Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Castelo de São Jorge: Lisbon's Iconic Castle

Perched high above Alfama is the breathtaking Castelo de São Jorge, located on top of the tallest of Lisbon's seven hills in the historic centre of the Alfama's old Moorish quarter. Famous for its panoramic views of the city and surrounding countryside, the oldest parts of the castle date from the 6th-century, when it was fortified by the Romans, Visigoths, and eventually the Moors. It served as a Moorish royal residence until Portugal's first king Afonso Henriques captured it in 1147 with the help of northern European crusaders on their way to the Holy Land. It was then dedicated to St. George, the patron saint of England, and became a royal palace where the city's medieval kings lived. Unfortunately, much of the castle has beed destroyed over the years, especially in the 'Great Earthquake' of 1755, but still includes a long extension of walls and 18 towers, where visitors can climb and walk along the ramparts for the most breathtaking views of Lisbon. Now an oasis of peace, there's an outdoor restaurant, Casa do Leao, and small archaeological museum in three of the castle's underground chambers, and beautiful gardens where roaming peacocks, geese and ducks wander in happy abandon, enjoying one of the most commanding views of Portugal's capital city.

A steep course of cobblestone streets weave their way through Alfama up to Castelo de São Jorge

Looking down over Lisbon on our way up th the castle 

The entrance gate to Castelo de São Jorge through the 6th-century gates

One of the castle's family of peacocks perched on a wall approaching the castello

The statue of the Castello's namesake, Saint George

After a long lineup for tickets to get into the Castello, we enjoyed the tranquil retreat of cobblestone walkways, verdant gardens and the time honoured antiquity of São Jorge

Original remains of a doorway from the castle

The original arches of São Jorge

One of the cannons that were positioned along the castle walls to protect it from invaders when it was a royal residence

View from the castle over Lisbon's Justa Lift and Church of the Carmellies

Gorgeous peacocks strutted all around the castle grounds, in all their splendour

Castelo do São Jorge's restaurant Casa de Leao

The outdoor tables of the Casa do Leao, where we found a table for lunch before exploring the remainder of the castle

The waiter setting the table under a canopy of trees

The menu

A basket of bread

A trio of butters: Herb, peppercorn and garlic

A Bowl of Portuguese olives

A cold Sagre beer on a hot afternoon up at the the castle

A bottle of Vitalis water, to keep us hydrated in addition to our cold beers

Our waiter

An amuse-bouche of chicken and present black ham in a profiterole and garnished with a balsamic drizzle and a grape

Sopa Peixe de Maris, Casa do Leao's fish soup

Ameijoas Bulhao: Portuguese clams in garlic and olive oil

Risotto Cogumelos: Mushrooms and basil risotto

Our view over the outdoor restaurant

Looking down over the castle walls into one of the more affluent Alfama garden homes

After our lunch as Casa do Leao, we ventured into the interior of the castle

Walking along the ramparts of the castle, with some of the greatest views over the city

A beautiful clear day to visit São Jorge

A steep walkway to another past of the castle, with spectacular views over Lisbon

A terrific view over the ramparts of the castle

Lots of trees and shrubbery grow within the castle walls, making a walk through São Jorge, a lovely way to spend a day

The outdoor Archaelogical Museum at Castello do São Jorge features remains from the Neolithic times up to its occupation by the Moors

There's also a Museum highlighting all the remains found within the castle walls over the years

The interior of the museum

Remains of ceramic bowls, cups and cookware

Original 15th-centure Portuguese Azulejos tiles were used to cover walls and floors in the castle

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