Sao Jorge Castle to Lisbon Cathedral Walking Tour (Self Guided), Lisbon

This self-guided walk takes you from the breathtaking Sao Jorge historic castle to the city's oldest church, the Lisbon Cathedral, while taking in the picturesque Alfama district – where it is said Fado originated – along the way. Included also are several unique museums, as well as two viewpoints from where you can look out over Alfama and the Tagus River. A classic Lisbon walk!
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Sao Jorge Castle to Lisbon Cathedral Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Sao Jorge Castle to Lisbon Cathedral Walking Tour
Guide Location: Portugal » Lisbon (See other walking tours in Lisbon)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.3 Km or 0.8 Miles
Author: ann
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Sao Jorge Castle
  • Museum of Portuguese Decorative Arts
  • Miradouro das Portas do Sol
  • Miradouro de Santa Luzia
  • Ancient Roman Theatre Museum
  • Lisbon Cathedral (Santa Maria Maior)
  • Santo Antonio Church
  • Casa dos Bicos / Museu de Lisboa
1
Sao Jorge Castle

1) Sao Jorge Castle (must see)

The São Jorge Castle occupies a commanding position overlooking the city of Lisbon and the broad Tagus River beyond. The strongly-fortified citadel, which, in its present configuration, dates from medieval times, is located atop the highest hill in the historic center of the city. Its footprint is roughly square in shape and was originally encircled by a wall.

The complex consists of the castle proper ('castelejo'), some ancillary buildings (including the ruins of the royal palace), gardens, and a large terraced square from which impressive panoramas of Lisbon are afforded. The main entrance to the citadel is a 19th-century gate surmounted by the coat-of-arms of Portugal, the name of Queen Maria II, and the date, 1846.

Restaurants, cafes, wine bar, ice cream stand, and public restrooms are available once inside. Peacocks live and run wild throughout, especially around one of the main dining areas. The food is more expensive in the castle walls than in areas outside, but not terribly expensive; you can also pack your own foods and beverages and walk around with open containers. €10 per adult; kids are free. A great activity for international guests!

Why You Should Visit:
The castle certainly offers commanding views of the entire city, can be a very peaceful place first thing in the morning, and a magical one at sunset. There is also a permanent exhibition worth looking at, as well as an excellent 'camera obscura' in one of the Moorish towers (shows every 20min with languages rotating between English/Portuguese/Spanish).

Tip:
Walking to the site is very much uphill, but still a wonderful walk through the narrow streets of old Lisbon, and there are plenty of places to stop to eat. Alternatively, take the cable car #28 to admire the neighborhood with its cute and varied architecture (great photo ops!).

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am–6pm
2
Museum of Portuguese Decorative Arts

2) Museum of Portuguese Decorative Arts

Housed in an aristocratic 17th-century palace that was once the city residence of the Count of Azurara, the Decorative Arts Museum showcases the life of wealthy citizens of Lisbon in the 18th and 19th centuries. The magnificent interiors still have their original 17th-century wooden floors, painted ceilings and mosaics of 'azulejos', a typical Portuguese painted tin-glazed form of tile work. Some azulejos formed part of the palace while others were added while restoring the building.

The museum has tastefully arranged collections of Indo Portuguese, Portuguese, English and French furniture, a large collection of silver objects, faience tin-glazed pottery, original Chinese porcelain, Flemish tapestry from the 16th and 18th centuries, an ancient grandfather clock and a horse-drawn carriage. There are unique objects from almost every country ruled by the Portuguese when they were a colonial power, including wonderful pieces from Goa, Brazil, Macao, etc., but overall a visit here leaves a strong, long-lasting impression of Portugal's particular taste.

Tip:
Outside this location, you will find two lookout points (Miradouro das Portas do Sol / Miradouro de Santa Luzia) with beautiful views for great photographs.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Mon: 10am–5pm
3
Miradouro das Portas do Sol

3) Miradouro das Portas do Sol

At the gateway to the Graça area lies this spot with a superb view both up the hill across the Alfama, and down towards the harbor on the wide Tagus River. Be prepared to take a lot of pictures, plus get a sense of the scope of the city.

The lookout point is well backed up by restaurants with cheap drinks, great local dishes, and entertaining live music, making it a wonderful location for a relaxing meal and glass of wine or sangria. Wouldn't it be nice to retire here?

For a fun experience, look for a flight of stairs and a WC sign. Go down the stairs and under an arch you will find a mural depicting Lisbon's history in comic-book style. Nearby is the Museum of Portuguese Decorative Arts.

Tip:
Bring a thermos, eat fruit, read the news, do a crossword, do some people watching, and then go to lunch or dinner!
4
Miradouro de Santa Luzia

4) Miradouro de Santa Luzia

The Miradouro de Santa Luzia is close to the Miradouro das Portas do Sol and has the same iconic vista over the tiled roofs and churches of Alfama and out over the Tagus estuary. While the point of view is a tad less advantageous, this is the cozier and more inviting place due to its beautiful garden laid out in several succeeding levels, azalea trees, ample seating arrangements (some protected by pergola-type roofing), and exciting wall panels, the traditional "azulejo" blue tiles.

One of the tiled panels portrays the milestone of the Portuguese history of "Reconquista" (freeing the Iberian peninsula from the Moorish occupancy) on the outside wall of the Santa Luzia church, while the second "azulejo" mural, that of the Praça do Comércio as it looked before the 1755 quake, is on the other, down the hill, boundary of the observation terrace.

