The São Jorge Castle (or Saint George castle) crowns the landscape of Lisbon. You can see it almost from any point in the city but, is it worth the visit?
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The first time I traveled to Lisbon, I didn’t visit the castle, didn’t even come closer. I only admired its mysterious air from far.
Sure I had the wish to see it. But on that occasion, besides having already exceeded our budget, we didn’t have enough time either. We limited to have a quick look at the city.
On this second occasion that I returned to Lisbon, we decided it was a must see. I share with you the details here for you to organize your own visit to the São Jorge Castle.
How to get there
The Castelo de São Jorge is located on the historic Alfama district. It’s very easy to get there on foot from there, or from Baixa district. We were staying near Chiado area and we walked there without problems.
The only detail is that the castle is set in a high place and to go walking you have to climb many stairs.
You can get there by taking the famous tram 28 or the number 12, getting off at the Miradouro Santa Luzia stop. You can also take the Elevador do Castelo, situated on Rua dos Franqueiros street, near Praça do Comércio.
You’ll take 2 rides to get until the castle. From the first elevator, you’ll get off in Rua da Madalena. Walk little and inside the Pingo Doce supermarket, there’s another lift which takes you to the castle.
If you don’t have the condition or mood to climb stairs, this is a good option. The best part is that the elevator is free.
If you want to know what else to see and do in Lisbon, check out this post.
Prices and Schedules for São Jorge Castle
The São Jorge castle opening hours vary according to the season. From March to October opens from 9 am to 9 pm. From November to February the closing is at 6 pm. and the last access is 30 minutes before closing.
The price for adults is €10.00. Seniors over 65 pay €8.50. young people between 13 and 25 years old pay €5.00 and children under 12 years old enter for free.
on the Castle’s official site you can find out more information.
A bit of history
São Jorge Castle includes not only the castle but also the ruins of the old palace and part of a residential area. The fortress was built by the Muslims in the middle of the 11th century. It was the home of the governor and the elite whose houses are visible today in the archaeological site.
After Dom Afonso Henriques conquered Lisbon and became the first king of Portugal in 1147, the castle became the residence of royalty. Various modifications and extensions were made to accommodate the king and his court
During the 17th and 18th centuries, Sao Jorge Castle took on a more military role which continued until the 20th century.
After the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 important renovations took place in the old medieval citadel with the creation of new buildings over the old ruins.
The castle and ruins of the former palace were rediscovered during archaeological investigations at the 20th century. Between 1938 and 1940 significant restorations were made so that the Castle can be opened to the public.
Another visit you can do in Lisbon is to the Calouste Gulbenkian museum
My visit to the São Jorge Castle.
We arrived on foot to the São Jorge Castle. On the way, you will see the board signs that guide you to the Castelo. Crossing the Castle’s Arch you are already there. You will also see a figure of St. George on the way.
After buying the tickets and entering the site, the first thing that will catch your attention is Lisbon’s views. From the castle’s viewpoint, you can appreciate the Alfama district, the river, and the beautiful sunset.
Ruins of the Citadel old palace
There are also some arches that belonged to the courtyards and the Romantic Garden of the old medieval Palace. We don’t know how majestic it was in those times, because the palace suffered heavy damage during the earthquake of 1755.
You can visit the permanent exhibition to get an idea of how the palace looked inside. The Café do Castelo and the Casa do Leão restaurant are located in buildings that were also part of the old Royal Palace.
In the permanent exhibition, they display various objects found in the archaeological site. It’s a sample of different styles and cultures present in the area since the 7th century BC until the 18th century.
Still, 11 towers of the castle are standing. Some of the most important are the Tower of the Keep, the Archive Tower, the Cistern Tower, the Palace Tower and the Tower of St Lawrence.
It is possible to climb the wall and walk to all its towers. From there you will also have other views of Lisbon.
In the Archive Tower, which originally contained the royal archives, there is a camera obscura. This is an optical device that allows you to see in 360° the city of Lisbon and its monuments in real time.
It is another attraction that you can see in your visit to Sao Jorge Castle. But as I understand, it can only be accessed if there is good weather. I didn’t enter so I could not tell you if it’s worth it.
Is it worth to visit Sao Jorge Castle?
It depends on what you expect to find. I have read some reviews of people disappointed in their visit.
Keep in mind that it’s not a Palace, it’s a Castle. The building which was the medieval palace is now a café, a restaurant, and a permanent exhibition. Don’t expect to find a furnished palace in the style of other European palaces.
If you enjoy climbing walls and taking aerial photos, you will enjoy it. Also if you like history and archaeological sites you will appreciate this place.
The price is a bit too much for what it is, in my humble opinion. Do I regret having visited it? or Do I believe I could have invested those 10 euros better? Well no, I don’t regret it, although it’s true that I expected more.
It’s a site of great importance in the history of Lisbon. The views are fabulous, especially if you stay at sunset. I will hardly return to Lisbon (at least in the near future) so I think it was worth it.
If it’s the first time you visit Lisbon, and you are not on a tight budget, you should give it a chance. And if you can go with a guide or a guided tour that gives you a background and stories, you might enjoy it more.
I hope you will find my experience at the São Jorge castle in Lisbon useful. Have you already visited the São Jorge Castle? Would you recommend it? or would you like to visit it? Tell me about your experience and point of view in the comments section.
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See you soon and bon voyage!