The Castelo de São Jorge is one of Lisbon’s most distinctive monuments

The impressively sited Castelo (daily: March–Oct 9am–9pm; Nov–Feb 9am– 6pm; e3) is perhaps Lisbon’s most splendid monument, an enjoyable place to spend a couple of hours, wandering amid the ramparts looking down upon the city.

Beyond the main gates stretch gardens and terraces, walkways, fountains and peacocks, all lying within heavily restored Moorish walls. At first the Portuguese kings took up residence within the castle – in the Alcáçova, the Muslim palace – but by the time of Manuel I this had been superseded by the  new royal palace on Terreiro do Paço.

Of the Alcáçova only a much-restored shell remains. This now houses Olisipónia (daily 10am–1pm & 2–5.30pm), a multimedia exhibition detailing the history of the city. Portable headsets deliver a 35minute commentary presenting aspects of Lisbon’s development through film, sound and image, and while it glosses over some of the less savoury chapters of the past – such as slavery and the Inquisition – it’s a useful introduction to the city. Built into the ramparts, the Tower of Ulysses contains a Câmara Escura (March–Oct 10am–1pm & 2–5.30pm, every 30min), a periscope focusing on sights round the city with English commentary – though the views are almost as good from the neighbouring towers.

Outside the castle complex but still within the castle’s outer walls is the tiny medieval quarter of Santa Cruz, still very much a village in itself, with its own church, school and bathhouse. Just below the castle to the north and west sprawls the old Mouraria quarter, to which the Moors were relegated on their loss of the town. North of the castle, meanwhile, Calçada da Graça leads up to the Graça district and the Miradouro da Graça, which offers stunning views across the city.

Loading...
Loading...