Climbing the Moorish Castle

Climb the walls of this great Moorish fortress, whose grounds have been occupied since neolithic times, showcasing a variety of architectural styles…

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.

Upper levels of battlements along the Moorish Castle in Sintra
Walls surrounding the castle keep of the Moorish Castle

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.

staircases leading to different levels of the medieval islamic stone fortress in Moorish Castle Sintra
Climbing up towards the Castle Keep

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.

panoramic vista from the Moorish Castle giving a Birds Eye view of Sintra
View of Sintra from one of the many lookout points on the walls of the Moorish Castle

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.

doorway in a high stone wall of a medieval islamic fortress, Moorish Castle in Sintra
three steps leading to a doorway set in a stone wall leading to a further set of steps
Doorway leading to another doorway in a fortress

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.

three stacked boulders surrounded by grass at the foot of the Moorish Castle Sintra
Boulders stacked up against the Southern walls of the Moorish Castle

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.

Steps leading up to a stone alter, entrance of Moorish Castle Sintra, medieval islamic castle
Entrance to the Moorish Castle

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.

field of grass and tall trees at the entrance of the Moorish Castle in Sintra
Moorish Castle Sintra
Wild vegetation at the entrance of the fortress that is the Moorish castle in Sintra
Moorish Castle Sintra

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.

3D Illustrated Map in High Resolution of the fortress, Moorish Castle in Sintra
Illustrated 3D map of the Moorish Castle