Castelo de São Jorge, a must visit attraction to see in Lisbon with the Family
ATTENTION: The Castelo de S. Jorge is closed due to the National Preparation and Response Plan of coronavirus (Covid-19). Reopens on June 1st, 2020.
Average visit time 1:30 to 2h
Coming to Lisbon and not visiting São Jorge Castle is like going to Rome and not seeing the Pope.
Although it seems like an obvious tour for those coming to Lisbon for the first time, you should not underrate it. Castelo de São Jorge has much more to offer than you can imagine, and that is why you will find it in any Lisbon tourist guide.
Besides its historic context, the Castel was the main stage of the episode of the conquest of Lisbon in 1147; Castelo de São Jorge has attractions for all ages and interests.
Located on one of the highest hills of Lisbon, its viewpoint offers one of the most stunning views of the city.
Although I have already visited Castelo de São Jorge many times, I never get tired of it, and whenever I have family or friends visiting Lisbon, I volunteer myself to join them to visit the castle.
Why visiting São Jorge Castle with your family?
This monument is one of Lisbon’s greatest Moorish heritage. The fortification was built by Muslims in the middle of the 11th century, having worked as the last stronghold of defense for the elites who lived in the castle. After the conquest of Lisbon, when the King Dom Afonso Henriques with the help of the Crusaders took the city from the Moors, the castle was occupied by Christians.
The castle had some golden moments as a Royal Palace (Paço Real) for the King and his Court. Important moments took place in the Castle, such as the reception made by King Dom Manuel to the navigator Vasco da Gama after returning from India in the 16th century.
But visiting the Castle is not only about history, from the Castle viewpoint, you will also have a breathtaking view of the city, especially the areas of Baixa Pombalina, Praça do Comércio, Avenida da Liberdade, Chiado and the Tagus River.
For families visiting Lisbon with children, they will find here a large outdoor space to relax a little bit with the family.
And finally, the walk to reach the Castle is also enough good reason for visiting it, when you will be able to experience the essence of the traditional Lisbon streets.
What to see on a visit to Castelo de São Jorge with your family?
Buy your tickets at the Ticket Office and enter the Castle through the ticket gate that will lead you directly to the gardens and the viewpoint. My suggestion is turning right and going directly towards the fortification. Explore the gardens and the viewpoint at the end of your visit.
When entering the fortification, climb the stairs to access the walls. From up there, you can see the city from different angles.
Find the Black Chamber where the sessions of the camera obscura take place. Here, an optical system of lenses and mirrors provides 360º detailed views of the city in real-time, including its monuments, most emblematic areas, the river, and the city bustle. You will feel as if you were on a guided tour, but without leaving the place and not spending anything else (the visit is already included in the ticket price). The sessions take place every 20 minutes in different languages (Portuguese, English, French and Spanish) whenever weather conditions allow. Just stand in line at the side of the room and wait for your turn, as the sessions are limited to just 20 people.
After exploring the walls, go back to the garden and allow yourself to relax a little and enjoy the viewpoint.
If you are interested in History and have plenty of time, visit the museum (Núcleo Museológico). They have a collection of objects found in the archaeological area (Núcleo Arqueológico), proving that different cultures occupied Lisbon from the 7th century BC to the 18th century. The emphasis is on the Islamic period of the 11th-12th century.
Visiting Castelo de São Jorge for families with children and the elderly
Visiting the castle usually please children of different ages. Minors will be enchanted by the structure of the castle, its bridge and the peacocks that live freely in the garden. By the way, the castle’s peacocks are quite a spectacle. They walk around showing off and surprising everyone with short flights to reach the tree branches. By the way, their favorite spot is the trees next to the castle’s café.
In case anyone feels hungry, the cafe has some quick snack options and the café might be a nice place for a quick break. You will also find the restrooms next to the café.
Families with children and the elderly must pay special attention while walking in the garden and next to the viewpoint, as the ground is quite uneven. Climbing the stairs to the walls also deserves extra attention as the path is narrow.
How to get to Castelo de São Jorge
The best way to get to the Castle is walking through the streets of Alfama, Mouraria or Sé (the best itinerary will depend on where you start) and feeling the vibe of these most traditional and oldest Lisbon neighborhoods.
But if you have someone with reduced mobility in your group, climbing the slopes to the Castle is out of the question and you’d better take any transport.
The best option is taking bus 737 at Praça da Figueira which will leave you very close to the monument’s entrance.
In case you need more comfort or attention, prefer taking a taxi rather than Uber or other individual passenger transport services by digital platforms. The region around the Castel is one of the “Conditioned Car Access Zones” established by the Lisbon City Council and access to private cars is regulated, however, taxis have free access.
Important tips for visiting the Castelo de São Jorge
• Always check hours and ticket prices on the official website of the Castle.
• Most of the visit is outdoors, remember to plan your visit for a day of nice weather, if possible.
• To avoid queues at the Ticket office, buy tickets in advance on the internet.
• Don’t miss a session in “Camera Obscura”, it is really a must-see, especially if you do not intend to take a guided tour in the city. In just 20 minutes you will have a good summary of the characteristics of the city and some important pieces of Lisbon History.
• Follow the Castelo de São Jorge page on Facebook. Lots of events, guided tours and other educational activities are published there, many of them are dedicated to children.
• Depending on the time of the year, consider visiting the Castle in the late afternoon to enjoy the sunset. Just remember to check the sunset time and the castle closing hours so you can adjust your visiting time.
For further information see the official Castle page https://castelodesaojorge.pt/
Castelo de São Jorge
R. de Santa Cruz do Castelo, 1100-129 Lisbon
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