The hills of Lisbon can be tough on the eager sightseer. But not only does the terrain offer ample opportunity to burn off pasteis de nata and Santini’s gelato, it also offers incredible vantage points to take in panoramic views of the city. The Portuguese are very proud of these scenic outlooks and call them miradouros. You’ll see miradouro signs all throughout Lisbon.
We were staying right below one of the most famous miradouros: Castelo de São Jorge, aka the Castle of St. George. It was almost as if we could rappel up the hill, but instead we chose to walk up the steep, cobblestone streets. You can see the Moorish castle walls from all over the city; the citadel beckons to you.
Once you give in to the siren call, you realize that there isn’t much to see when it comes to the castle itself — it’s all about the miradouro, the views from the castle, as it sits perched on the highest out of Lisbon’s seven hills. (Yes, just like Rome, Lisbon also has seven hills.) Among the sea of red roofs, you can easily pick out the famous squares of Praca de Figeria and Praca do Comercio, plus landmarks like the 25 de Abril Bridge and the Elevador de Santa Justa.
We enjoyed walking through the castle grounds and climbing the towers. You can go into Alcaçovas Palace where medieval kings lived, but it’s been transformed into a small archaeological museum and a restaurant. Castelo de Sao Jorge is really an outdoor experience, as you walk through the courtyards and arches and up some very steep steps to the towers.
It’s all very old, so you can’t be too disappointed at how little remains. After all, King Alfonso Henriques won the castle and the city from the Moors in the 1100’s, and the 1775 earthquake caused much damage. But with the views and the history, it’s a don’t-miss experience on any Lisbon tourist’s list.