The ocher-colored, imposing St George’s Castle is an iconic landmark standing high in Alfama with views over Lisbon and the Tagus waterfront from its turreted, fortified walls. With only a few Moorish wall fragments dating from the sixth century still remaining, the castle we see now was redeveloped over the centuries following King Afonso Henriques’ re-conquest of Lisbon in 1147.
There’s enough to see at the castle to keep everyone happy for several hours. Walks around the ramparts provide far-reaching views of the city below. As much of the medieval castle was given over to housing troops and resisting siege, the fortified ramparts were dotted with defense towers. Now only 11 of the original 18 are still standing and most interesting among these is the Torre de Ulísses (Tower of Ulysses) as it contains a gigantic periscope offering visitors a 360° view of Lisbon.
The castle complex also harbors the partly excavated site of the original Moorish hilltop settlement and the gently crumbling, photogenic remains of the Royal Palace of the Alcácova – it was here that the royal family sought refuge in time of war. Today the Alcácova contains a small museum of archaeological artifacts found during the excavations as well as family-friendly café and the Casa do Leão, one of Lisbon’s top restaurants. The forested gardens surrounding the castle are planted with pine, cork, olive and oak trees, providing a serene respite from the clamor of the city below.
Tram 28 passes close to the castle and bus No 737 from Praça Figueira stops at the gate. Open Nov 1-Feb 28 9am-6pm; Mar 1-Oct 31 9am-9pm. The Periscope and Tower of Ulysses are sometimes closed due to weather conditions. Admission €7.50, students and over 65 €4, family €16; free with the Lisbon Card.