The Palacio Nacional da Pena is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Portugal. Which is why I want to give you a few tips if you plan to visit.
1. More than 3 million people visit Pena Palace each year, and as Portugal becomes more popular as a destination, that number is sure to rise. Tip #1 – Get there early!
2. There are dozens of tour companies who will take you to Sintra for a half-day tour, many of them combining a visit to Pena Palace at Sintra with a beach excursion to Cascais or other coastal town. Tip #2 – Make sure your tour company is visiting Pena Palace BEFORE any other stops. Even if your tour guide has tickets, there will be a line to get in.
3. There are two different tickets available. A Palace & Park ticket (€14.00-adult ticket) or a Park ticket (€7.50). Tip #3 – the Park ticket allows you to walk the terraces and grounds around Pena Palace, so unless you want to see the palace interior, you might choose the cheaper option.
4. Visitors walk single-file through the palace along a roped-off path. You won’t have a lot of time to read signs and see all the details as the palace gets crowded. Tip #4 – read up on the royal history and Moorish influence of the area before you go so you know what you want to look for.
5. Getting to Pena Palace requires some steep climbs. The palace is at the top of a steep hill (480m) and it is a very demanding 50-minute uphill hike from the train station. Tip #5 — visitors arriving by train can catch the 434-tourist bus to take them up the hill.
6. The town of Sintra (which sits just below the palace at the pinnacle) is full of shops, restaurants and museums. Tip #6 – you could choose to spend an entire day exploring the town, palace and park. If you do wander through town, be sure to visit one of the bakeries and sample Sintra’s signature pastries: the “cheesecake” and “pillow” that I mentioned in an earlier post.
7. Sintra and the Pena Palace sit high atop a mountain that has its own microclimate. It is very common for clouds to settle over the palace, which decreases visibility. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a beautiful vista view of the area. Tip #7 – It gets very hot there (especially in summer) so go adequately prepared for the weather: Sunscreen, hats, water, walking shoes, and a rain poncho.
8. There is a small coffee shop on the Pena Palace grounds that includes water, drinks, and snacks, but there is no actual restaurant. Tip #8 – Make plans to eat before you head up the hill to the palace.
9. The Pena Palace is only about 30km from Lisbon, but feels like a world away from the bustling city. Most people don’t allow time to wander through the extensive wilderness park that is one of the features of the palace location. If you go with a tour group, you probably won’t have time to explore the paths through the park at all. Tip #9 — Hotels in Sintra book up very fast so try to plan in advance if you want to stay in Sintra for a night or two.
10. Pena Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. It is also used for state occasions by the President of the Portuguese Republic and other government officials. In fact, the entire town of Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so do plan to see all that you can. Tip #10 – There is very little parking in Sintra as a whole, so use public transportation or book a tour to see it all.
Do you have other tips & tricks for visiting popular tourist attractions like this?
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Sintra is so beautiful as is the palace, you have beautiful photos of it. You are right when you say it’s a world away from Lisbon. We missed those pillow pastries when we were there 😦 but it is a good excuse to go back!
Thank you! I think it’s probably hard to take bad pictures of the palace. 🙂
Great tips! My only other advice is, if possible, go during off season, lol. We went in Feb and it wasn’t too busy. A little cool/drizzly, but I prefer that kind of weather anyway.
Definitely a great tip, Kristan! Thanks for sharing that!
Pena Palace is stunning and so unusual. I remember seeing photos of it for the first time last year! It’s too bad it’s getting overrun with tourists, but you give some great tips about going early, especially if you’re on a guided tour where you don’t have as much control over the itinerary!
Thanks, Sarah. I was grateful that our tour guide hurried us up there before it even opened. There was already a line.
Fantastic tips! I especially like that you give a heads up on no actual restaurants and also about how much time you truly have and to read up ahead of time. I think both of these are make or break your experience type of tips!
Thanks, Heather! I was glad our tour guide let us know before we got there in case we needed to stop for a snack.
These are great tips! I didn’t know that it has its own micro-climate! It would be kind of cool to see a timelapse of the clouds coming in then lifting over the palace. I found the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany to be the same way with so many tourists.
Yes! The crowds were similar to Neuschwanstein Castle! Good comparison.
The microclimate was news to me, too. I’m not sure I would have had time to do a timelapse video of the clouds, but I like that idea.
Great tips for seeing Pena Palace! The palace looks beautiful but if you didn’t know some of this information, I feel like it could ruin it so these are definitely helpful. I would probably be hungry after the hike up there so knowing there isn’t a restaurant is great info.
Thanks, Ashley. When you consider the hike and the wait in line, it’s good to be prepared.
It’s interesting to note that the whole town of Sintra is a UNESCO world Heritage site. It sounds like there are indeed plenty of things to see in there. Perhaps, I’d spend a day or 2 and tour around town and cap it with a visit to Pena Palace. Thanks for these tips! Those “pillows” looks yummy!