There is a small café on the premises as well as restrooms (to find the latter, walk a few steps up the hill, corner the church, and take the steps down). Luckily, the Santa Luzia and Portas do Sol lookout points are spaced within a minute's stroll from each other, so there is no need to choose, as one can enjoy both during the same sightseeing walk.

Tip:
Pay attention to the small market immediately on the left with various cork goods and textiles if you plan to buy something for souvenirs – with a little bargaining, the prices there are far better than other places.
5
Ancient Roman Theatre Museum

5) Ancient Roman Theatre Museum

Oh, those Romans! Everywhere you go there is evidence of their Empire! Roman Theatres, in a general sense, are symbols of power and marks of romanization, as is the case of the theatre of Felicitas Iulia Olisipo, the name attributed to the city of Lisbon in the Roman period. When theatres began to serve simultaneously a political and religious function, especially from the time of Emperor Augustus, they became places 'par excellence' of the Imperial cult.

The Roman Theatre of Olisipo was of considerable size, seating ~4000 spectators. During the middle ages, it disappeared beneath the ground because of neglect, wind and soil erosion; however, after the 1755 earthquake, parts of it resurfaced resulting in a renewed interest in Lisbon's Roman past. Excavations were undertaken and the objects unearthed now form the museum's permanent exhibits, including many columns, stone statues and a small collection of archeological finds.

The most interesting part for visitors is the installation of multilingual video and touch screens that tell the story of Lisbon under the Romans. Although rather small and with a minimal collection as compared to other Roman archeological museums in Europe, the museum is well arranged and explained via multimedia displays. Take time and wander around!
6
Lisbon Cathedral (Santa Maria Maior)

6) Lisbon Cathedral (Santa Maria Maior) (must see)

The oldest church in the city, first constructed in 1147, Santa Maria Maior was built on the site of a Moorish mosque after the conquest of Lisbon by Christian forces under King Afonso Henriquez, during which time the relics of St. Vincent of Saragossa, the city's patron saint, were brought from Southern Portugal and placed here, still remaining unmoved.

After suffering extensive damage during the many devastating earthquakes that rocked Lisbon, the present Cathedral was rebuilt in the 20th century giving the structure a predominantly medieval appearance, evident in the thick stone walls and fortress-like towers. This style is common with many Portuguese churches of the Christian conquest period, when they were used as military bases for launching attacks on enemy forces.

The Cathedral's interior is 'plain' compared to others you may see in different countries but still pretty impressive with its gothic arches and ceilings, plus sections of stained glass. Two noteworthy chapels are that of St. Ildefonso with a carved sculpture of one of the first Portuguese Ambassadors, Lopo Pacheco with a dog at his feet, and the chapel dedicated to Lisbon-born San Antonio de Padua. Archeological excavations in the courtyard have unearthed several objects from the Visigothic, Roman and Moorish periods.

Tip:
Free entry to the Cathedral and, for a few €s, you can also climb partway up the tower to the Treasury during the hours of 10am–5pm (note that it's closed on Sundays).

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am–7pm
7
Santo Antonio Church

7) Santo Antonio Church (must see)

The Church of Saint Anthony of Lisbon is dedicated to the man born into a wealthy Lisbon family and later canonized as Saint Anthony of Padua. Classified as a National Monument after a visit by Pope John Paul II in 1982, the church was – according to tradition – built on the site where the saint was born, in 1195, as Fernando de Bullhoes.

At first converted into a small chapel, the present structure was constructed in 1767 based on a Baroque Rococo design. The interiors have ornate neoclassical Ionic columns and the altar has a figure of the saint with Christ in his arms. 18th-century tiles decorate the sacristy walls, and the attached small museum displays images and manuscripts about the life of Antonio – the patron saint of lost things – while also allowing visitors to view the gold and silverware belonging to the church.

Tip:
As per all Catholic churches make sure you are properly attired – no bare shoulders or knees; men remove the hat.
8
Casa dos Bicos / Museu de Lisboa

8) Casa dos Bicos / Museu de Lisboa (must see)

Casa dos Bicos (Portuguese for House of the Beaks/Spikes) is a historical house built in the early 16th century in the Alfama neighborhood, with a curious façade covered with 1,125 diamond-shaped stone spikes. Modeled after the Palazzos of Venice with Portuguese-style Manueline arched windows, it was of the very few buildings to survive the terrible 1775 Lisbon earthquake, but over time was abandoned as a residence and used as a warehouse. After a 20th-century renovation, it became the headquarters of the José Saramago Foundation and a location of the Museum of Lisbon.

The ground floor, which is free to enter, is completely dedicated to an archaeological site, which is a must-see in this corner of Lisbon, especially since there is lots of information in English. The upper floors are a paid area dedicated to the life and public works of Portuguese writer / Nobel Prize recipient, José Saramago, while the outside area is a sort of memorial for the brilliant writer, who doesn't have a grave; his ashes are buried under the old olive tree right outside the building.

Tip:
Please note the huge elephant footprint – a tribute to one of Saramago's most famous books, "The Elephant's Journey".
Take care to also note the slight exterior differences between the older bottom two floors and the newer top two floors.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am–5:30pm

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Travel Distance: 3.3 Km or 2.1 Miles
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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
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