Lisbon has a documented old history from Celtic times and later as a trading post during Phoenician, Greek and Carthaginians times. At this time most of the population lived around the area that is now the São Jorge castle.
View of the castle from Martin Moniz
The castle, one of the main attractions of the city, lays in the top of the parish. With Moorish historical construction dating from the 10th century it was used first as a medieval defence and then as as a royal residence.
Castle entrance, inside detail and view over the ruins
From the time when Lisbon became part of the Portuguese territory, population grew and expanded downhill outside the castle’s walls. Moorish people remained in the city, living outside the castle towards the interior of the hill in the Moorish quarters, while the poorer people and the fisherman extended the city towards the Tagus river and the downtown.
When you go downhill somewhere “between” the Moorish quarters and Alfama, you will pass by the main Cathedral of Lisbon built during the 13th century.
Sé Catedral of Lisbon
If you walk this area and enjoy churches, make sure to check the smaller church just down from the Cathedral, which is the church of Saint Antony the patron saint of Lisbon, built in the 15th century.
Saint Antony’s church, Lisbon saint
In case you are more of an history bug, around this area an old Roman theatre was and is still being excavated just behind the Cathedral.
Old Roman theatre being excavated
On the side of the Cathedral you can find an interesting building, an old palace converted into a prison during the 18th century and where political prisoners were kept during the Portuguese dictatorship. Nowadays this building was converted into a museum the museum of Aljube, the name of the old prison.
Aljube prison to the left, strong iron locks can still be seen on the windows
Walking towards the Tagus river from this area, you will reach “Campo de Cebolas” literally Onion Field, named as such from a local vegetables market that used to happen in this square.
After being a parking lot filled with drug addicts for the most part of my existence, this area was finally taken care of and converted into a beautiful leisure area last year. During the process of excavation this area was found to be and old port and a pristine boat was uncovered from the rubble.
From this square you can have one of the most beautiful views of Lisbon hilly scape.
Access and General Info
Lisbon is organised into several parishes, Santa Maria Maior is where most of the touristic old town is located.
To navigate the city don’t forget to get the local tickets from metro stations and charge them, it will make sure you pay lower tariffs for each transportation ticket.
The castle is open from 9am to 6pm during the winter and during the Summer it extends to 9pm. Entrance ticket costs around 9 euros. Its a great way to see the city and I totally recomend it, inside there are ice cream stands, coffeeshops, a museum and more ruins to visit.
Although nothing compares to actually visiting a medieval castle, there are other viewpoints where you can have great views of the city for free.
To get to the castle you can climb through Alfama cobweb of streets or just take the elevator on the side which will take you up the hill and then walk down.
The church, cathedral and Roman theatre can be seen for free and don’t miss the viewpoint when coming down from the castle.
This has been a very interesting post to make, I hope it’s not too boring with all the bits of history.
I wanted to split Lisbon into parishes and make real small posts, but it turns out that recently the government condensed all the touristic areas of the old town into a single parish, so this one turned out to be quite challenging.
I’m sorry for not posting last week, it turned out to be a last minute travel weekend to the North of Portugal to see the blooming almond trees.
Happy Easter or Happy pagan celebration of the beginning of Spring!
Hope you’ve enjoyed, thanks for reading and see you next week.