The crown on Lisbon’s head is the 11th century Castelo de S. Jorge (St. George’s Castle) and unsurprisingly one of the city’s main attractions. But in my opinion, what makes it so popular is that it caters to those who love history (like me) and those who don’t. Here’s why you shouldn’t miss this incredible monument, and key tips to make the most of your visit.
1. The views. Undoubtedly, one of the coolest aspects of the Castelo de S. Jorge is the incredible views you have over the city. Built to defend the city from foreign invaders, it had to have a great vantage point. Times have changed and, nowadays, foreigners are very welcome there. Even if history isn’t your cup of tea, who can resist such a beautiful view?
2. The ambiance. What’s better than gorgeous views over the city? Gorgeous views over the city with an ice cream in your hand. Or a tasty glass of wine. At the Castelo de S. Jorge, you can have both! Sit on one of the cork seats with a Portuguese red wine, enjoying the sunshine and good conversation – after walking around the castle, you’ve earned it! Or sit back in the shaded gardens with an ice cream. You’ll be in good company: there are plenty of peacocks and other birds also enjoying the ambiance. As an animal lover, though, I beg you to refrain from touching or feeding them. If you’re really hungry, the restaurant within the castle walls, Casa do Leão, boasts gorgeous decor (think azulejos), spectacular views and a reputation for very good food. I haven’t been there yet, but it’s on my list!.
3. The castle. Here’s why this place works for people who love history and for those who are less keen. The latter can simply walking around the walls, climbing up and down the various spaces. And let’s not forget the cool cannons everywhere! Those who, like me, crave more information can simply take a guided tour or learn as you go with one of the booklets.
So now that I’ve convinced you to go, here are my top tips for your visit:
1. With so much to see and with the castle taking center stage, it’s easy to overlook the entrance to the museum. I recommend you go inside and look around, if only briefly. It’s small but very tasteful.
2. Go to the archaeological site. It was being renovated when I last went but it’s worth walking the few extra steps over there. It showcases three different historical periods of Lisbon’s development, dating as far back as the 7th century.
3. Walk all around the walls. Why? Because when you walk all the way to the archaeological site, you get to see completely different views to what you see when you come. If you go all the way to the end, you’ll look out over a gorgeous monastery. As you make your way back, you can admire the Graça neighborhood, with its beautiful convent at the top.
Have you been to the Castelo de S. Jorge? Do you have any other tips? If you haven’t been and have questions, use the comments section below.