Located on one of the hilltops of the Serra de Sintra, the Moorish Castle is a fortress built in around the 10th century after the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula.
The granite blocks of the Serra are ringed by two irregular-shaped walls, erected amid huge boulders and standing on the top of sheer cliffs.
All along the paths encircling the castle, you can admire spectacular views over a unique landscape, with the town centre, the Palace of Sintra, the Palace of Pena and, stretching out beyond these, the vast plains to the north and the Atlantic Ocean.
The present-day appearance of the Moorish Castle is the result of various building campaigns and events, most notably the work that was undertaken during the first dynasty, initiated by King Afonso Henriques after the capture of Lisbon and Santarém (1147) and continuing until the fortress was put to use in the reign of King Fernando I (1383); the damage caused by the earthquake of 1755; the restoration work carried out by King Ferdinand II in the 19th century, in the romantic style of that period; and the various interventions made by the General Directorate for Buildings and National Monuments in the 20th century.
The Moorish Castle is a fine point from which to admire the view from Sintra to the sea.
After the capture of Santarém, King D. Afonso Henriques besieged Lisbon for three months. Although the Castle of Sintra surrendered voluntarily after the fall of Lisbon, according to legend on this occasion the king, fearing a surprise attack on his troops, ordered D. Gil, a Knight of the Templars, to form a group of twenty of his most trustworthy men in order to spy on the enemys movements and thereby prevent the Moors from leaving Lisbon and reaching Sintra via Cascais and the River Tagus.
The crusaders made their way discreetly. To avoid being spotted they travelled by night, hiding during the day, along the road from Torres Vedras to Santa Cruz and along the coast to Colares, in the hope also of avoiding Albernoz, a feared Moorish chief in Colares who was a notorious killer of Christians. Between Colares and Penedo, Our Lady appeared to the fearful knights and told them: Have no fear, because twenty of you go, but youre one thousand.
In this way, full of courage because Our Lady was with them, after a five-day journey they confronted and defeated the enemy and captured the Moorish Castle. In honour of this deed the Chapel of Our Lady of Milides (mil ides, a thousand go) was built in Colares.
Opening Hours and Entrance Fees
The Moorish Castle is situated 3.5 km from the historical centre of Sintra. It is open every day of the year, except for Christmas Day (25 December) and 1 January. From April to September it is open from 9.30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (last entry at 7 p.m.) and from October to March from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (last entry at 5 p.m.)
In order to get there, there are signs from the historical centre for motorists, as well as for the route on foot. There is a bus (434) from Sintra railway station which does the Pena Circuit and passes by the Moorish Castle.
Lisbon > Sintra
By train (CP) – Take the Sintra Line
• Estação do Oriente
• Estação do Rossio
• Estação de Entrecampos
If driving to Sintra, take the IC19 (from Lisbon), IC30 (from Mafra) or EN9 (turning off the A5 motorway to Cascais).
When you arrive in the town’s historic centre, you’ll see a vertical sign showing the way to the Moorish Castle (3.5 km).
Sintra (historic centre) > Moorish Castle
By bus (Scotturb)
• Sintra Station – Pena Circuit
From Sintra, take Scotturb bus No. 434, which runs from the railway station to the Moorish Castle.
There are footpaths signposted between the historic centre and the Moorish Castle.
Percurso de Santa Maria (Casa INFO > Moorish Castle/Pena; 1770 metres, 1 hour)
Percurso de Seteais (Seteais > Pena/Moorish Castle; 2410 metres, 1½ hours)