Europe,  Lisbon,  Portugal,  TDM,  Travel Journal

Lisbon (Portugal) #7: National Palace of Pena & the Chalet of the Countess of Edla in Sintra

I have already told you about our mini-excursion to Sintra here. We visited only one palace. So I took advantage of my girlfriend C. coming to Lisbon to visit the Pena Palace, the most famous of Sintra, with her.

Part 1: Travel Diary Part
2: Practical Tips

Part 1: Travel Diary

How to get there

The last time, we went to Sintra by car (and had a lot of trouble). This time, we take public transport to see if it’s better. We leave on a Friday (to avoid the crowd) and trust City Mapper. The suburban trains of Lisbon are a little bit expensive to take so it’s cool that City Mapper proposes us many schedules (in case we take time to find the right train and miss it).

So you take the subway to Reboleira (terminus of the blue line) then a suburban train to Sintra(there are trains every 10 minutes). The trip takes 70 minutes because the train stops at every stop.

Arriving at the train station, we spot an information desk. They also sell tickets to the monuments. I strongly recommend you to buy the entrance tickets here so you don’t have to wait in line later.

The prices are exactly the same as in front of the monuments. There are even combined tickets (prices will be put at the end of the article). C. opts for a combined ticket Sintra (National Palace) + Pena Palace & Park for 22,5€ while I take a ticket for Pena Palace + Park for 14€.

Warning: they will try to sell you a bus ticket at 15€ (valid for all 4xx buses for 24 hours) but there are other alternatives.

We queue to take the public bus no. 434 and opt for an unlimited ticket (but only for one bus line) at 6.90€/person. The bus is very crowded even if there is one every 15 minutes. Note: they always make tourists with children get on first.

That’s when things get complicated. There are more stops than are marked on the map. As a result, it is the driver who screams in incomprehensible English-Portuguese. The first important stop is the Moorish Castle. I advise against visiting it, because it can be seen very well from the Pena Palace.

There are 2 other mini-stops (this palace is so huge that there are several entrances), before the big stop – the main entrance of the palace, where everyone gets off.

Pena Palace

The park and palace of Pena are the major representatives of 19th century romanticism in Portugal. The characters who built Pena: Dona Maria II (Queen), D. Fernando II (King Consort), the Countess of Edla (second wife of Fernando II).

It’s less crowded than we thought, and with our tickets bought earlier, we enter without waiting. The time to swallow a not good sandwich at the cafeteria, we are ready to climb the hill to go to the castle. Note: it seems that the restaurant inside the palace is better

We look, shocked, at the price of a shuttle to bring people to the palace: 3€ for 3 minutes! We really have the feeling, since this morning, that we are taken for ATM on legs.

But this Disneyland-style palace does not disappoint!

I put the model of the palace for you to see its size and beauty. The red part is the old monastery. Acquired in 1838 after the extinction of the religious orders in 1834, the monastery was transformed into a palace. And the rest (the “New Palace”) was added afterwards. This explains the change of decoration and architecture when you move from one part of the palace to the other.

I have the impression that this palace is located on the highest hill of the city, in any case, when we look around, we have absolutely no opposite: D

There are lots of mini-tours to play princess (Rapunzel style) and take Instagram pictures.

The interior of the first part of the palace is obviously reminiscent of the convent. The ceilings are magnificent.

I particularly like this room with the trompe l’oeil painting.

Clear on the other part of the castle, where you just go from one room to the other. The furniture is quite beautiful, but it isn’t comparable to French castles.

If you follow the “wall walk” arrow, you’ll see this: the Moorish castle I was talking about earlier. I zoomed in with my camera. In reality, it’s not as close, but you can see it very very well. Be careful, there is a lot of draught here, take your warm clothes.

C. takes the bus to visit the national palace of Sintra, while I stay in the park to explore the rest.

The palace park

In this park there is a beautiful chalet, which is 30 minutes walk from the palace. I decide to go there on foot. Apparently, there is a free bus that goes there every hour. But the information is contradictory, because there is also a bus making the same trip for 3.5€. So, is it free or paying? I will never know.

