When I arrived at Cais do Sodre station, I caught a tuk-tuk to Saint George's Castle built on the highest of Lisbon's hills, one of Lisbon's most visited sights with 360 degree views over the city and Tejo River.
Named by King John I who was married to the English Princess Philippa of Lancaster, after Saint George the warrior Saint, a popular Saint in both countries.
I have on a couple of occasions gone up to the Castle's entrance, but the queues were always enormous, so I never visited inside.
On this day one of the Doctors offered to queue up and bought the tickets while we sat down at a nearby eatery - "The world needs Nata" - and ordered sandwiches and of course the fabulous Portuguese custard tarts or Natas as they are known in Portugal.
Entry tickets costs €8.50, and free for children under 10. The castle is open from 9:00- 21:00 (Mar-Oct) and 9:00-18:00 (Nov-Feb)
|The World needs Nata - sandwiches and Custard tarts|
There are free tours at 1pm and 5pm in Portuguese, English and Spanish, but our visit didn't coincide with one of the English tours.
|Map of the Castle|
The original medieval citadel was built by the Romans, then taken over by the Moors who used it for their defence.
In 1147 the first King of Portugal, Afonso Henriques conquered the castle, expelled the Muslims and opened the door to the Christians. He also moved his Court into the Castle turning it into the Royal Palace.
King Manuel I who reigned during 1495 to 1521 found the Royal Alcáçova Palace of St George unsuitable as a royal residence and ordered the construction of the Ribeira Palace (which no longer exists) near the Tejo river, so the the Castle lost its importance.
An earthquake in 1531 damaged the old castle, but in 1569 King Sebastian ordered the rebuilding of the royal apartments to use it as his official residence. The works were never completed due to the apparent death of the King at the Battle of Alcacer Quibir (Battle of the Three kings) in Morocco.
During the 60 years of Spanish rule the castle was converted into military barracks and a prison. This ended in 1640 when John II, the Duke of Braganza waged the Restoration war and was acclaimed as King John IV.
During the 1755 Lisbon earthquake the castle was destroyed, but was extensively rebuilt after the 1920's Republic government.
|The huge patio from where you have a view of Lisbon and the Tejo River|
|The 25th of April bridge in the distance and the Christ the King Statue in Almada (other side of the river)|
|The Carmo Convent and Church (ruins due to the 1755 earthquake) and the Santa Justa lift next to it (in black)|
|National Pantheon where Kings, Presidents and dignitaries like Amalia and Eusebio are buried|
|Romantic Gardens - ruins of the former Royal Palace of the Alcáçova|
|One of various peacocks in the gardens|
There are 9 zones in the castle, as per the map you are given when purchasing your tickets - which include an archaeological site with objects found in the area, showing the different periods of the history of Lisbon.
There is also a "Dark Room", with an optical system of lenses and mirrors providing 360 deg views of the city in real-time, including the monuments, river and the hustle and bustle of Lisbon. Because there wasn't an English show at the time, we didn't get to see this exhibit.
The Museum houses a collection of objects from the various cultures that inhabited the castle, including some from the Muslim occupation before Afonso Henriques's conquest.
Scenes from the castle - I loved the colourful additions to this house's backyard and the terraced garden backing into the castle's walls, with a sun-room with a view over the city, bliss...
I loved our visit and wouldn't mind going back another time to see what I didn't see this time, the views were just fabulous and the weather was perfect too!
I found this English youtube video of the castle and the neighbouring suburb of Alfama that you might enjoy.
After leaving the castle we walked down the cobbled street until the Santa Luzia Lookout, from where you get a good view of the river where a couple big ships were anchored. It's also a popular place for buskers and we stood there awhile listening to the happy rhythms of an African band.
|Santa Luzia lookout|
We carried on walking down the hill, going inside Lisbon's Cathedral, to take some photos. This Roman Catholic church is the oldest in Lisbon, and it's construction started in 1147. It was also partially destroyed in a couple of earthquakes, the worst being the 1755 earthquake. Was rebuilt in the 20th century to what it is today.
Back to ground level we reach the Commerce Square, which is Lisbon's main square, located where the Ribeira Palace used to be until it's destruction in the 1755 earthquake.
Three sides with symmetrical yellow buildings with arcades face the square while the south side is open to the river.
When the square was first built it was here that ships would unload their goods.
On the north side stands the Rua Augusta Arch through which you reach Rua Augusta (Augusta street), Lisbon's most famous boulevard.
The Arch was built to commemorate the reconstruction of Lisbon after the 1755 earthquake, and was completed in 1873. On top it's adorned with statues of important figures in the Portuguese exploring history. You can also climb this monument, which I did last year.
In the middle of the square is the bronze statue of Joseph I (1750-1777) who was the King during the great earthquake.
It was in this square that on the 1st of February 1908, King Carlos I, the penultimate king of Portugal was assassinated.
The King and his family were on the way back to the Royal palace in Lisbon and while crossing the square shots were fired from the crowd by 2 men, killing the King and the heir Prince Luis Filipe. The men were then shot by the bodyguard, and later recognized as being members of the Republican party.
Prince Manuel was only hit in the arm. Upon the death of his father he ascended to power as King Manuel II, but was overthrown by the Republicans 2 years later.
Walking along the river bank we reached Cais do Sodre station where the 4 of us boarded the train departing to Cascais.
Posts from last year about Lisbon's best lookouts and the Rua Augusta Arch: