Castles and Peacocks

Lisbon - First Impressions
Mysterious Petroglyphs

Our first full day in Lisbon was packed – too much for one blog post, so here’s part 1.

São Jorge Castle

São Jorge Castle dates back to the 11th century, when the Moors built it to house their army. In 1147 Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques, took the castle and it was home to the Portuguese royal family for centuries. The castle is named for St George, the patron saint of England, after English Crusader knights helped King Afonso free Portugal from Moorish rule. After the royal palace was moved to Praça do Comércio in the 16th century, the castle became a military garrison. Badly damaged in the earthquake, the castle was restored in 1938. There’s not much to see inside the castle, but it’s fun (if a bit scary) to climb and walk around the walls & turrets.

The entrance to the castle grounds

A small statue of St George is in a glass case

My favourite photo of us

My family mocking my very reasonable fear of someone falling off the walls.

She is Olisipona, the ancient Greek name of Lisbon.

The castle is well prepared for enemy attack

Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques

King Manuel 1 (1469-1521), known as O Venturoso, the Fortunate, who ruled Portugal during the Age of Discoveries.

We are definitely not in Doha!


There are several peacocks which live in the grounds of the Castelo de São Jorge. Originally peacocks were brought to Lisbon as trophies during the 15th century Age of Discoveries. Today they seem to be showing off their beautiful tail feathers to the tourists. They are rather noisy – Rick Steves says “they cry as if the remember some long-forgotten castle captives”.

I’ve never seen peacocks roosting in trees before.

As well as parading around the grounds, you can find them on the ancient castle walls.This one was definitely showing off to an appreciative audience.

Castle Views

The views from the terrace of São Jorge Castle are impressive. It is the highest point in Lisbon, and you can see along the Tagus River to Belém and beyond. This was the morning of our first day in Lisbon – looking back at the photos now it is fun to see that there is a view of many of the places we were to visit over the next few days.

Panoramic View down the Tagus River

Church of São Vicente de Fora

Modern extensions to historic buildings

Praça do Comércio

A cruise ship arriving

Praça da Figueira and Rossio Station

You can *just* see the Monument to the Discoveries and Belem Tower

Carmo Convent and the Elevador de Santa Justa


The medieval Castle Town was built to give Moorish elites refuge from sieges and later for Portuguese nobles to live close to the king. Castle Town is located entirely within the castle walls and is a lovely area to explore on foot.

Cobblestones – pretty but hard on the feet!

Street art in Castle Town

You can see blue crests of noble families above some of the doors.

Many of the houses appear to have the bottom of a glass bottle embedded in their walls. It turns out these are part of an ingenious contraption for drying clothes when you have no back yard. A stick is propped in the bottle base, forming a handy & removable washing line.

Most of the doorways were very short by today’s standards, but they were fine back when these houses were built.

On our way to the castle we had to stop for our morning pasteis de nata. It wasn’t just us – note the long line!

It seems we all had the same idea to get a shot of the delicious treat with the atmospheric street as a background. Who captured the best shot?

Rob caught a photo of the 3 of us behaving like tourists. Oh dear!


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