Pena Palace in Sintra
One of the first days of this Portuguese trip was a day trip to Sintra – a short distance from Lisboa. Sintra itself is extraordinarily cute with picturesquely climbing alleyways, art galleries and craft shops. It is also a great spot because it forms the center of a district of stunning country houses and palaces. There is a royal palace downtown, right on the main square. But we were there to see the houses in the neighborhood. My favorite is the least “tasteful” of the lot. Many guidebooks dismiss it as Victorian eccentricity at its worst, but I think that it’s Victorian eccentricity at its best.
Pena Palace (Palacio Nacional da Pena) is a spectacular mountaintop amalgam of Gothic, Manueline, Moorish and Renaissance elements. It was built for King Ferdinand II between 1842 and 1854 and designed by a German amateur architect, Baron Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege. It is now a Unesco World Heritage Site as one of the greatest examples of Nineteenth Century Romantic Revivalism. The day we visited, it was intermittently foggy and rainy. We’ve visited in bright sunny weather on previous trips to Portugal, and I think that it looks even better in the fog.