No visit to Lisbon should be done without the stunning town of Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for the colourful Pena Palace, Castle of the Moors, Palacio Quinta da Regaleira and Monserrate Palace.
Although public transport is available, during our stay at Martinhal Cacais, the helpful team at the hotel assisted me in booking a taxi so we could not only visit Sintra, but go via Cabo da Roca, the most western point of mainland Europe.
Sintra is a popular tourist destination, set in the pine-covered hills of the Serra de Sintra. It is home to fascinating historic buildings, more than ten national monuments and pretty cobbled streets that are lined with traditional houses, shops and cafe’s. On the advise of our taxi driver, we got out in the town centre to explore, before catching one of the regular buses up to visit Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle or Castle of the Moors).
We caught the 434 tourist bus, which is a hop on, hop off service costing us €15 for the family or you can take a Tuk Tuk to the top of the hill.
How the bus driver managed to guide the huge bus around the narrow roads sill surprises me, but we were very grateful that we didn’t have to walk up the steep hills Moorish Castle and Pena Palace.
The first stop was Castelo dos Mourous, a ruined castle which looks of the town of Sintra below. We saved money by buying a joint ticket with Pena Palace and Sebby was free as he is under 5.
The Castelo dos Mouros was established by the North African Moors during the 9th century as its location looking over the Tagus River made it a strategic place to look over Sintra and a good outpost for Lisbon.
The castle fell into disrepair after the Christian conquest of Portugal and as you walk to the castle entrance, you find an archaeological investigation site which was once the location of the medieval Islamic quarter and the Christian graveyard. There were some glass covered trenches which had plastic skeletons inside, much to the delight of the kids and a Historical Interpretation Centre which had various exhibits of items they have found around the castle’s archaeological digs.
The castle itself has high fortified stone walls, treacherous ramparts and massive battlements all of which can be fully explored and the views are amazing!!
The fortification itself consists of two major wall rings that wind itself along granite boulders and cliffs to the top of the mountain.
We started counting the steps and gave up quite quickly. Just be aware that there are A LOT!!
The castle walk is quite scary in places, especially if you have fearless small people in tow. Most of the walls don’t have any safety railings and there are some sheer drops over the sides, the steps were uneven, some paths were very narrow and there are a lot of steep inclines so I would not recommend a visit to those with mobility issues or with very young children.
That being said, the kids loved it here – it’s the perfect location to play knights guarding their castle and they insisted on climbing to the highest points!
The day we visited it was quite misty and murky, so I can only imagine what the views are like on a clear, sunny day, but we enjoyed clear views over the National Palace and some of the other magnificent buildings.
Once you get to the top of the castle you are given the most beautiful view of all – the colourful Pena Palace.
And then it is time to start your descent.
If you visit Sintra then Castelo dos Mouros is well worth the visit, but make sure you take a drink and a snack and wear your most comfortable shoes.
Once we headed out of the castle grounds it was then time to hop back on the bus to head to Pena Palace.
To be continued…………..