Lisbon's highest and best view can be enjoyed from the Castelo de Sao Jorge (São Jorge Castle) on the top of São Jorge Hill.
Declared a National Monument, the mighty 11th century fortification built during the Moorish period is a must-see for anyone visiting Lisbon. The complex includes an archeological site and a small museum with finds from ongoing archaeological excavations.
The spectacular views from the top and the historical significance of São Jorge Castle make the visit a remarkable experience and explain why it is one of the most visited monuments in Portugal.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know before visiting the castle, including its attractions, history, tickets and opening hours.
Let’s dive in!
Things to do at São Jorge Castle
Exploring the historical landmark São Jorge Castle offers visitors the opportunity to learn about Lisbon's history and Portugal's rich heritage. It's also a great place for families, as children can explore the castle grounds with its many cannons and ramparts while pretending to be knights.
São Jorge Castle consists of a square shaped castle, the remnants of the former Royal Palace, the ruins of the elite residential areas of the former Alcáçova and a large garden. Since the premises are very extensive, a visit usually lasts 1-2 hours.
Discovering the medieval castle, surrounded by millennia-old castle walls, you can travel back in time to the city's past. Here are the castle’s must-sees:
- Towers: There are a total of eleven towers, the most exceptional being the Tower of the Keep, the Tower of Riches, and the Tower of St. Lawrence on the hillside. Here is where you can take the most amazing panorama pictures of Lisbon.
- Ramparts: Visitors can gain access and walk on the ramparts via three staircases leading up the sides of the walls.
- Cannons: All over the castle grounds, you can run into old cannons that once protected the city.
- Door of Treason: This small door, located on the north wall, was actually used by secret messengers, which explains the name Door of Treason.
- Cistern: The cistern that was used to collect and store rain water still remains and can be found in the Tower of the Cistern.
- Moniz Gate: Moniz Gate is the most famous of the three gates. This is because of a legend about the noble knight Martim Moniz, who is said to have died here when his body was thrown between the open gate to stop it from closing. This made it possible for the Christians to conquer the city from the Moors.
- Porta de São Jorge: This large gate leads to the castle grounds, where a figure of São Jorge (St. George) can be found in a small niche in the wall on the left.
- Camera Obscura: Read below information about this special device, which is located in the Tower of Riches.
2. Permanent Exhibition
The permanent exhibition, housed in the buildings from the former Royal Palace of the Alcáçova, is the ideal place to find out about the past lifestyles of the various settlements.
The collection displays a number of objects excavated from the archaeological site. Visitors get an introduction to the different cultures and ways of life from the 7th century BC to the 18th century that played a major role in the construction of today's Lisbon.
A special focus is placed on the Moorish period from the 11th to the 12th century.
3. Archeological Site
The Archaeological Site houses impressive ruins that shed light on three important periods in Lisbon's history.
These include the following three eras:
- The first known settlements from the 7th century BC
- The remains of the residential area from the Moorish period, from the time when the castle was built (mid-11th century).
- The remnants of the elite residential areas of the former Alcáçova, demolished by the earthquake of 1755.
4. Camera Obscura
One of the most remarkable showpieces of Castelo de São Jorge is the Camera Obscura, also known as Black Chamber, an optical system of mirrors and lenses. It is situated in the Tower of Riches (or Trumbling Tower) and is open from 10:00 to 17:00.
What makes it special is that it allows you to take a 360-degree view of Lisbon in real time, showing its many historical sites, landmarks, inhabitants and more.
Tip: It is best to visit this site in the morning, as the light quality is better then.
5. Ruins of the former Royal Palace of the Alcáçova
While touring the castle complex, visitors come across remnants of the former Alcáçova Royal Palace. The buildings that now house the permanent exhibition, café and restaurant, as well as parts of the courtyards and the Romantic Garden are reminiscent of the Royal Palace, which was damaged by the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.
You can find a copy of a 16th century drawing at the entrance to the permanent exhibition, which shows the former medieval royal residence and the city of Lisbon before the severe earthquake.
6. View from São Jorge Castle
Thanks to its prime location on top of the highest point in Lisbon, São Jorge Castle offers an unrivalled panoramic view of the city.
Great views can be enjoyed throughout the premises, including the garden.
Climb one or even all eleven towers and get a sweeping view of the entire city and the Tagus River, while feeling a gentle sea breeze on your face.
Take advantage of the huge Castle Terrace right at the entrance gate with 360° views of Lisbon, including a sea of orange roofs in the Baixa district and sights like the Elevador de Santa Justa and the Christo Rei statue. The viewpoint with the bronze statue of the first King of Portugal is also a magical spot to watch the sunset in Lisbon.
7. Garden of São Jorge Castle
São Jorge Castle is home to a picturesque garden, a haven of tranquility, which invites visitors to unwind. While taking a stroll through the romantic garden, you can encounter beautiful peacocks, ducks and geese freely walking around.
This lovely place also has picnic areas where you can enjoy a slow afternoon with friends and family.
