Pena Palace, Portugal

The Pena National Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, sits on a hill above the town of Sintra.  In fact, on a clear day, it can be seen from the city of Lisbon, about 18 miles away.  Not sure what drugs King Ferdinand II and architect Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege were on, but the palace is known for its wild colors (purple, pink, red, yellow) and gothic/moorish / baroque architecture – basically all over the place. It was completed between 1847 and 1854 as a summer house for Portugal’s royal family.  It is thought that the architect for the Pena Palace was inspired by the Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany, however, construction for  Neuschwanstein did not begin until 1869, years after the Pena was completed.

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Perched atop the whimsical Pena Palace

The town of Sintra is about a 30 minute train ride from Lisbon and can be easily done as a day trip (leave early if you want to also visit the Moorish Castle and the National Palace in Sintra).  After arriving by train in Sintra, the Pena Palace can be reached by bus, which is a good idea on the way up as it is a steep climb.  On the way down, stroll through the Pena Park which is a forested area surrounding the palace.

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Colorful Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal

Click here for information on all three sites.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

King Ludwig II built the jaw-dropping Neuschwanstein Castle as a retreat for himself in Germany but died before it was completed.  It was opened to the public for viewing shortly after his death in 1886.  In fact, much of the interior of the castle is not complete because the King never lived here.  This castle was the inspiration for the animated Sleeping Beauty Castle and Disneyworld’s Magic Kingdom Castle.  It is located in Bavaria, a state in southeast Germany, and is best accessed by car.  If you are not able to rent a car, head to Munich and take a day tour from there.  Tickets for viewing the inside of the castle should be purchased ahead of time on the internet as you will get a specific time of day for your tour.