Castle of the Moors Sintra | Portugal Visitor
Castle of the Moors, Sintra
Castle of the Moors (Castelo dos Mouros) – Romantic ruined castle
The Castle of the Moors (Castelo dos Mouros) is part of the UNESCO World Heritage cultural landscape in Sintra. Now a Romantic ruin with impressive walls winding over the landscape, it was restored by Dom Fernando II (1816-1885) in the 19th century.
The ruined castle is part of the magnificent Gardens of Pena (Parque da Pena) and on fine days there are views as far as Ericeira and Mafra.
The original fortress was constructed on high ground in Sintra by the Moors in the 8th and 9th centuries and was also further extended and reinforced by them in the 10th century. The walls are protected by both circular and square turrets.
The castle was captured by Portugal’s first monarch, Afonso Henriques (1109-1185) in 1147 and was no longer in use by the 15th century, when most of its inhabitants had already moved to what is now Sintra town.
In fact, after the fall of Santarém and Lisbon, the castle and its citizens surrendered peacefully to the Christian armies.
Afonso Henriques then gave the castle to Gualdim Pais, the Grand Master of the Templars in Portugal and the founder of the Convento de Cristo in Tomar. A second set of walls was later added to further protect the local population.
In the 18th century, the walls and the chapel on the site (Chapel of São Pedro de Penaferrim) were seriously damaged by the catastrophic 1755 Great Lisbon Earthquake.
The king consort Ferdinand II acquired the site (along with the nearby Pena Palace) and set about a project of “restoration” with his trusty fellow German, the amateur architect, Baron von Eschwege.
This entailed strengthening the granite and limestone walls, reforesting the land and conserving the historic chapel.
The Walls & Keep
The castle keep lies on one of the highest points of the fortification and has views as far as the Atlantic coast.
The walls themselves consists of two rings – the first built by the Moors and the second added after the Reconquista.
Other places of note include the Moorish silos built to stores grain and legumes and the remains of what were thought to have been once stables or pens for domestic animals.
The Church of São Pedro de Canaferrim dates to the 12th century and the time of Afonso Henriques. It now houses the Moorish Castle Interpretation Centre showing archeological exhibits and presenting the history of the castle. Ferdinand’s restoration damaged parts of the church’s graveyard so a tomb was made to house the remains unearthed. An inscription reads: “What man brought together, only God may separate.”
The grounds are also the work of King Ferdinand II and von Eschwege with later plantings by Englishman, Francis Cook, once the owner of the nearby Palácio de Monserrate.
Castelo dos Mouros
Estrada da Pena
Parque de Monserrate
Tel: 21 923 73 00
The grounds of the castle are open from 9.30 am to 6.30 pm.
From Sintra Station take the 434 (Scotturb) bus.
Other palaces in Sintra include the Palácio Nacional de Sintra, the Pena Palace, the Palácio de Monserrate, the Palácio de Seteais and the Quinta da Regaleira. Further attractions are the Museu de História Natural de Sintra, the recent NewsMuseum, the Convento dos Capuchos and the Museu Anjos Teixeira. The Camara Municipal de Sintra (Sintra Town Hall) is also a wonderful piece of architecture completed in 1909 in a pleasing fusion of Manueline and Romantic styles.
Getting to Sintra
There are local buses from Sintra to Cascais (#417), Estoril (#418) and Mafra. From Sintra Station a number of buses run by Scotturb around the sights. Bus #433 (Urbana Sintra) runs into historic Sintra on a circular route. Bus #434 (Pena Tourist) leaves the station 3 (in winter) or 4 times an hour for Sintra Castle, Pena Palace, Vila and Sintra NewsMuseum. Bus #435 also connects to various destinations in the historic center including the Palácio Nacional de Sintra. To get to Cabo da Roca take either bus #403 or the open top tourist bus, Circuito da Roca.
Sintra Station connects on the Sintra Line to Rossio Station, Oriente, Entrecampos, Sete Rios and Campolide.
There are trains to Sintra approximately every 15 minutes from Rossio on weekdays and every 30 minutes on weekends, with the journey between Lisbon and Sintra taking 39 minutes. On weekdays after 8.38 pm the service is every 30 minutes.
The first train from Rossio is at 6.08 am with the last train at 1.08 am. The last train from Sintra to Rossio leaves Sintra at 12.44 am.
Portugal Hotel & Hostel Accommodation
Recommended accommodation in Sintra must include the Tivoli Palácio de Seteais. It is a luxury 5-star hotel set on a hilltop with superb views of the Moorish Castle and Pena Palace. Facilities include a swimming pool, tennis courts and an equestrian center.
Book Hotel Accommodation in and around Sintra
The four-star Pestana Hotel offers a golf course and outdoor pool.
Tivoli Sintra Hotel, also four-star, has well-appointed guest rooms and superb views complete with a recommended restaurant and bar.
With three stars the VIP Inn Miramonte Hotel has an outdoor pool and games room.