Sintra: Castle of the Moors

We got to Sintra on a Wednesday morning with beautiful sunny weather welcoming us at the train station. Taking a short walk to the town, we saw the Pena and the Moorish Castle towering over us, calmly waiting for our exploration.

We saw the Royal Palace of Sintra first, however we decided not to visit it since, from the description, it seemed like the less interesting of all the sites in town. We began our visit with the medieval Castle of the Moors, atop a hill with panoramic views of Sintra’s sierra hills and the surrounding plains. The ocean was at the horizon, which always makes me feel like I’ve reached another end of the world.

The Moors, North African Arabs and Muslims, invaded Portugal and Spain in the 8th century, and this castle and fortress is what you would expect from the medieval period – high stone walls, towers, strategic lookout points, and a lot of history. It was also described as a ‘’typical Age of Empires fortress’’ – Francisco.

We walked around the perimeter of the fortress and followed the pathways within the walls. There is also a small church, cistern, and small archeological area with underground silos. 
Afterwards we headed to the Pena National Palace, a hallmark of Portuguese Romanic architecture. 


  • UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Built by the Moors between the 8th and 9th century. 
  • The Moors built a large underground silos – important when the castle was under siege. 
  • In 1147, Afonso Henriques, Portugal’s first king, conquered the castle a major victory in the reconquest of Portugal from the Moors. 
  • In the 15th century, the fortress lost its military importance. 
  • Part of the castle suffered a great fire subsequently partially destroyed by the great earthquake in 1775. 
  • The castle was abandoned for about 300 years and despite it’s serious decay, its renovation began in the 19th century led by King Ferdinand II – who also led renovation and construction of Pena National Palace. 

  • Admission is €6 with a €2 discount if you purchase the Lisboa Card
  • Castle – 10am – 6pm – last ticket at 5pm
  • From Lisbon, it is a 30 min. train ride away. Free train ride with the Lisboa Card. 
  • You can walk from the town to the castle, but it is a steep 45min walk. 
  • There is a bus that stops at all the main attractions, the cheapest ticket was €5. 
  • Recommended to spend at least half a day in Sintra, if not the whole day.

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