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St George’s Castle

An impressive Moorish castle, overlooking the historic centre of Lisbon and the Tagus River.

TravelCurious Tip

Watch out for the peacocks...

St George’s Castle occupies the foremost strategic position in Lisbon, sat atop its highest hill. Fortifications have existed here since the Iron Ages, and its military value was acknowledged by the Romans and Visigoths, but the current structure was built in the middle of the 11th Century, during the Moorish Era. Following the ‘Reconquista’, when the Portuguese took back the Iberian peninsula from the Moors, the castle became the main residence of Portuguese kings.


Paranoid Palace

The castle complex is encased in formidable outer walls which offer outstanding views of the city and sea below. Inside, a parade ground and beautifully maintained gardens lead you towards the citadel, which is sealed off by ramparts connecting eleven crenellated towers. You can walk from tower to tower, and get some impression of what a forbidding place this would have been to attack.


Indeed subsequent Portuguese kings were quite paranoid about the Moors making a return. They had the walls, cellar and wells of the castle upgraded to withstand long sieges. The slope leading to the main entrance was made steeper and a sharp turn was added to prevent the use of battering rams or cavalry changes.


Putting Your Body On the Line

The entrance to the castle, the Gate of Martim Moniz, was dedicated to a noble Portuguese knight of the same name. Legend has it that he was part of the Christian invasion lead by King Afonso Henrique during the reconquest of Lisbon. He led an attack during the siege of St George’s Castle and managed to prevent the gates shutting by putting his own body in the way. That rush of blood to the head obviously killed him, but his body wedged the gates open and the castle was taken.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Lisbon
Roman Theatre Museum
The site of a 1st century Roman theatre, situated on the slope of St. George's Castle.
Lisbon Cathedral (Sé de Lisboa)
This impressive Roman Catholic cathedral dates from 1147 and has survived a number of earthquakes.
Alfama
Lisbon's labyrinthine oldest district houses a variety of historical churches, fado bars and restaurants.
Commerce Square
This beautiful seafront square was the location of the Royal Ribeira Palace until the 1755 earthquake; it was remodelled as a centre for customs administration.
Baixa Pombalina
A particularly elegant district of Lisbon, the Lower Town was among the world's first earthquake-resistant constructions.
Portas do Sol
A spectacular viewpoint looking out over Lisbon and the Tagus river.

Related Tours

Private Lisbon Full Day Highlights Walking Tour inc skip the line tickets
Explore Portugal’s capital on this full-day Lisbon walking tour, which showcases everything from cathedrals to castles, praças to palaces and monasteries to UNESCO monuments.
 
  • Take in the panoramic views of Lisbon from the Moorish St George’s Castle.
  • Visit key religious sites including the Sé de Lisboa cathedral and the earthquake-ravaged ruins of Carmo Convent.
  • Soak up the atmosphere in the thriving downtown Baixa district and in Lisbon’s most iconic praças: Rossio and Comércio.
  • Learn about Lisbon in the Middle Ages as you wander the steep gothic streets of the Alfama neighbourhood.
  • Explore the bohemian Bairro Alto, Lisbon’s entertainment district with its bars and Fado music.
  • Stop for a traditional Portuguese lunch (not included in price).
  • Head to historic Belém to see its 17th century palace, UNESCO-listed tower and Jerónimos Monastery.
  • Discover cultural treasures at The National Coach Music and Cultural Centre of Belém.
On this comprehensive, eight-hour walking tour, you’ll explore Lisbon’s most important cultural and historic sites with an expert local guide. Discover everything from Lisbon’s roots as one of Europe’s most important seaports and magnet for world explorers during the Age of Discovery, to how its progressive city grid plan was developed after the horrific earthquake of 1755. Visit religious monuments, trendy cobblestone districts, historic Belem and so much more.  
 
The origins of Lisbon
 
You’ll begin delving into Lisbon’s history, which dates back to 1200 BC, by visiting key landmarks like the 1st century Roman Theatre of Lisboa and 12th century gothic cathedral, Sé de Lisboa, which has withstood the city’s cataclysmic earthquakes. From the Moorish St George’s Castle, you can admire sweeping views over Lisbon and the Tagus River and walk its impressive stone walls, which date back to the 6th century.
 
Travel back to the Middle Ages in the cobblestone streets of the Alfama neighbourhood, where vibrant yellow trams chug up the steep, narrow roads. Once a poor area located outside of Lisbon’s city walls, Alfama is now one of Lisbon’s trendiest districts and you’ll get to explore its colourful shops, buildings and bars whilst learning about the area’s Jewish and Moorish culture.
 
Back in downtown Baixa, you’ll hear about the magnitude nine earthquake which levelled much of Portugal’s capital and killed thousands in 1755. Rossio Square and Commerce Square are the perfect places to appreciate the revolutionary grid-like city plan and earthquake-resistant buildings that were implemented by the Marquis of Pombal after the disaster. The remains of  Convento do Carmo, with its roofless nave, are a reminder of the damage caused by one of the strongest quakes ever recorded.
 
Belém and Lisbon’s Age of Discovery
 
You’ll get the chance to visit Bairro Alto, a bohemian quarter known for its street art, bars and traditional Fado houses before heading to the beautiful Belém municipality. This area is famous for the 17th century Belém Palace, which was home to the Portuguese Monarchy for centuries. Both the Torre de Belém, a 16th-century fortification tower, and grand Jeronimos Monastery are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which you’ll get to admire.
 
Stop by the Discoveries Monument, which celebrates Portugal’s role in the Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries, then take some time to peruse the world’s largest collection of horse-drawn carriages at the National Coach Museum. Round off the tour with a visit to the Cultural Centre of Belém, the largest museum in Portugal which showcases the country’s cultural and technological achievements. 

Looking for an in-depth tour of Lisbon? Then this full-day highlights tour fits the bill, offering an overview of the city’s most famous sights and historical moments. 
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