São Jorge Castle in Lisbon
Visit of Lisbon and the São Jorge Castle
Book below your visit to the Castle of Saint George in Lisbon or to the capital. Many guided tours are organized by English-speaking guides who will make you discover Lisbon and its main monuments. All the proposed tours have excellent comments that you can consult freely and can be cancelled quickly in a few clicks in case you have changed your program.
You should know that there is the Lisboa Card in Lisbon. A card that will give you access to many discounts and even free entry for some visits to Lisbon. Discover the main discounts and everything you need to know about the card by consulting the Lisboa Card guide, or click below to order it directly online.
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Introduction to the castle of Saint Georges
The Castle of St. George is a very popular visit to Lisbon and not to be missed. It cultivates its mysterious aspect that attracts many visitors every year: it is indeed one of the most visited monuments in Lisbon. The view from the castle walls is really beautiful, from the hill you can see Lisbon from almost all sides and the castle is made of very old stones that make us jump back in time. Despite all the publicity of Lisbon around the Castle of Saint George, at the top of the hill you can feel an incomparable peace and tranquility. Below you will find some practical and historical information, which will help you to know if you also want to visit the Castle of Saint George in Lisbon.
The Castelo de São Jorge (Saint George Castle) is a sacred place for the Portuguese. It was with the conquest of the Moorish fortress, located on a high hill at the mouth of the Tagus, that Don Alfonso Henriques, on October 25, 1147 created “Portugal” and the city of Lisbon. Don Alfonso Henriques was the first king and founder of the dynasty. The oldest Portuguese legends are associated with this place. Be careful, if you want to visit the most famous castle of the Portuguese capital to enjoy the view, then I advise you to discover the best Miradouros of Lisbon which will also offer you a very beautiful view but which have the advantage of being free here. Visiting the Saint George Castle means taking an interest in the history of Portugal, Lisbon and its architecture.
Saint Georges Castle: route, timetables and tickets
Sao Jorge Castle is easily visible from anywhere in Lisbon as it is located on a high hill above the city. To get there you have several options:
- You can walk to the castle from the Plaza del Comercio and on the way you can see the Lisbon Cathedral, enjoy the views of the city from the viewpoint of Santa Luzia, look at the magnificent azulejo, or visit the Alfama (one of the oldest districts of Lisbon) .
- If you don’t want to walk, you can get to the entrance of the castle by bus 37 or by tram 28 and 12.
- The third option is of course to have a Tuk Tuk, an Uber or a Lisbon Taxi take you there.
An entrance ticket to the castle costs €8.5 or is free for children under 10 years old. The price of the ticket includes a visit to the chamber of the obscura and the archaeological area with a guide who speaks English or Portuguese. The castle is open every day from 9am to 9pm, the entrance is closed 30 minutes before 9pm. In high tourist season there may be queues for tickets, but in the meantime you can pick up a brochure with explanations in several languages next to the ticket office.
What to do at Sao Jorge Castle
Just walk around the castle and enjoy the view from the ramparts and you’ll see that you didn’t come for nothing. Lunch at one of the stone tables can be a great idea, you can bring some food, it is not forbidden. There is only one restaurant nearby (Discover the best restaurants in Lisbon here), prices are a bit high due to the popularity of the place.
I strongly recommend a visit to the darkroom. The chamber of obscura is located in the treasure tower or the archives. As a result, all the royal treasures (tax revenues and royal rents) and state titles have been kept in Torre do Tombo. The Portuguese National Archive still bears the name Torre do Tombo, which literally means Tower of the Archive.
As I said, the visit to the darkroom is organised in Portuguese and English: if you are accompanied on a guided tour, then it will be easier for you to understand everything if you do not speak either of these two languages. The darkroom is a mechanical device of lenses and mirrors that project an image of Lisbon onto a concave mirror. A member of the Castle of Saint George shows and talks about the different monuments and buildings of the capital. With the help of a lever, he moves the image around the mirror and you have a beautiful view of the whole city in 20 minutes. As the projection of the images is done in real time, the dark room of the castle can be closed in bad weather. An element to take into account if it is grey during your visit to Lisbon (Yes, it can happen!).
Of course, you can also climb all the walls of the fortress and take all the pictures you want. You will also be able to discover two buildings with a total area of 160 and 190 square metres, decorated with Moorish style geometric motifs. An important point of the visit to the Saint George Castle since these buildings date from the 11th-12th centuries, that is to say, before the Portuguese period. The charm of the castle is also cultivated by the pretty peacocks that walk freely in the courtyard of the castle.
St. George’s Castle is a very old and very important place for the Portuguese. Here you can see ancient artifacts and relics of antiquity. The walk around the castle is absolutely wonderful and the price of your ticket will be well amortized.
History of Sao Jorges Castle
As confirmed by archaeological excavations, people lived on a high hill above the Tagus River from the 7th to the 8th century BC, long before the first states, cities and borders appeared. Written evidence has been preserved showing that the defensive walls were at the top of the hill in the time of the ancient Romans.
Don Alfonso Henriques (Henriques means son of Henry) defeated the King of Castile, winning the independence of his county and dedicating several years of his life to the wars against the Moors. Needless to say, without this legendary hero, the capture of the last stronghold of the Moors would not have taken place. It is said that the Crusaders succeeded in breaking into the fortress, thanks to the sacrifice of Knight Martim Moniz. The hero found a secret door to the fortress and with a small group of knights entered a battle with the Moors.
The Moniz gate contains a commemorative plaque dedicated to him. The name of the legendary knight Martim Moniz has a large square in the center of Lisbon. In other words, the hero still enjoys the respect of Lisbon’s politicians and inhabitants.
From the moment the castle of St. George was taken, the golden age arrived for the Portuguese capital. All the Portuguese kings kept their official residences in the castle for four centuries, from the 13th to the 16th century.
Naturally, many things were demolished and rebuilt during this period. The king’s palaces are practically empty. Now, in the building that belonged to the royal residence has opened a rather expensive restaurant but the interior is extremely simple and modern. Only the Gothic brick vaults from the old days have survived.
At the end of the 16th century the royal court left the castle of Saint George, at the time of the great geographical discoveries when money was flowing into Portugal. The king felt so confident in his country that he no longer felt the need to protect his residence, the castle of Sao Jorge.
In the area of the castle that belonged to the army there were barracks. The earthquake of 1755 caused extensive damage to the walls of the fortress.
It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that the Castle of Sao Jorge received the honorary title of National Monument and Portugal started the restoration work. This restoration included the demolition of the barracks and other buildings. It is difficult to say exactly how many years old these walls are.