The walk is pleasant, not too hard even if it goes up at times. I don’t know if you’ve seen this picture of the park. It looks too much like the enchanted forest


Well, I found the same tree for you. Thanks Photoshop!


Chalet of the Countess of Edla

The Countess of Edla is the mistress and then the second wife of D.Fernando II, the owner of the palace. Conceived as a pleasure dwelling, the Countess’s chalet follows the model of the alpine chalets. A romantic garden surrounds the Countess’s chalet and one can discover it before seeing the chalet. There is a farmhouse and a…

a bridge too cute…

Even the janitor’s cottage looks like a fairy tale house….

But then the chalet! It reminds me of Hansel and Gretel’s Gingerbread House. It’s a pity that there aren’t many visitors (too difficult to access) because this chalet is magnificent. Ravaged by a fire, it has been well restored for years.

Many decorations are made of cork! For example to imitate climbing plants and to cover balusters.

The interior seems smaller to me because it is divided into several small rooms, but it is very colorful, very romantic.

There is a beautiful room (ivy room) where you can see ivy plants in stucco.

Note: access to the chalet is included in the combined ticket at 14€ (but if you only paid for the park (7,5€), you will have to pay 2€ in addition). If the door is closed, wait a little. The chalet closes at 6pm.

I take the path in the other direction and see (by zooming in) the castle on the other side.

There is an exit on the side of the “valley of lakes”. This is where the bus stopped this morning and nobody got off

The minute #ras-le-bol

I had to wait for the bus 30 minutes in the cold. But fortunately I chose to go out by this place because I could sit down and especially… get on the bus. Because when the bus reaches the main entrance of the palace (200m farther), there are about sixty tourists waiting, and the driver can only take 10 people. So these 50 people will have to wait for the next bus, which will arrive in 30 minutes.

Seriously, I find that there is a profound lack of respect for tourists in this city. The bus fares are really high but they don’t give a damn if the tourists have to wait.

The schedules aren’t respected at all (one bus every 30 minutes instead of 15). It’s Friday. Imagine a Saturday or Sunday! At this rate, it is a miracle to be able to visit more than one palace/day.

Luckily, in case of hypothermia/hypoglycemia/ou raging, many tuk-tuks will be happy to take you back to the train station – for the same price as the bus, they say. That means 6,90€ or 15€? I didn’t ask the question.

I worry that C., being 2 bus stations away, can’t get on. But she does, by a miracle, and on the same bus as me on top of that! We will spend still more than one hour in the train (then the subway) to our airbnb.

Part 2: Practical Tips

I can’t stand this city anymore! Whether it’s by car or by public transport, things seem to be so complicated. C. and I told ourselves that everything was inviting us to pay more, for nothing.

I strongly advise you to opt for an excursion to Sintra with an agency from Lisbon.

But if you still prefer to go there yourself, I advise you to :

  • buy the entrance tickets as soon as you arrive at the Sintra train station
  • opt for the Sightseeing bus: there is one every 30 minutes, but there will be no problem of places. 25€/person
  • forget about crowded public buses, not respecting schedules
  • don’t bring a stroller, there are cobblestones everywhere
  • do not come by car
  • do not come on weekends. Come instead on Tuesday/Wednesday or Thursday
  • dress warmly, it’s the mountains so it’s cooler than in Lisbon and there are many drafts


  • Transport
    • Lisbon => Sintra : metro 1,3€ + train 2,25€ = 3,55€
    • Sintra => Lisbon : 3,55€
  • Bus 434 (unlimited all day long): 6,9€
  • Lunch (sandwich + drink): 4,3€
  • Ticket Pena Palace: 14€

Total : 32,3€/person

I put here the prices of the entrance tickets + combined tickets to Sintra (click here to download the picture)

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