the way, and at the end of the day after walking all around the Pena Palace Gardens and the Moorish Castle I was exhausted! 

Yellow Sections of Pena Palace from the Chapel
Yellow Sections of Pena Palace from the Chapel

By Bus

The 434 Scotturb bus runs from next to the train station up to the hills of the Serra de Sintra and the Palácio Nacional da Pena and the Castelo dos Mouros. The 434 bus service is frequent (about every 20 minutes or so) but there can be long queues in peak season.  A ticket costs €6.90 and the bus departs from outside the train station.

By Tuk-Tuk or Taxi

If you don’t want to wait for the bus, there are plenty of tuk-tuk drivers waiting around the station and in the centre of Sintra to take people up to Pena Palace.  However, they cost significantly more than the bus so it’s up to you to decide if it is worth it.  I walked up and took a tuk-tuk taxi down for €5 as there was one waiting outside and I couldn’t face walking any more!

Colourful Pena Palace in Sintra Portugal
Colourful Pena Palace in Sintra Portugal

How to Get to Sintra

Getting the Train from Lisbon to Sintra

The train to Sintra is by far the easiest way to get to Sintra from Lisbon.  Trains run regularly on two lines to Sintra, one from Lisbon Rossio Station and the other from Lisbon Oriente Station via Entrecampos and Sete Rios.  The train journey to Sintra takes about 40 minutes and run about every 10 to 20 minutes throughout the day from both stations.  Check the train times online before you travel, the trains are less frequent on Sundays but still run every half an hour or less.  The first train from Lisbon leaves Rossio train station at 05.41am, and the last train back to Lisbon Rossio departs Sintra at 00.20am. 

Buy your train tickets on the day of your journey from the ticket machines at the station in Lisbon, it costs €5 for a return ticket, including the €.50 for the reusable card, or €2.25 each way if you have a card already.  The return ticket is valid for several days, so if you plan to spend the night in Sintra you can still buy a return.  Bear in mind that if you only buy a single, there is only one ticket machine at Sintra Station, so if there is a queue you may have to wait a while to be able to get your ticket back to Lisbon!

The Train From Lisbon to Sintra - How to Get to Sintra From Lisbon
The Train From Lisbon to Sintra – How to Get to Sintra From Lisbon

By Bus

There is a bus to Sintra from Lisbon, but it takes longer than the train and getting to the bus stations is less convenient than the train, so taking the train is by far the best way to get to Sintra from Lisbon.

By Car

Parking is not good in Sintra, so I don’t recommend this as the best way to get to Sintra.  Public transport and Sintra tours are plentiful so you don’t have to drive.  However, with a car, you could then explore more of the coastal areas much more easily than with public transport.

A Sintra Day Tour

There are lots of options for taking a day tour to Sintra from Lisbon if you only have enough time for a day trip.  Decide which parts of Sintra you want to visit and choose an itinerary to best suit you.  A lot of tours also include a trip to Cabo da Roca and Cascais, but this means less time in Sintra so choose your tour carefully.  These are some of my favourites, which also include transport to Sintra and back:

 

Where to Stay in Sintra

There are more than enough things to do in Sintra to keep you busy for two or three days – and way more than you could possibly see in just a day trip.  Spend the night here to enjoy the city when the bulk of the tourists have left, and you won’t regret it. 

Hostels in Sintra

There are several hostels in Sintra where you can spend the night without breaking the bank.  Casa Azul hostel gets great ratings and has dorms and private rooms, as does the Five House, a family run B&B which has a dorm room as well as well-appointed double rooms. 

BOOK YOUR HOSTEL NOW

Hotels in Sintra

There are plenty of hotels in Sintra to choose from as well, including the highly reviewed Sintra1012 Boutique Guesthouse, a small bed and breakfast right in the centre of Sintra town.  Sao Miguel Guest House also gets excellent reviews, and although it is more expensive there is a massage and beauty centre on-site so you can pamper yourself after a day’s sightseeing!

BOOK YOUR HOTEL NOW

Airbnb in Sintra

I chose to stay in an Airbnb in Sintra, and really enjoyed spending time with my host, who took me to Cabo da Roca and several beaches along the coastline.  You could do this yourself with a hire car but exploring any more than Cabo da Roca and Caiscais is hard without your own transport.  There are plenty of rooms to rent on Airbnb, like this bright apartment with amazing views, or this gorgeous cottage.   >>>Check out all the options on Airbnb.

If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $40 credit to use on your first trip!  Read more about the Airbnb first time discount code and my full Airbnb guide or click below for your Airbnb coupon.

GET $40 AIRBNB CREDIT

If you’re looking for travel insurance for your trip to Portugal, get a quote now from World Nomads.

Have you been to Sintra?  What was your favourite Instagram spot in Pena Palace and Gardens?  I’d love to hear your thoughts, please leave your comments below.

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El Palacio da Pena is the most famous castle in Sintra, and the one you’ll see on all the Portugal guide book photos.  The brightly coloured red and yellow towers are visible from all around Sintra, as this castle is high on the hillside and the gardens include the highest point in Sintra.  The castle is a dream for Instagram fans and photographers, so take your time to explore the terraces and gardens of Pena Park to find the best views of Pena Palace, you won’t regret it – and you don’t even need to pay full price for the Pena Palace tickets!  Here are all my tips for visiting Pena Palace and Gardens. #Portugal #Sintra #PenaPalace #Photography #Castle #europe

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Last updated: March 26, 2019
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9 thoughts on “The Best Views of Pena Palace & Gardens in Sintra, Portugal

  1. Hi, Claire! I was able to appreciate the beauty of Sintra, in Portugal thanks to this blog post of yours. I love how their architecture is oddly colorful! Very interesting. Thanks for the tips you listed here as well, very helpful if by any chance I decide to go here soon.

  2. I like how you say, the palace is like fairy tale on steroids! I absolutely love the bright splash of colours, red and yellow, and would love to photograph the palace. And I would also be happy to pay some extra money to go inside the palace- I love exploring the interiors of such majestic places. The view from near the cross are breathtaking, definitely getting up there for that view. Pena Palace looks amazing and Sintra is definitely on my bucket list.

  3. Pena Palace is simply incredible. You did a great job capturing it so well in your photos. Great practical tips because a trip to Portugal must include Sintra and Pena Palace.

  4. That is a fairy tale on steroids! The red and yellow of Pena Palace are astonishing, and such a beautiful contrast to the surrounding greenery. Glad to know there are free maps for the garden grounds, wouldn’t want to get lost in a topiary! Thanks for sharing!

  5. I had no idea there was so much to see at Sintra. Would love to head to the Queen’s seat with a picnic and enjoy the views. The shot of Triton at the entrance is a prize winner. Great post and thanks for the money saving tips.

  6. I, too, would have been quite content to wander around the grounds and gardens taking photos of this beautiful castle. I just can’t get over that beautiful rich yellow tone. I can see why it would be a popular place to take photos for Instagram!

  7. Photographing the colorful El Palacio da Pena in Sintra is very high up on my list. We’ve never been in Portugal, but when we go Sintra will be my first destination. I’d be curious to see the inside as well, although I’m sure the outside is much more spectacular.

  8. I love how colorful Pena Palace is. It has been on my must visit list since the first time I saw it. I also love how you show the different views of the palace and how to find them. Very helpful.

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