The Castle of the Moors (Castelo dos Mouros)
(Updated in January, 2021)
Looking up from our pool toward the mountain, next to Pena Palace, the Moorish Castle is erected. Well, it looks like it’s right next to it but in fact it is not. They are both up the mountain, on different hill tops. The Moorish Castle winds over two ridges of the mountain. It is gorgeous in the morning when the day breaks and the mist comes through; gorgeous during the day with fantastic views to the other side of Lisbon, to Mafra and to the sea; and gorgeous in the night with the humidity rising and the birds calling.
A BRIEF HISTORY
The Castle was constructed during the 8th and 9th century, during the period of Arab occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. After Afonso Henriques’ forces conquered Lisbon in 1147, the castle voluntarily surrendered to Christian forces. A small group of people inhabited the Castle and constructed a chapel of São Pedro de Canaferrim near the castle walls.
The Lisbon earthquake of 1755 did considerable damage to the chapel and the stability of the castle, already damaged by a huge fire started by a lightning. In 1840 Ferdinand ll of Portugal took the task to recuperating it. True to his romantic style, he consolidated the walls, reforested the spaces, created nooks and manicured spaces, and conserved the chapel. Many restoration projects have since taken place, the most recent by Monte da Lua, the organization that takes care of Parks and Palaces of Sintra. These works included more fortification works, recuperation and lighting of paths and walkways and recuperation of the outer walls of the Castle. The chapel was restored and there were archaeological excavations on site. New paths through the mountain were finished for greater access to the Castle. The surroundings of the Castle are now almost as nice as the Castle itself.
HOW TO GET TO THE CASTLE
The access to the mountain top monuments is either made by public transportation or on foot.
Walking is definitely the best way to take in Sintra mountain.
There are a few ways to walk up, in addition to the obvious road. A foot path starts up by the Santa
Maria church, along the PR2/3. It is quite steep in the beginning, leveling off after a while. Gorgeous views on the way, tall trees and huge boulders aline the path. From the Historic Center it is about a 30 minute climb to the Castle. Another way would be to start opposite of the Seteais Palace through the beautiful forest on the PR4 footpath through Azinhaga dos Anjos. I would suggest to take this option up and the first mentioned option down.
It takes about 10-15 minutes from the Historic Center to Seteais and another 30 minutes to the Moorish Castle. It is a bit longer, but definitely smoother and easier way. You can also access the Castle through Vila Sassetti.
Tickets – You can buy your ticket on line or from any ticket office prior to hiking up so you don’t have to worry about finding the ticket booth. If you plan to visit other palaces during your Sintra visit, ask for a combined ticket, it does make it more economical. Also family, student, senior citizen and group discounts are available. Tickets can also be purchased at the reception of Casa do Valle.
Regarding timing, plan at least an hour and a half for your visit of the Castle and the surroundings. There are normally less visitors the first thing in the morning.
A point of interest, or a word of caution: the walls have been reconstructed, so they are safe to walk. However, they are high and do not have safety-netting or acrylic walls around them – they are in there natural state, which to me is great! Just be careful with small children – and with yourself, if you are weary of heights. Stay close to the walls and touch them to avoid vertigos!