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Lisbon Castle, Castelo de Sao Jorge Guide
Lisbon castle, the Castelo de Sao Jorge, stands majestically above central Lisbon and was the ancient seat of power for Portugal for over 400 years. Much of the present castle dates from the 1920s when a significant restoration project was undertaken but this does not detract from the allure of the castle.
The view from Lisbon castle over the Baixa district
The battlements of Castelo de Sao Jorge provides fantastic views of the Baixa district and the Rio Tejo (River Tagus) while the fortified citadel is steeped in history. The walk to the castle can be draining during the summer but Lisbon castle is one of the best tourist attractions of the capital.
Tourist Guide for Lisbon Castle Castelo de Sao Jorge
The entrance fee is for Lisbon castle is €8.50/€5.00/€20.00 adult/child/family. The castle is open every day from 09:00 to 21:00 (peak season) and 09:00 to 18:00 (low season). The nearest metro station is Rossio (Green Metro Line) but involves a 20 minute walk.
The battlements of Lisbon castle high above the capital
Mini bus service 37 goes directly to the main entrance, while the quaint tram 28 is more enjoyable option but does require a slight walk. Remember to take a bottle of water. Due to positioning of castle it is unsuitable for tourists with limited mobility.
Lisbon Castle History
The excellent vantage point of Castelo de Sao Jorge high above the River Tejo made it a prime defensive position and the site has been used since the Roman era. The reconstructed castle and battlements that can be viewed today are based on the layout from the 11th century and the introduction of Christianity to Portugal, as part of the second crusade. Before 1147 Lisbon was an important Moorish trading port with strong ties to North African heartland.
The fortified central keep of Lisbon castle
Afonso Henriques had answered the Popes call to “free the holy Lands” as part of the second crusade and with his army drove the Moors from Lisbon and surrounding lands. The victory is romantically remembered as the liberation of Lisbon but Alfonso’s mercenary army consisted of drunks and thieves, who once freed Lisbon from their slavery promptly sacked the city.
Afonso Henriques claimed the crown of Portugal and sensing a counter attack from the Moors built the Castelo de Sao Jorge high on the defensive position. The fear of counter attack was incorporate into the design of the original castle, with the citadel the last line of defense. Successive kings of Portugal strengthened the defensive capabilities of Castelo de Sao Jorge to improve the survival chances of a frontal attack or extended siege.
The Lisbon castle at the centre of the capital
The walls, cellars and wells were upgraded to withstand long sieges and defensive fortifications improved to make access difficult. The gradient leading to the main entrance was increased and a sharp 180 degree corner included preventing deployment of battering rams or cavalry charges. Other features which can still be found within the castle included; traitor gates, false doors and the entire surface stepped to provide maximum protection for defenders.