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Sao Jorge Castle
Retracing History of Lisboa In Sao Jorge Castle
Located above River Tagus, the Sao Jorge Castle was used as a defensive position since the Roman Era. The castle was also the ancient seat of power for Portugal for more than 400 years. Sao Jorge Castle has been rebuilt for many times, but people believe that the castle was fortified for the first time in 48 BC. The castle that is there today was a restoration based on the layout from the 11th century. The castle was taken from the Moors by Afonso Henriques after receiving an order from the Pope to 'free the holy lands'. Afraid of any counter attack by the Moors, Afonso Henriques then strengthened the defensive capabilities of Sao Jorge Castle to improve the survival chances of a frontal attack or extended siege. The outer parts were upgraded to anticipate attacks and to make access difficult.
Walking through the old castle, you will see how the building was not meant as a residence, even though it was also used as a royal palace back then. One of the most popular things about Sao Jorge Castle is the towers. Some of the most outstanding towers are Tower of the Keep, Tower of Riches or Trumbling Tower, Tower of the Palace, Tower of the Cistern, and the Tower of St. Lawrence located on the hillside means for escaping the castle. Visitors can also see a small door on the northern part of the wall known as the Door of Treason. This door was used by secret messengers to enter or exit when needed. Inside the Nucleo Museologico within the old palace building, you can also see a huge drawing that pictures Lisbon before the 1755 earthquake.
Located in the highest hill in Lisbon, Sao Jorge Castle is the perfect place to enjoy the view of the city and River Tagus. Though it will be a pretty challenging walk to reach the castle, especially during the summer, but the view from the top is definitely worth it. There is also a garden with primary native species of Portuguese forest predominate such as cork oak, olive, carob, strawberry, and umbrella pine. The garden was made based on the vegetable garden of the Royal Palace of the citadel. Don't forget to visit the tower of Ulysses as well, where you will find the camera obscura, an optical system of lenses and mirrors that allows you to see 360 degrees detailed views of Lisbon in real time, including the monuments, most emblematic areas, the river and the bustle of the city.
Apart from the castle and the view, visitors can also visit the permanent exhibition in Sao Jorge Castle. The collection displayed here is objects found in the archaeological site, a restricted area within the castle that shows three significant periods in the history of Lisbon. The exhibition shows various cultures and lifestyles from 7 BC until 18th century, a period that contributes in building the modern-day Lisbon.
As Sao Jorge Castle is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Lisbon, during the middle of the day, there will be more crowds. That is why it is recommended to visit the castle in the afternoon. In the afternoon, the weather is not too hot and you can enjoy the sunset from the top of the hill. While you are waiting, you can also buy some drinks or eat ice cream at the cafe inside the castle. The cafe itself is an evidence of the former medieval royal residence with romantic garden and patio. You can also see how the castle is beautifully illuminated at night.
How to Get Tickets?
Tickets for Sao Jorge Castle can be bought online or on the spot. If you don't want to wait in line, you can buy the ticket online. The castle also sells family ticket for 4 persons in a cheaper price. If you happen to buy the ticket on the spot, please be noticed that the last admission is 30 minutes before closing, though it is not recommended as the tour can take up to 90 minutes.
How To Get Around?
Lisbon has choices of public transports that can help you to get around. Some of the tourist attractions can also be reached by metro, buses, and trams for free with the Lisboa card. You can also use this app to help you showing the way.
What Should I Wear?
There is no recommended dress code for visiting Sao Jorge Castle. However, please remember that you will have to walk a lot to reach the castle. If you visit in the middle of the day, the weather can be very hot as well, so it is better to wear light clothes that are comfortable for a long walk.
Best Time to Visit
The castle opens seven days a week, including in Public Holidays and School Holidays from 09.00 - 21.00, except in November to February, where the castle will be closed at 18.00. It is better to avoid visiting in weekend and in the middle of the day as the place can be very crowded. It is recommended to visit the castle at night to see the castle lit up.
Will I Need a Guide?
If you want to know more about the story of the castle, then it is recommended to explore with a guide. There are three guided tours available everyday at 10.30, 13.00, and 16.00 in Portuguese, English, and Spanish. There are also additional tours available, but you will have to pay for the tour.
How To Get There?
To reach the Sao Jorge Castle, you can ride bus 737 that departed from Figueira Square. Another option is to use tram 28.
The castle has made a way for the disable who want to visit the castle with ramps and stair lifts. However, be noted that the steep climb from the city centre through the cobbled streets makes it challenging to reach the castle.