Historic São Jorge Castle, Lisbon

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São Jorge Castle, or Castelo de São Jorge or St. George’s Castle, is a historic castle and one of Lisbon’s most iconic landmarks.

Located on top of the São Jorge hill, the highest in Lisbon, right next to the historic Alfama District, São Jorge Castle provides impeccable views of the city apart from being a treasure trove of Portuguese history.

City view of Lisbon with Sao Jorge Castle.
São Jorge castle from Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara
Sao Jorge castle gate.
São Jorge castle gate

History of Lisbon’s São Jorge Castle

The history of São Jorge Castle dates to the 2nd century BCE when the first fortifications were built. However, the castle we see today started shaping up sometime in the 11th century when the Moors built the first medieval fort walls.

The Kingdom of Portugal seized the castle from the Moors in the 12th century, after which the castle served as a royal palace for many years. It was called the Royal Palace of the Alcáçova.

Over time, the palace came to house an official records archive, a theater, and a royal menagerie with two African lions. Even today, you can see many peacocks roaming the grounds of the São Jorge Castle.

Like many other buildings in Lisbon, São Jorge Castle also suffered heavy damage during the devastating earthquake of 1755. The castle was completely restored in 1938.

Archeological remains of Medieval fort.
São Jorge castle archeological site

Architecture of São Jorge Castle in Lisbon

The castle, made of stone and granite, has a square plan and 11 medieval towers called the Torre. Moorish in origin, these towers remind you of Sintra’s Castle of the Moors.

The castle was once partially surrounded by a moat, which is now dry. A bridge over the dry moat leads you into the castle.

São Jorge Castle.
São Jorge Castle

São Jorge Castle once served as a part of a complex fortification system designed to protect the city of Lisbon. The castle was always the last to fall since it was built on the highest hill.

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What to see at São Jorge Castle?

At São Jorge Castle, you can see the ruins of the Royal Palace of Alcáçova, not much of which remains today. A few rooms that you can tour are the Ogival Room with pointed arches, the Room of Columns, the Cistern Room, and the remains of St. Michael’s Chapel. The rooms now function as a small onsite museum.

Arch to the castle.
Castle archways

Inside the castle complex, there are two public squares – Place of the Arms and the New Square. The Place of the Arms Square is one of the best viewpoints in Lisbon and provides panoramic views of the city. The square also features a few medieval cannons.

São Jorge Castle Square.
São Jorge Castle Square

At the New Square, you’ll find an archeological site where the earliest traces of human habitation, dating to the 6th century BCE, were discovered.

Walk on the medieval walls of the castle and enjoy gorgeous views of the city. The Ulysses Tower has a camera obscura that gives you a 360-degree view of the city.

São Jorge Castle walls.
São Jorge Castle walls

Interesting Facts

São Jorge Castle is located on the highest hill in Lisbon. Therefore, it provides stunning views over Lisbon’s Historic District and the Tagus River.

City view of Lisbon from Sao Jorge Castle.
Views from São Jorge castle

The São Jorge Hill on which the castle is located is where humans first settled in Lisbon. Traces of human habitation found on the hill go back to the 6th century BCE.

For a long time, São Jorge Castle was home to the Royal Family of Portugal, including many Portuguese kings such as Alfonso III, King Denis I, and King Manuel I.

São Jorge Castle was a venue for hosting royal events and important guests. In 1498, King Manuel I hosted a banquet for Vasco da Gama at the castle when he returned home after discovering the oceanic route to India.

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Practical Information for Visiting São Jorge Castle in Lisbon

São Jorge Castle Tickets

You need a ticket to enter the castle grounds. Tickets are priced at €15 per person. Young people between the ages of 13 and 25 pay only half the price, and children under 13 can enter for free.

There’s usually a long queue at the castle for tickets. It is highly recommended that you buy your online ticket for São Jorge Castle here.

The best way to see the castle is on this immersive guided tour with a local, where you will learn all about the castle’s history and its role in Portuguese history.

São Jorge Castle Opening Hours

São Jorge Castle is open 9:00 am – 9:00 pm every day of the week in summer (Mar – Oct). The castle is open 9:00 am – 6:00 pm every day of the week in winter (Nov – Feb). The last admission is 30 minutes before the gate closes.

How to get to São Jorge Castle in Lisbon?

São Jorge Castle is located on the top of São Jorge Hill, on Rua de Santa Cruz do Castelo. To get to the castle, you can take bus number 737 to Castelo bus stop, Tram 28E to Santa Luzia Viewpoint tram stop, or Rossio Metro to Praça de Figuera metro stop. From all these stops, the castle is a short walk away.

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Bio: Soumya from Stories by Soumya

Soumya from Stories by Soumya
Soumya from Stories by Soumya

Soumya Gayatri is a history enthusiast who has explored hundreds of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Her writings about heritage travel have been published in BBC Travel and Architectural Digest. Through her travel blog, Stories by Soumya, she helps people plan immersive cultural trips around the world. Follow Soumya on Pinterest and Facebook.

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Pinterest images of city view with São Jorge Castle and Castle fortification.
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