The Moorish Castle in Sintra is an unmistakably medieval castle located on an outcrop upon the Serra, where it, and all other cultural artifacts of the Sintra Cultural Landscape are built upon. The castle is very well preserved, and climbing the Moorish Castle really took us back in time, all the way to the 8th century, when it was built.
Walking its winding paths and narrow ledges instinctively takes you back in time, to just after the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. Here, the architecture was built without much regard for the safety of everyday use. Pathways are built into sheer walls, and huge boulders form an integral part of the establishment.
It’s not as impressive or as culturally rich as the Pena Palace or the Quinta de Regaleira, or as charming as the Convent dos Capuchos, but, considering it’s on the way from at least one of these places to another, it’s definitely worth a short stop, especially if you like an impressive view.
Here, you can climb up to the top of the battlements, where the walls get pretty low, and obtain an unobstructed view of the surrounding landscape stretching out below the Serra.
Like the Quinta de Regaleira and the Pena Palace, the Moorish Castle has multiple layers of culture within its wall. Having been occupied for centuries, each succeeding generation of occupants made its cultural imprint upon the place. Here, you will see the Romantic architecture encased within stark medieval walls, surrounded by exotic vegetation introduced in the 16th and 19th Century.
Also included as a part of the experience, are two centres at the entrance, for visitors who would like to know more about the history and culture of the site. The first one is the Historical Interpretation Centre of the Moorish Castle, the other, a small archaeological museum. In the interpretation centre, exposed digs are protected and overlaid with glass, and can be viewed “as they were” – a mini time capsule of life within the walls of the castle hundreds of years past.
Kept in the archaeological museum are artifacts dating from the Neolithic period, including a ceramic vessel dated to have been made in 3000 B.C. Here, we learnt that there were Muslim houses underneath the castle walls, and that the walls were built after these homes had been in existence for quite some time. It is this sort of archaeological layering, all the way from the Neolithic to the Romantic period that made the Moorish Castle such a worthwhile visit.
The Moorish Castle is open everyday of the year, except on 25 December and 1 January, from 09:30 to 20:00.
For more information, check out this beautiful illustrated map published by Parques de Sintra.