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Perched on top of the steep hillside of Sintra, the Moorish Castle is a staple on the Sintra tourist trail, and since it’s the only castle in Sintra, it has something unique to offer visitors.
Many visitors to Sintra overlook the Moorish Castle, and it has a reputation for not having much to offer visitors. This couldn’t be further from the truth! If you’re looking for some of the best views over Sintra, the Moorish Castle is a must-visit!
On my first visit to Sintra I listened to the rumours and skipped the Moorish Castle (which is also referred to as the Castle of the Moors from its Portuguese name – Castelo dos Mouros).
On my second visit, I knew that I had to pay it a visit to see what I’d missed. I’m certainly glad I did! In this blog post I’m going to share everything you need to know before visiting the Moorish Castle, including my top tips for how to get entry tickets and how to plan your visit!
The History of the Castle of the Moors
Built in the 8th or 9th century by the Moors, this hilltop castle in Sintra is a National Monument of Portugal, and is part of the UNESCO Sintra Cultural Landscape. It was occupied by the Moors as a defensive castle until 1147, when Alfonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal, conquered it.
As the significance of Sintra diminished over the years, the castle was abandoned and left to fall into disrepair. This certainly wasn’t helped by the 1755 Lisbon earthquake which badly damaged parts of the castle!
We have King Ferdinand II to thank for ensuring the castle still stands today. In 1840, noticing how badly deteriorated the castle was, the King began the lengthy process of conserving and improving the castle. The castle has been continually improved on and restored ever since.
Nowadays, the Moorish Castle is the oldest monument in Sintra and one of Portugal’s most famous landmarks!
What Makes the Moorish Castle so Great?
The main selling point of the Castle of the Moors are the epic views it offers over the hillsides of Sintra. The crumbling castle’s position gives visitors a bird’s-eye view of Sintra, and it’s easily one of the best places to take photos in Sintra!
Since it’s so close to the heavy-hitters of Sintra – the Pena Palace and Quinta da Regaleira, it’s super easy to add a visit to the Castle of the Moors to your Sintra itinerary. Organised tour groups of Sintra don’t stop here as frequently as the other palaces, either, so it’s far quieter, meaning you’re able to breathe and relax without a million other tourists in the way.
Sintra is surrounded by palaces, but the Moorish Castle is the only castle in Sintra, so it has something unique to offer you. Especially if you’re tired of visiting palaces!
Unfortunately there isn’t too much in the way of educational resources at the Moorish Castle. There are a few signposts, but there definitely could be more. For this reason, a visit to the castle isn’t going to educate you a ton on it’s history. The main reason to visit is for the views.
Speaking of the views, if you’re visiting Sintra on a foggy day it may be worth skipping the Moorish Castle. On the day I visited Sintra it was shrouded in very heavy fog, and I couldn’t see a single thing from the castle except for white fog!
This was pretty cool as it felt like the castle was just suspended in the clouds, but we definitely didn’t get the panoramic views the castle is so famous for. That’s just something worth keeping in mind.
How to Get to the Moorish Castle from Lisbon
To visit the Moorish Castle from Lisbon, you’ll first have to get to the town of Sintra. The direct train to Sintra runs from both Rossio and Estação do Oriente and takes between 40 and 50 minutes. Once you’re in Sintra, follow the steps below to get to the Moorish Castle.
How to Get to the Moorish Castle from Sintra
You’ll find the Moorish Castle tucked away in the hills of Sintra, Portugal. Sintra is one of the most popular day trips from Lisbon, so it’s very easy to visit!
The Moorish Castle is 1.7km away from Sintra train station. You could walk there, but Sintra is incredibly hilly so it would be quite the mission! Instead, you’ll need to catch the 434 bus from the train station to get there.
This bus runs in a one-way loop between the train station, the Pena Palace, and the Moorish Castle. It’s a lifesaver when it comes to getting to these attractions, since they’re very steep uphill from the train station.
You’ll need to catch the bus from the bus stop Rua Dr. Alfredo da Costa, parallel to Sintra train station, and it’ll drop you off just outside the doors of the Moorish Castle.
