Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Portugal - Saint George's Castle & Commerce square - Lisbon

On Sunday 10th of September,  I caught the train from Cascais into Lisbon to meet up with the 3 Doctors in the city. 
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
After lunch we went inside the castle and wandered around for about 2 hours climbing up and down the towers...
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.

On top of one of the Castle's 11 towers

The Portuguese flag (red/green) and the Flag of Lisbon
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.
Lisbon's Cathedral
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:


  1. You are a great tourist guide! :)

    Lisbon is a beautiful city.


    1. Obrigada Catarina. Ainda nao tinha terminado e devo ter carregado no botao de publicar e so uns 10 minutos depois me apercebi do que fiz. Agora ja esta!

  2. Replies
    1. Obrigada Francisco, boa semana para si tambem.

  3. Wow! I'd definitely love to visit the castle! The views are wonderful!

    1. They sure are Christine, breathtaking views.

  4. That has filled in a lot of knowledge gaps for me. I wondered about the Carmo Convent ruins, which we saw from the viewing platform above an elevator.

    1. Yes, you would see the Carmo Convent from the Santa Justa lift. It's there as a reminder of the destruction.
      Thanks Andrew.

  5. What incredible views. I had never heard of the castle or know very much about Portugal at all. You are sharing some incredible experiences I would never see had it not been for your knowledge and your photos.

    Once again, I'm in awe of the beauty of the castle, as well as the Cathedral and square. It's a wonderful trip to Lisbon and the beautiful places you shared with us.

    1. Glad you're enjoying the trip Elizabeth. That is what I call "armchair traveling" and I also enjoy getting to know places other bloggers have visited, so much fun!

  6. Just read your voting question. It was for four of our six City Council members and one new Board of Education position.

    Seems we spent a lot of money for fewer than 8000 people voting out of a city of 250,000. Of course, not all are voters, but about 8000 were yesterday.

    1. thanks for clarifying Elizabeth about the voting.

  7. Espero calcorrear estes locais lá para Junho/Julho

    1. Que bom Pedro. Sou capaz de la voltar em Abril para um casamento.

  8. Now that is one nice Doctor you have there!
    The sandwich looks yummy.
    Didn´t think the area is so prone to earthquakes.
    That´s a beautiful view from up there, aww, and the Romantic Gardens.
    The colorful yard sure stands out and the video sure is well done.
    Such nice buildings and quite a history, thank you, Sami!
    I think one day we´ll see it for ourselves, too.

    1. All the Drs were great and so happy that I was there to show them around. The last earthquake was in 1755, although there have been small earthquakes along the years but nothing that bothered anyone. Hopefully nothing happens again!
      I enjoyed the video too and was glad I found it as it showed the castle and surrounding area so well.
      You should visit Portugal one day, maybe sometime in the future we can even meet there.

  9. What a beautiful city, loved seeing all of your photographs.
    So pleased you were able to meet up with '3 Doctors in the city'.

    All the best Jan

    1. Thanks Jan, Lisbon has a lot of charm, and of course love all the old buildings and history attached to them. But that is Europe.

  10. Replies
    1. Obrigada Marta, sem duvida é uma cidade bonita.

  11. Gosh Sami what wonderful posts about your holiday, what a lot of work putting them together for us to enjoy, merci beaucoup. Loved our catch-up last week, we must do it again soon xx

    1. Thanks Grace, it does take a while to prepare the text and photos, but it's also a way to remember the wonderful holidays.
      Enjoyed the meet-up too, probably after Christmas when things life gets quieter... Have a lovely weekend.

  12. What an incredible cathedral!

    Looking out over the city, I am struck with the thought of how many people there are in our world.

  13. Thanks for your visit Sandi. I agree there are a lot of people in our world, and it keeps on growing.

  14. Dearest Sami,
    It is always such a joy to be able to visit Lisbon again, whenever you post about this beautiful city. WISH both of us could go back again...
    I've just started with my publication about our trip to South Africa. We have been always years behind, never finding time to settle and ENJOY our memories. So this is now my TOP priority and cleaning of the house, is to the back burner. I can do that later.
    We hope that God grants us enough time for enjoying so many memories together!

    1. I agree with you Mariette, make the best of the present time and may God give you enough time to enjoy the wonderful memories of the places you visited together. Looking forward to your posts.


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