Walking the walls of the Moorish Palace

Traveling throughout Spain before Portugal, I had already been introduced to the Moorish structures of the 8th & 9th century. The Moors definitely specialized in beautiful tiled palaces and creating amazing shaded gardens & architectural buildings to hide from the hot Iberian sun. These previous sites though all have been taken over, well preserved, and used by Spain’s royalty. The Moorish castle though is a true medieval military outpost.

Moorish Castle in Sintra, Portugal
Moorish Castle in Sintra, Portugal
Moorish Castle in Sintra, Portugal
Moorish Castle in Sintra, Portugal

Also known as Castelo dos Mouros, the Castle was built by the Moors over 1,000 years ago. Christian forces as part of the Reconquista took it over in 1147. The Christian King continued to use the Castle and added to it as a important strategic military outpost, however it still maintains much of the Moorish architecture as it was largely untouched from the 13-19th century. In the 19th century, it was repaired & reconstructed from neglect & the 17th century earthquake, but it still feels as though you are about to go on an adventure and truly defend the medieval fortress.  The castle is really a 450 meter perimeter of walls following the natural mountain cliffs… And you have free reign to wander the walls, climb the towers and peer through the niches into the valley below with sheer drop-offs.

The approach to the Castle from the Pena Palace is fortunately downhill and then a slightly uphill walk through a forested walkway.  There are two main outpost areas. At one end, you look down onto the historical centre. There are several towers that you can climb up for better panoramic views. Some of the walkways have room for one person only with about 10 foot drop-offs to pit areas below. You have to scoot to one of the corners for people crossing. After 11 months running around Europe, I have become accustomed to these “dangers”, but saw many American tourists cringing. Europe definitely has a “common sense” approach and everything is not 100% safeguarded, but again this keeps to the authenticity of the fortress and you can get a sense of what archers would have navigated running the ramparts.  The other main highpoint has beautiful views of Pena Palace.  The views are stunning, especially at sunset. A unique look at medieval history in Portugal.

Moorish Castle in Sintra, Portugal
Moorish Castle in Sintra, Portugal