Hey! Do you like being a tourist in your hometown sometimes and check out those places that you don’t go often to? I sure do! I live in a suburb of Lisbon and I don’t need to go to Lisbon to work so I don’t visit those beautiful places as often as I’d like but we had the chance to go to one of the main landmarks of Lisbon, our own Castle, named Castelo de São Jorge. The last time I had been there was 5 years ago and I feel I need to go to places a lot of times to remember them properly, so this was perfect to refresh my memory.
I came from Rossio train station and going to the Castle by foot is a quite steep climb with lots of stairs that lasts about 25 minutes but, despite being super hot, I love going everywhere by foot so that I can find super picturesque sceneries like these:
We planned to eat lunch before going to the Castle and, since it was so hot, vegan food became an obvious choice. I’m not vegetarian but love doing vegan meals often to challenge my palate. We checked out on Zomato this cozy vegan food place, Princesa do Castelo, and couldn’t have been more satisfied with the food. I LOVE hummus and having a perfect hummus with nachos for an appetizer was superb, followed by a main course of scrambled tofu with lots of vegetables and integral rice. The tofu was so tasty and yellow it looked like eggs. I also had a ginger, apple and strawberry smoothie to freshen up before walking a bit more. It is not expensive if you split the dish with someone, since the doses are large. We paid about 10€ each. The only downside is that the menus are mainly in English and it is clearly targeted to tourists, probably also because veganism is becoming slowly a trend in Portugal but not as developed as in other countries.
On the way to the Castle from the restaurant, we still saw interesting details, like a public urinal.
Castelo de São Jorge is, by far, the most visited monument in Lisbon. A friend of us that works there told us that, in average, 5000 people get in daily in the Summer! The entrance fee is 8.50€, while there are some discounts for specific groups. I think it is an overpriced attraction for what you can see inside, it’s a castle like most here in Portugal, from the moorish era with no rooms that you can visit, but you get undeniably the best views over Lisbon there and it’s good to know the history of Lisbon throughout 10 centuries.
The visit starts in the Permanent Exhibition, where some photos depicting the history of the castle since the 11th century are shown. The castle had military purposes and was meant to protect the nobles living in the adjacent buildings in case of siege. Under the Christian kingdoms, it served a royal courtyard until the 16th century, when the royal courtyard was transferred to what is today the Terreiro do Paço. It was also a prision during the Spanish occupation in the 16th and 17th centuries and became very degraded with the 1755 earthquake. Only in the 1940s the Castle, by then in ruins, was renewed as a part of the campaigns that the dictator that was then in power, António de Oliveira Salazar, ordained to create a stronger national identity. You can also see some archaelogical findings from the Iron Age on the surrounding area of the castle.
In the Castle you can climb to several towers from which you get great views too. Be careful because some of the stairs are a bit dangerous and they’re unprotected. In one of the towers you can see the Camera Obscura, a system of lenses and mirrors that allows a 360º real time view of Lisbon. It’s quite nice to see people walking in Baixa live and to also see those not so touristic areas in a different perspective. There is also an archaeological site with three different areas: 7th century B.C., moorish occupation and the royal residence. You cannot enter this area without a guide from the castle, the visits are generally every hour but we were there not so late and there was no visit going on.
That’s it, I took so many pictures I couldn’t put them all. I would say the visit takes about 1h. Since we were completely drained from the heat, we went to Gelataria Portuguesa right in the corner. I love ice cream and tried some fruit flavors and ate lemon with raspberry. While the ice cream is good, it’s nothing out of this world and it is too sweet. I like bitter fruity flavors but that’s a matter of taste. Still worth trying, their pineapple ice cream is quite good if you ignore a bit of excess sugar.
Will you visit Castelo de São Jorge when you come to Lisbon? Let me know!
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