The beautiful Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace) is the standout monument of Sintra. This 19th century palace was designed by King Fernando II who was passionate about the arts and wished his royal retreat to reflect the staging of an opera. The exterior is painted vivid colors, with decorative towers and battlements and statues of mythological creatures. The interior of the palace is as equally fascinating, as it has been restored to how it was left in 1910 when the Portuguese nobility fled from Portugal with the fall of the monarchy. Queen Amelia spent her last night in Portugal in the Pena Palace before leaving in exile.
On a clear day Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace) can be easily seen from Lisbon and much of its Metropolitan area. It is a national monument and constitutes one of the major expressions of 19th-century Romanticism in the world. The 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 1838 King Fernando II acquired the historic monastery of the Hieronymite monks of Our Lady of Pena, which had been constructed on the summit of the Serra of Sintra in 1511 by King Manuel I, but had been abandoned following the state’s extinction of the Religious Orders in 1834. The monastery consisted of a cloister with its adjoining rooms, together with the chapel, sacristy and bell-tower, and also a guesthouse. These buildings together make up what is today the northern nucleus of the Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace) or Palácio Velho (Old Palace).
King Fernando II began a program of repairs to the ancient monastery which, judging by the contemporary reports, was in a poor state of repair at that time. He remodeled the whole of the upper floor, keeping intact the vaulted ceiling but converting the 14 monks’ cells into rooms with more generous dimensions. About 1843 the King decided to enlarge the Palace by constructing a new wing (Palácio Novo or “New Palace”) with considerably more spacious rooms, an example of which is the Saláo Nobre (Great Hall), and finishing off the construction with a circular turret next to the kitchen block. The construction work was directed by Baron von Eschwege. The restoration work which took place in 1994 involved restoring the exterior of the Palace in its original colors: red for the ancient monastery and ochre for the New Palace.
In transforming a historic monastery into a residence more akin in style to a castle, King Fernando was strongly influenced by German Romanticism, and, in fact, probably drew his inspiration from two castles on the Rhine, Stolzenfels and Rheinstein, as well as the residence of Babelsberg in Potsdam. The work on the Palácio Nacional da Pena (Pena Palace) was completed by the mid-1860s, although various exercises in interior decoration were subsequently carried out.
King Fernando likewise ordered the planting and landscaping of the Park of Pena, in the areas surrounding the Palace, in the manner of the romantic gardens, replete with winding pathways, pavilions, and stone benches at intervals along the various walks, as well as trees and other plants from many parts of the world, taking advantage of the humid climate of the Serra de Sintra mountains.
The former Refectory of the Hieronymite monks was converted by King Ferdinand II into the private Dining Room of the Royal Family. The room is covered in Manueline rib vaulted arches (16th century) and lined with tiles by Fabrica Roseira (19th century). The oak furniture was commissioned by King Ferdinand II from Casa Barbosa e Costa in 1866.