The Sintra Castle, with its impressive wall on top of the hill, offers a different perspective of the area than all the extravagant palaces.
Below is my guide to help you plan your visit to the castle of the Moors in Sintra.
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Why visit the Sintra Castle
The Castle of the Moors is definitively one of the top things to do in Sintra Portugal with the Pena Palace and the National Palace.
Its official name is Castle of the Moors or Moorish Castle but it should not be mixed up with the Moorish Castle in Gibraltar.
Built in the 10th century, the Castle of the Moors used to be a military fort, serving as an outpost for the city of Lisbon.
Views from the distance
Le Castelo dos Mouros Sintra (in Portuguese) is located on top of a hill in a lush forest. You can see it quite well from everywhere around.
Below is a view from the Pena Palace:
And here is a view from the walk between the Sintra city Center and the National Palace:
Visit of the Castle of the Moors in video
And below is a short video of my visit to help you decide if you want to add it to your itinerary.
More photos and details after the planning tips.
This is one of my favorite places in Portugal.
PLANNING TIPS - Sintra Castle Portugal
How to get to Sintra Castle of the Moors
- Lisbon to Sintra - 30min drive West
- The Sintra Castle is on top of hill - you can walk from the city center but it is quite steep!
- by car: there are a couple of parkings near the castle but access is via a small road where you will have to wait in the traffic jams, a parkings get full very quickly
- By taxi, you will still have to be patient but no parking issues...
- By bus: there is a cheap but that leaves from the city center, however the queues in October were huge so I can't imagine in Summer
- By hop on hop off - several companies do stop there - from Sintra pre-purchase your ticket in your currency
- By organized tours from Lisbon - Just sit back and wait to arrive at your destinations - See the many tour options, but most don't include this cstle
The castle is included in my eBooks that helps you plan your road trip:
Visiting the Castle of the Moors Sintra
- Sintra Castle tickets - 8€ per adult during High season (march to October) - or combined ticket with Pena Palace and National Palace
- Sintra Castle opening hours - 8:30am to 6:30pm - last admission 6pm
- Check out the official website for latest prices and hours
- Easy access to the central area but then a lot of stairs to explore the wall
- If you have difficulties, either visit only the right side which has less steps or climb 60 steps to the first tower on the left for great views of Pena.
- Facilities and café inside
- Plan 1 to 2 hours to visit
- I recommend spending at least one night in Sintra to visit all the amazing palaces - check out the best rated accommodations in Sintra
Access to the Castle of the Moors in Sintra
After paying your entry ticket, you first have a flat 500m path in the forest all the way to the gate in the curtain wall. It is quite enjoyable and a reprieve from the heat.
On your way, you can stop at the Archeological investigation site where the medieval Islamic quarter and Christian necropolis were located. In the church (Sao Pedro de Canaferrim) is the Historical Interpretation center of the Moorish Castle with a model of the Sintra Castle and a display of the most important pieces found during the digs
And then you finally arrive at the Entrance. This is where your ticket is checked.
History of the Castelo dos Mouros
Before we climb the wall up to the towers, let's discover a few facts about the castle:
- In 5000BC the slopes of the hill were occupied by Neolithic communities
- Built around the 10th century by the Moors people (according to the documents at the castle, but other sources say 9th century...)
- You can see at the Arms square the Green Flag with the word Sintra in Arabic characters to remind visitors of the origin of the castle
- After the Conquest of Lisbon, King Alfonso Henriques ended the Muslim Rule
- The castle was fortified during the 14th century by King Ferdinand I but then abandoned
- In 1839, King Ferdinand II initiated the restoration in the romantic style of the period
- It was included in the Unesco list as part of the Sintra Hills in 1995
Climb to the Royal Tower of the Moorish Castle of Sintra
From the central Arms Square you can either climb to the right (East) or to the left (West then South).
I started to the left because the Sintra Palace was there.
There are a lot of steps to climb and some are quite high. Difficult if you have knee problems. For those with limited mobility, there are 60 steps to the first tower where you can sit with a great view of the Pena Palace.
But if you can, you can continue climbing to the Royal Tower for some impressive views. It is called the Royal Tower because King Ferdinand II used to paint there. It has an amazing view of the Palace of Pena (as you can see on the last picture in the sections Views from the Castle of the Moors)
Before going up, remember that you have to get back down and it can be hard on your knees!
Climb to the Castle Keep
You can also climb to the right towards the Castle Keep. On this side you reach more than just a wall, more of a castle. This is where the civil or church authorities resided.
In the event of an attack, it was the last Stronghold.
It is lower so you have a lot less steps to reach it.
Views over Sintra and the other palaces
What is really amazing with the Sintra Castle are the views over everything around.
For example, you have a fantastic bird eye view of the Sintra National Palace:
But the best views are those of the Pena Palace (discover its crazy colors in the Pena Palace article):
Want to see more of PORTUGAL?
Amazing views, don't you think?
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