LISBON: St. George Castle

Time to read:

2 minutes

Lisbon is built on seven hills. St. George Castle is an 11th Century Moorish castle and palace ruins that sits on the Alfama hilltop, overlooking Lisbon center.

After a 4-mile subway ride from our hotel, we surfaced at the broad, patterned Commerce Square, from which we could see St. George Castle above on the highest hilltop in the city.

The castle didn’t look all that far. But we were more than half a mile from the base of the hill, where we started to climb.

We elected to get to know the steep streets of Alfama on foot. We bypassed the Elevador de Santa Justa, which carries people from one level of the city to another. We walked along the Tram 28 tracks but ignored them. And we discovered that the temperature increases as quickly as the elevation in Lisbon, even at mid-morning.

Human occupation of the castle hill dates back nearly 3,000 years.

The castle was the residence of Moorish royals until 1147, when it was conquered by Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal. The king enjoyed the help of Englishmen, and that’s why the castle was named after Saint George, the patron saint of England.

The castle is one of the oldest buildings in Lisbon. The early fortifications built here date from the 1st Century BCE.

The castle was a major casualty of the 1755 earthquake. What remains are the main walls, several rebuilt rooms and 18 towers.

From one point or another at the castle, you can see all over Lisbon. Similarly, you can see the castle from almost any place in the city.

The rocky courtyard of the castle.

Longtime residents of the courtyard. Can be safely petted.

The Tagus River had strategic value to the Spanish and Portuguese empires as the approach to Lisbon.

Views from Miradouro da Graça terrace over the city to the River Tagus. The river is about half a mile away at this point, but you can see the Bridge of the 25th of April (named for the start of the Carnation Revolution in 1974). Right under the mouth of the cannon (and across the river) is the famous Statue of Christ the King. We never got close enough for a good photo.

View from the castle wall to the Tagus.

Flag of Portugal over St. George Castle. Green symbolizes hope for the future, red the blood of the nation. National coat of arms where the colors meet.


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