About Castelo dos Mouros
Perched on top of the Sintra Mountains and half-submerged under the forest, Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors) is a picturesque ruined castle overlooking the town of Sintra in Portugal. Believed to have originally been built by the Moors around the 8th century – hence the name – Castelo dos Mouros was attacked several times until it was finally taken by King Afonso Henriques in 1147.
Today, open to the public, the fortress is a National Monument and part of Sintra’s Cultural Landscape as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Castelo dos Mouros history
The castle’s construction reflects the period in which it was built. During the 8th and 9th centuries, much of the southern Iberian Peninsula was under Muslim rule and Castelo dos Mouros was built to protect the agricultural territory and its surrounding population.
After the conquest of Lisbon in 1147 by Afonso Henriques, first king of Portugal, the castle voluntarily surrendered to Christian forces and was entrusted by the king to its inhabitants. Throughout the 12th century, Castelo dos Mouros saw the addition of a chapel and was remodelled under King Sancho I.
However, much of the building of Castelo dos Mouros seen today does not date back to these early turbulent times. Left to decay for several hundreds of years as its defensive importance diminished, it was only in the 19th century that Castelo dos Mouros was restored and a big proportion of the current site formed this project. Nevertheless, there are still signs of the former Moorish inhabitants, including an old cistern.
Castelo dos Mouros today
Open between 9.30am and 8pm each day, Castelo dos Mouros offers history in every footstep you take around this medieval fortress. A great way to see the castle’s moss-covered remains is to follow the signposted walk around the outer walls (measuring 450 metres long), with small areas to sit and admire the views.
Amongst its attractions, Castelo dos Mouros is home to the ruin of a medieval chapel and there is plenty of information on the history around the site. As if there wasn’t already enough on offer, Castelo dos Mouros’ towers also provide stunning views down the mountains to Sintra.
Getting to Castelo dos Mouros
For those who like hiking, there is a relatively easy path up the hill through the forest to the castle from Sintra, and is a short distance from Pena Palace (between 30 and 40 minutes). Otherwise for those driving, you can take the IC19 from Lisbon an park in the town centre and hop on the 434 bus which leads up to the castle.