Saint George’s Castle (or Castelo São Jorge in Portuguese) is one of the best things to see in Lisbon. Sitting on top of one of the seven hills in Lisbon, you can’t miss the Castle! It is standing there, majestic and it is a good remainder of the history of Lisbon.
In this post, we tell you all you need to know to prepare your visit of the São Jorge Castle!
What is the history of São Jorge Castle? What can we see there? How to get to the Castle? How much is the entrance? What is the best time to visit?
We cover all these questions in our post. Here you go:
What is the history of São Jorge Castle?
São Jorge Castle was built in the 11th century by the Moors as a fortress to defend the city. Later on the first King of Portugal, Alfondo I, established a castel in honor of the Portugal’s victory on October 25, 1147.
From the 16th to the 19th century, the castle had more of a defensive function, initiated by the integration of Portugal into the Kingdom of Spain. This function has gradually diminished over time. It was later used as a prison and then left in ruins.
Reconstruction work was undertaken at the beginning of the 20th century to restore the splendor to this building, recognized as one the most beautiful castle in Europe!
This tumultuous history shows the importance of the role that the castle plays in the city. Today, it is one of the most visited places in Lisbon. Make sure you don’t miss it during your stay in Portugal.
Who were the Moors?
The designation “Moors” has been used to describe Muslims who ruled Spain and Europeans of African descent – among others – for centuries.
The term was originally used to describe Berbers and people from the ancient Roman province of Mauretania in what is now North Africa.
In the year 711, a group of North African Muslims led by the Berber general Tariq ibn-Ziyad took over the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal). Known as al-Andalus, the territory became a thriving cultural and economic center where education, arts and sciences flourished.
Over time, the grip of the Muslim state diminished, leaving the way open to Christians who sought to reconquer the lost territories. For centuries, Christian groups challenged Muslim territorial dominance in al-Andalus and slowly expanded their territory. La Reconquista (“Reconquest”) culminated in 1492, when the Catholic monarchs Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon won the Granada War and completed the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula. The Moors were expelled from Spain.
How to get to the Castle?
If you do no mind walking uphill for a little while, then reaching the Castle is relatively easy. Wandering through the streets of Lisbon is actually the best things to do in the city. To reach the castle you will walk through the most historical district of Lisbon: Alfama (more about Alfama in this post).
Taking the tramway in Lisbon is actually a very fun experience. Take the legendary tram 28 to visit Alfama and reach São Jorge Castle. Stop at Miradouro Santa Luzia stop, From there you will have to walk the last bit.
Best things to see in São Jorge Castle
When entering the Castle, you enter a place which is almost a thousand year old! How impressive is that! As the Castle dominates the city being located on top of one of the 7 hills, the view is what draw most tourists here. Once you see it, you will understand why!
Visit the garden and admire the view of Lisbon
Actually, what we like the most about São Jorge Castle is definitely the stunning 360 degrees view of Lisbon. When went there on a beautiful sunny day towards the end of the afternoon, and it was just perfect! The temperature was nice, the light was incredible, and the atmosphere overall couldn’t be any better.
Therefore, we highly recommend to pick a day with good weather to visit the castle. Right before sunset is actually the best time.
When you enter the castle there are a few food trucks in the garden serving drinks and snacks. It’s the best time to take a break and enjoy the view of Lisbon!
The archaeological site
If you want to know more about the origins of the castle, then the archaeological site is for you. This set of remains bears witness to three crucial periods that made up the history of Lisbon:
The first known occupations dating back to the 7th century BC. The remains of the construction of the castle, around the middle of the 11th century and the damage caused by the earthquake of 1755.
The giant ramparts and their stairs
The other highlight of the visit is undoubtedly the splendid ramparts that served as a defense during the many conflicts. You can walk pretty much around the entire castle on the ramparts. Again the view of the city from up there, is even more incredible!
Important information about the visit of São Jorge Castle
Entrance: €10 / person (full price); reduced rates: €5/pers for students (13-25 years old) and €8.5/pers for over 65s and disabled people.
Opening hours: Open every day except May 1, December 24/25/31, and January 1. Visiting hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from November 1 to February 28; and from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. between March 1 and October 31.
Duration of the visit: count at least 1h30 to visit the entire castle and walk around the top of the hill to admire the view of the city! The best time to visit the castle is actually during Sunset!
Guide tour: to understand better about the history of the castle, we recommend booking a guided tour. You can also skip the line and access the castle right away with this ticket. Check it out here.
What else to see around the Castle?
As São Jorge Castle is located on top of the Alfama, the most historical district in Lisbon, there are a lot to see around the Castle.
The Alfama district represents the heart and soul of Lisbon! It is our favorite area to visit when traveling to the Portuguese capital. The best way to discover Alfama district is by getting lost on foot. You will discover its cobbled streets full of charm! Alfama is actually the oldest district in Lisbon, the one that survived the terrible earthquake of 1755.
Amongst the best things to do in Alfama, we recommend:
- Santa Maria Cathedral
- Fado Museum
- Santa Luzia Viewpoint
Where to stay in Alfama near São Jorge Castle?
Lisbon Best Choice Apartments Alfama
This hotel offers comfortable and well-equipped apartment right in the heart of the city’s oldest district. The apartment is fully equipped in is perfectly located. Book here.
Hotel Convento Salvador
Hotel Convento do Salvador is a 3-star establishment in the heart of the Alfama district, less than a 10-minute walk from Lisbon train station and the city’s main tourist attractions. This hotel, which takes place in a converted former convent, offers beautiful rooms for two from around €110 per night. Check the availability here.
Best time to visit Lisbon?
Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is blessed with pleasant climate almost all year round. Thus, there is not really a period to avoid when planning your trip.
However, the best time to go to Lisbon is from May to October. This is where the climate is most favorable with sunny weather. There is almost no rain during that time.
Due to the summer holidays, the period from mid-June to September is the busiest period for tourists and prices tend to be much higher. To save money during the summer months, make sure you book your hotel and flight in advance.
In conclusion about São Jorge Castle
Known for its breathtaking beaches and landscapes, Portugal is certainly a destination of choice for many traveler.s And a stop in front of some of its historical monuments is a must if you want to see what Portugal is all about!
In particular in Lisbon, which has one of the most beautiful castles in the world: São Jorge Castle
It goes without saying that this architectural feat is a must in Portugal. We absolutely loved our visit of the Castle and the stunning view from up there!
If you want to know more about the best things to do in Lisbon, check out the list of 25 best things to see in the city here.
Enjoy your visit!
25 BEST THINGS TO SEE IN LISBON: here
10 AWESOME THINGS TO SEE IN ALFAMA: here
10 BEST THINGS TO SEE IN BELÉM: here
DISCOVER ERICEIRA NEAR LISBON: here
30 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN MADEIRA: here
25 BEST THINGS TO SEE IN LANZAROTE: here
BEST THINGS TO SEE IN FUERTEVENTURA: here