Visiting the Castle of São Jorge – Lisbon, Portugal

By - May 28, 2012 (Updated: March 9, 2015)

This entry is part 5 of 23 in the series Portugal & Andalusia 2012.
Entering the Castle of São Jorge, in Lisbon, Portugal

Entering the Castle of São Jorge, in Lisbon, Portugal

We love to explore castles and on our recent tour of Portugal and Andalusia, we saw European castles of all shapes and sizes. Our first castle visit of the trip was the Moorish  Castle of São Jorge, in Lisbon.

The Castle of São Jorge, or Castelo de São Jorge in Portuguese, has a commanding position atop one of the many hills of Lisbon. Its walls can be seen from various points in the lower town, or Baixa.

The Castle of São Jorge towers over the Baixa of Lisbon

The Castle of São Jorge towers over the Baixa of Lisbon

The castle, as it appears today, originates primarily from Medieval times, but remains of the first fortifications on this hilltop date from the 2nd century BC. The hill has been home to Celts, Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians, followed by Roman, Suebic, Visigothic, and Moorish settlers; each tribe leaving their own stamp on the castle.

São Jorge was finally won by King Afonso Henriques, from the Moors, during the Second Crusade. The castle became Lisbon’s primary defense against further Moorish invasion. In 1255, it also became the royal palace, known as the Alcáçova. Celebrated explorer Vasco da Gama was given a reception here, in 1498, after his return from discovering the route to India.

In the 16th century, a new castle was built on the Tagus River and São Jorge became neglected. It was further damaged in the 1531 earthquake and again during the great earthquake of 1755.

Finally, in 1940, after stints as a prison, archive and a charitable institution for poor children, the Castle of São Jorge underwent extensive renovation and restoration and became the tourist attraction it is today.

The Moorish towers of the Castle of  São Jorge

The Moorish towers of the Castle of São Jorge

One of the highlights of a visit to the Castle of São Jorge is the stunning view of Lisbon. From the walls, you can see the Tagus River, the ruins of the Carmo Convent, the Santa Justa Lift, and the Christ the King statue on the opposite side of the river.

Cristo-Rei - The Christ the King statue, Lisbon

Cristo-Rei – The Christ the King statue, is visible from the castle walls

Views of Lisbon from the castle walls

Views of Lisbon from the castle walls

Walking along the narrow walls, you can almost imagine the settlers through the ages, looking out over their beautiful kingdom.

Andrew surveys his kingdom from the castle walls

Andrew surveys his kingdom from the castle walls

Strolling the walls on a sunny day

Strolling the walls on a sunny day

The castle is also home to a number of friendly stray cats and a flock of well fed peafowl who lurk around the castle’s cafe.

A visit takes a few hours and costs 7.50€ for adults and 4.00€ for students and seniors. Children under 10 years get in for free.

One of the best ways to reach the castle is by one of Lisbon’s iconic trams, although if you don’t go early, the lines to board are long and the trams are packed. You can also choose to walk up the hill as we did (justifying a  Portuguese wine tasting at lunch) and admire the beautiful azulejos, or tiles, along the way.

Stay tuned for one last post from Lisbon, and many more from our Portugal and Andalusia adventure.

Love castles, palaces, and ruins like in this article? Us too! Don’t miss the full listing of Castles we’ve visited in Europe and beyond.

Read more from this series...

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Alison Cornford-Matheson
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
Alison Cornford-Matheson
- 35 mins ago


  1. Comment by Wandergirl

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Wandergirl May 28, 2012 at 16:27

    We walked up the hill too, but somehow got hopelessly lost with another travelling couple. Haha. We didn’t actually pay to go inside, but wandering about the little shops and restaurants by the castle was fun too. Lovely views of Lisbon!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison Cornford-Matheson

      Alison May 29, 2012 at 09:49

      Even if you don’t make it into the castle, it’s a lovely part of the city to wander around 🙂

  2. Comment by De Toornige Tjiftjaf

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    De Toornige Tjiftjaf May 29, 2012 at 11:00

    Lisbon is a beautiful city, including the castle of Saõ Jorge. It has so many different places, but all of them are brilliant in their own way. I definitely want to go back once! The Jerónimos Monastery in Belem is also worth a visit!

  3. Comment by Cristina (@thetravolution)

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Cristina (@thetravolution) May 30, 2012 at 22:14

    Thanks for sharing your photos Alison! I didnt get a chance to tour the castle when I was there – it was a scorching hot day and the line up was really long. But glad I could catch a glimpse here!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison Cornford-Matheson

      Alison May 31, 2012 at 08:57

      You’re welcome Cristina! Thanks for stopping by 🙂 The castle certainly isn’t a great place to be in the heat. It was nice and sunny when we visited, but luckily not too hot.

  4. Comment by Claudia

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Claudia August 4, 2012 at 13:04

    Hi, Alison! I visited the castle early in 2011 and was delighted with the building, the peacokcs and the cats. Someone has told the cats aren’t there anymore, but it seems that’s not true, is it?

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison Cornford-Matheson

      Alison August 6, 2012 at 09:27

      Hi Claudia, I’m happy to report there are still plenty of peacocks and cats wandering about the castle (at least there were when I was there in April). Anyone looking for a kitty-fix in Lisbon should head up to the castle as many of the cats are very friendly 🙂

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