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Visit to St Jorge Castle (Castelo Sao Jorge)

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São Jorge Castle: A Historical Beacon Overlooking Lisbon

Perched atop Lisbon’s highest hill, the São Jorge Castle (Castelo de São Jorge) is a formidable medieval fortress that has stood guard over the city for over a millennium. This iconic landmark is not just a symbol of Lisbon’s rich history, but also a prime vantage point offering breathtaking panoramic views of the city and the Tagus River. In this article, we explore the castle’s history, architectural features, and its role as a cultural and tourist attraction.

The Historical Tapestry

Ancient Foundations: The history of São Jorge Castle stretches back to the 6th century, with its fortifications built by the Romans, Visigoths, and eventually the Moors, who fortified it in the 11th century.

Christian Reconquest: The castle gained prominence during the Reconquista, when King Afonso Henriques captured it in 1147, signifying the end of Moorish rule in Lisbon.

Royal Residence: For centuries, the castle served as the royal residence for the Portuguese monarchy, witnessing numerous historical events and transformations.

Architectural Highlights

The Moors and Beyond: The castle’s architecture is a blend of different influences, predominantly Moorish. Its sturdy walls and towers are typical of military fortifications of the Middle Ages.

Ulysses Tower: One of the most notable features, this tower is associated with various legends, including one that links it to the mythical Greek hero Ulysses.

Eleven Towers: The castle complex includes eleven towers, each offering unique views and historical insights. The most famous is the Tower of Ulysses, which houses the Camera Obscura.

Inside the Castle

Archeological Site: The castle grounds contain significant archaeological remains, including those from the Iron Age, providing insights into Lisbon’s early inhabitants.

Camera Obscura: The Tower of Ulysses houses a periscope (Camera Obscura) offering 360-degree views of Lisbon, a fascinating way to see the city from a different perspective.

Gardens and Courtyards: The castle’s gardens and courtyards are a serene escape, with native olive and cork trees providing shade and tranquility.

The Castle as a Cultural Hub

Museum: The castle houses a small museum showcasing relics found on the site, tracing Lisbon’s history from its earliest days.

Cultural Events: The castle is a venue for various cultural events, including open-air concerts, theater performances, and exhibitions, adding to its appeal as a tourist destination.

Visitor Information

Website: More information, including current events, can be found on the official website.

Opening Times: The castle is open to visitors every day. Summer hours (March to October) are from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, while winter hours (November to February) are from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Prices: Admission fees vary, with discounts available for students, seniors, and families. Free entrance is offered on certain holidays and for children under a certain age.

Conservation and Challenges

Preservation Efforts: Continuous efforts are made to preserve the integrity and historical significance of the castle, ensuring it remains a symbol of Lisbon’s heritage.

Sustainable Tourism: Managing the influx of visitors while maintaining the castle’s structural and historical integrity is an ongoing challenge.

Conclusion

The São Jorge Castle is more than just a historic site; it’s a living testament to Lisbon’s evolving story. From its ancient walls, one not only witnesses a panoramic view of the city but also glimpses into the layers of history that have shaped Lisbon. For visitors, the castle offers an unparalleled journey into the past, an architectural marvel, and a cultural experience that is quintessentially Lisbon. Whether you’re exploring its ancient ruins, enjoying the lush gardens, or taking in the stunning views, a visit to São Jorge Castle is a journey through the heart of Portuguese history.

Gonzalo


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