Tourist’s guide to the Medieval Castle of the Moors in Sintra

Castle of the Moors – a bewitching building of the Middle Ages, built on top of a picturesque hill towering above Sintra in Portugal. The fortification was conquered by the Christians from the Moors and during the years of the Reconquista (the return of the Portuguese lands) was a strategically important object. Despite the fact that today the castle looks more like ruins, the incredible atmosphere of past eras, the grandeur and power of the castle are preserved here. The Moorish castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Castle of the moors

From the height of the castle walls a truly royal view opens up, for which many tourists visit the attraction. From here you can see the whole city of Sitra, the expanses of the ocean, valleys covered with greenery and the castle of Martha.

Sintra panoramic view
View of the castle from the Royal Tower

Historical excursion

In the 8th century A.D. the territory of the modern Iberian Peninsula fell under Muslim rule. In the very west, they built a defensive fortress and founded a small settlement. The place for the construction of the structure was chosen exclusively competently. The walls of the castle were an observation point from where the main routes — land and sea — connecting Sintra with Lisbon, Mafra and Cascais, were controlled.

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Castle wall and park inside

At the foot of the hill were fertile lands. At the same time, the rocks surrounding the castle formed a natural defense and made the fortress almost invulnerable to the enemy. Its area was 12 thousand square meters, and the length of the walls along the perimeter – 450 meters.

In the 12th century, a power struggle was fought between the Moors; it was these that the king of Portugal, Afonso Enriques, took advantage of, having successfully conquered the palace in Lisbon, after which the Moors left Sintra.

Interesting to know!

According to one legend, the Moors did not expect such pressure from the crusaders and, hoping to return the land, they surrendered the castle in Sintra without a fight and left treasures in the cave. Historians believe that the legend may well be a true historical fact, since Sintra hill has voids that stretch under the entire mountain range and overlook the sea. Most likely, the Moors used these moves to go unnoticed out of the castle.
The forces of the Portuguese reinforced the structure, built a chapel. On the territory of the fortress there was always an armed detachment of soldiers of 30 people. The king awaited the return of the Moors and used the castle as an observation post. The main task of the garrison is to inform the troops in Lisbon about the approaching enemy.

King of Portugal Fernando II
Fernando ii

In the 13th century, members of the royal family often visited Sintra, however, royal people preferred to stay in a more luxurious national palace. The castle of the Moors was too austere and simple for them.

Gradually, the fortress of the Moors fell into decay and stood abandoned for several centuries. Natural disasters accelerated resolution – lightning struck the castle vault. Then in 1755 there was an earthquake that destroyed the fortification.

In the 19th century, romanticism came into fashion, then the active restoration of the castle of the Moors in Sintra began. The Portuguese monarch Fernando II began a grandiose construction of the palace and the Pena Park. To do this, he bought all the land in the vicinity, including the castle of the Moors, paying for everything a little more than 200 reais. The king was a romantic, which was accompanied by the transformation of the castle: stone walls were restored, trees were planted and paths were ennobled.

Note! The castle is located on a hill, so it is often windy here, take warm clothes with you for a walk.

Moors Castle today

Photo: Moors Fortress
Fortress wall today

Already in the middle of the 20th century the fortress was completely put in order and restored. Archaeological excavations were carried out on its territory, as a result of which ancient burials were discovered. When the question arose about preserving the relics of national importance, the authorities developed a special project, within the framework of which the reconstruction of the structure was carried out. The atmosphere of the castle is truly mesmerizing, transfers to the past and makes you forget about reality.

Now the castle has a cafe, an information center for tourists, toilets. Particular attention was paid to the safety of tourists – pedestrian paths and stairs are aligned, protective rails and curbs are installed.

The Moorish castle consists of two parts:

  • the castle itself;
  • fortification systems that are located next to the structure.

First, tourists go through the gate. A winding path leads to the fortress, which stretches among the greenery. The ancient walls are decorated with slightly frightening symbols, nearby are the ruins of a church built in the 12th century.

The most picturesque and beautiful wall of the castle stretches from the Royal Tower. It has a green flag with the Arabic inscription Sintra.

All towers of the castle flutter flags set in a certain sequence – from the first national banner to the last, which is used today.

Interesting fact! The red banner was a symbol of the country in the 15th century, then the ruling monarch replaced it with a white flag. In 1834, the colors of the national flag were blue and white, after which a modern version of the banner that exists today appeared.

View from the fortress to the Pena Palace
Pena Palace View

Monarch Fernando II often climbed the Royal Tower; he admired the landscapes and loved to draw. In the distance you can see the Atlantic Ocean, and on the other hand, the Pena Palace fascinates with its unique architecture.

Near the entrance is a small chapel of San Pedro. On the wall in the southern part of the chapel is an arch-shaped entrance decorated with columns and decorated with floral ornaments and sculptures of fabulous animals.

Useful information

You can visit the Castle of the Moors in Portugal daily from 9-30 to 20-00, an hour before the end of work, the sights are closed. Weekends – December 25 and January 1.

Ticket price:
  • adult – 8 euros;
  • children (from 6 to 17 years old) – 6.50 euros;
  • for older people (over 65) – 6.50 euros;
  • family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) – 26 euros.

Admission is free for children under 6 years old.

Prices on the page are for March 2018.

You can independently reach the castle in several ways:
  • Arriving by bus number 434 – the stop is located next to the Sintra railway station;
  • by train from the capital of Portugal from the stations of Oriente, Entrecampos or Rossio, you need to go to Sintra, then you can walk to the castle on foot or take a taxi;
  • on foot – from the center of Sintra there are two walking routes with signs – one with a length of 1770 meters, the second – 2410 meters;
  • by car – from the capital of Portugal you need to go along the IC9 highway, then follow the signs from the center of Sintra.

Castle of the Moors is undoubtedly a must-see attraction in Portugal. The panoramic view opening from the walls of the building is mesmerizing and breathtaking. The history of the castle is more than a thousand years old and you can touch it.

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