Moreover, the green lung is the only place in the city where the original native species of the Portuguese forest are still prevalent. You can see olive trees, cork oaks, umbrella pines and lots of fruit trees.
8. Café & Restaurant at São Jorge Castle
After a day of sightseeing, the café and restaurant welcome guests for a break and refreshment. You can relax and have a snack at the café near the permanent exhibition, or enjoy a delicious meal at the Casa do Leão Restaurant near the Palace Tower.
The restaurant is open daily from 12:30 to 23:00.
9. Events & Activities
São Jorge Castle hosts all kinds of activities and events throughout the year.
You can see the upcoming events on the official website. (only in Portuguese)
Important: We highly recommend wearing comfortable walking shoes when you visit, as you will be doing a lot of walking. You will also have to walk over uneven ground, steep stairs and through ruins.
Entrance, Tickets, and Tours of São Jorge Castle
- Entrance: São Jorge Castle is open every day from 9:00 to 18:00 (November to February) or 9:00-21:00 (March to October).The castle is closed on January 1, May, December 24 and 25. Admission to São Jorge Castle is free for children aged 11 and under, for the accompanying person of disabled persons and Lisbon residents.
- Tickets: The regular ticket prices are 10€. Check the up-to-date ticket prices here. Since there are usually long queues at the ticket office onsite, we recommend buying online tickets.
- Guided Tours: The entrance ticket includes two free guided tours. There is a 15-minutes Cambera Obscura Tour (10:00 – 17:00) and a 15-minute guided tour of the archeological site (10:30 – 17:00). They are held in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. Admission is granted by order of arrival. In addition to the 15-minute free tours, 1-hour tours by experts are also provided. You can choose from the guided tour "Discover the Castle" (10:30 - 16:30) and various themed tours (11:30 - 16:30). For more information, visit the official website.
- Travelers' Tips: Visitors who want to get to know the history as well as the culinary side of the historic Alfama neighborhood will enjoy the self-guided Taste of Alfama Tour by YourMobileGuide. The Audioguide will lead you to the most important sights of the city’s oldest neighborhood, while also introducing you to the taste of Lisbon.
How to Get to Castelo de Sao Jorge?
The São Jorge Castle is located on the top of São Jorge Hill, Lisbon's highest hill, in the Alfama neighborhood.
From Praça do Comércio: Take the bus 737 and go 4 stops to Castelo station. The bus stops close to the entrance of Sao Jorge Castle.
Another option is taking the Tram 28 to Portas do Sol station. You will have to climb 300 meters the hill up, but you will be rewarded with a great view.
Frequently Asked Questions about Castelo de Sao Jorge
The Castelo de São Jorge is situated on the peak of São Jorge Hill, Lisbon's highest hill, in the Alfama district.
Castelo de São Jorge is open every day. In the winter season (November to February), it is open from 9:00 to 18:00 and in summer (March to October) from 9:00 to 21:00. The castle is closed on January 1, May, December 24 and 25.
The easiest way to get to Sao Jorge Castle from Praça do Comércio is to take the bus 737, which stops at Castelo station after 4 stops. The bus arrives near the entrance gate of Sao Jorge Castle.
Another option is taking the Tram 28 to Portas do Sol station. You will have to climb 300 meters the hill up but you will be rewarded with a great view.
Castelo de São Jorge is a fortification constructed by the Moors in the mid-11th century. Before that, however, there was a small fortress on this site, built by the Visigoths in the 5th century, which the Moors strengthened and rebuilt for their fortification.
Historical Facts & Info about Castelo de Sao Jorge
Perched on the peak of the highest hill in Lisbon, São Jorge Castle is a fortification constructed by the Moors in the mid-11th century. Before that, however, there was a small fortress on this site, built by the Visigoths in the 5th century, which the Moors strengthened and rebuilt for their fortification. The castle was built as a military base, with the task of housing troops and members of the elite in the event of a battle or invasion.
With the conquest of the castle by the first Portuguese king Afonso Henriques in 1147, São Jorge Castle fell into the hands of the Christians and subsequently experienced its heyday as a residence for the royalty. For this purpose, the castle was enlarged and transformed to a Royal Palace to provide space for the king, his court and the bishop. São Jorge Castle witnessed its most important period in the 13th-14th centuries.
From 1580, when Portugal became part of the Spanish Crown, until the beginning of the 20th century, São Jorge Castle had mainly a military function as military barracks.
Extensive renovations were carried out after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and again between 1938 and 1940. Archaeological research and ongoing excavations have shown the historical significance of the site, which is why São Jorge Castle was declared a National Monument in 1910.
Contact & Map
- Address: Castelo de São Jorge, R. de Santa Cruz do Castelo, 1100-129 Lisboa, Portugal
- Opening Hours: Every Day, 9:00-18:00 (Nov-Feb) and 9:00-21:00 (Mar-Oct)
- Public Transport: Bus 737, Castelo Stop
- Official Website: CasteloDeSaoJorge.pt/en/
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