Palácio Nacional da Pena

Top choice palace in Sintra

Rising from a thickly wooded peak and often enshrouded in swirling mist, Palácio Nacional da Pena is a wacky confection of onion domes, Moorish keyhole gates, writhing stone snakes and crenellated towers in pinks and lemons. It is considered the greatest expression of 19th-century romanticism in Portugal.

Ferdinand of Saxe Coburg-Gotha, the artist-husband of Queen Maria II, and later Dom Ferdinand II, commissioned Prussian architect Ludwig von Eschwege in 1840 to build the Mouresque-Manueline epic (and as a final flourish added an armoured statue representing a medieval knight overlooking the palace from a nearby peak). Inspired by Stolzenfels and Rheinstein castles and Potsdam's Babelsberg Palace, a flourish of imagination and colour commenced.

The eclectic, extravagant interior is equally unusual, brimming with precious Meissen porcelain, Portuguese-style furniture, trompe l’œil murals and Dom Carlos’ unfinished nudes of buxom nymphs.

There are daily guided tours at 2.30pm. Buses depart from the entrance to the palace every 15 minutes (€3), otherwise it's a 10- to 15-minute walk uphill.