You may notice that the 434 bus doesn’t stop at other famous Sintra palaces, such as Quinta da Regaleira and Monserrate Palace. No worries, though – the bus operator will know you’re a tourist and offer you the 24 hour Sintra tourist bus ticket.
This ticket costs €15 and enables you to use all the Sintra buses to see whatever tourist attraction you want. You can even add on a trip to Cascais with your bus ticket!
Pena Palace to Moorish Castle Walk
As I mentioned earlier, there is a bus that runs to each of the Sintra castles and palaces, but it can be pretty unreliable. If you’re planning to visit both the Moorish Castle and the Pena Palace you can actually walk between the two, which will be quicker and easier.
The walk from the Pena Palace to the Moorish Castle, and vice versa, takes around 10 minutes, and is mostly flat. The route is well-marked with red and yellow painted signs, matching the colours of the Pena Palace!
Moorish Castle Entry Tickets
Entry tickets for the Moorish Castle cost €8. This is great value because the castle was quiet even in the middle of summer, so it felt like we had it all to ourselves!
When we arrived at the castle there was nobody on the ticket desk.
Fortunately, one of the machines was still working so we were able to purchase our tickets at the castle, but I highly recommend booking your tickets in advance here so you don’t have anything to worry about on the day.
How Long to Spend at the Castle of the Moors
I recommend spending between 1 hour and 90 minutes at the Castle of the Moors in Sintra. The castle itself is quite sprawling so there is plenty to discover, but it’s not usually super busy, meaning you won’t need to wait in line to get to the best viewpoints.
As I mentioned, we visited on the foggiest day ever, meaning all of our views looked like this:
For this reason, we probably spent about 50 minutes at the castle. However, I’ve seen incredible photos of people admiring the breathtaking views over Sintra from the Moorish Castle on clear days, so if the weather is on your side you may want to stay for longer to take in the sights.
Is the Moorish Castle in Sintra Worth It?
The Moorish Castle is definitely worth visiting whilst you’re in Sintra. Although there are many palaces in Sintra, the Moorish Castle is the only castle in town, making it a unique and worthwhile stop.
The views alone make it worth visiting the Castle of the Moors. Or so I’ve heard! As I mentioned, I visited the Moorish Castle on the foggiest day ever, but even then I still think it was worth it. It was so cool to see the fog wrapping itself around the castle!
My Travel Tips for Visiting the Moorish Castle
• The Moorish Castle is open from 9am until 6.30pm, with last admission to the grounds at 6pm.
• There are some very steep sections at the Moorish Castle, especially when walking up steps to climb the castle walls. There’s also uneven floors, so if you’re visiting on foot it’s important to wear comfortable shoes with some grip (trainers are ideal).
• The Moorish Castle’s operators have taken great steps towards making the castle accessible for visitors with reduced mobility, including wheelchair users. If you make yourself known to a member of staff they are able to provide traction equipment to attach to your wheelchair and can assist you with lift platforms so that you can enjoy exploring the castle stress-free! You can find out more here.
• Given how unreliable I found the Sintra buses, and given how close together the Quinta da Regaleira, Moorish Castle and Pena Palace are, I recommend walking between the three attractions if you are able to. I did this on my second visit to Sintra and it was hassle-free and saved time.
• If you’re visiting Sintra in summer, it can get extremely hot! This is the case even more so at the Moorish Castle, which does not offer much shade or protection from the sun. Be sure to pack plenty of water (trust me, it’s worth the extra weight in your bag) and some good sun cream.
• If you already know what date you’ll visit the Moorish Castle, I recommend booking your tickets in advance. You don’t have to commit to a certain time slot, so you still have flexibility, but booking in advance means you have one less thing to worry about. Buy your tickets here.
I didn’t regret visiting the Moorish Castle – even in such terrible weather! If you have time on your trip to Sintra (which can be tricky, as there is so much to do!) I definitely recommend that you add it to your itinerary. I hope you have a wonderful time at the Castle of the Moors!
Have you visited the Moorish Castle in Sintra? Let me know in the comments!
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