The Portuguese capital is often a traveller’s first stop in this beautiful but small country on the fringe of Western Europe. Classic yellow trams criss-cross its seven hills, while the haunting sounds of Fado music echo through the Alfama District and beyond.
Known for delicious cuisine and being one of the cheapest capitals in Europe, Lisbon is ideal for a few days away. There’s nowhere better to get to know Portugal’s rich and fascinating history! In this post, we’ll take a look at castles near Lisbon. From fairytale palaces to Moorish masterpieces, the Portuguese capital has a wide range of exciting landmark castles to see!
9 Castles to visit near Lisbon
1. Castelo de S. Jorge
Arguably one of the best-known castles in Portugal and a symbol of Lisbon, Castelo de Sao Jorge dominates the capital from atop one of the city’s seven hills.
The first fortifications on the hill actually date to the 1st century BC, with Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, and Moors all finding a use for the castle.
Sao Jorge is one of the easiest castles to visit during your trip to Lisbon. If you’re fit enough, you can wander through the winding alleyways of Alfama to get there.
When: 1st century BC
Style: Mixture of styles – Moorish and Renaissance included.|
Open for Visit: Yes. 09:00 – 21:00 from March to October. 09:00 – 18:00 from November to February
2. Castelo los Mouros
This castle, which occupies two ridges of the Serra de Sintra, dates back to the 8th century and the Moorish occupation of the Iberian Peninsula.
The castle was considered to be siege-proof and undefeatable, but a peaceful conquest in 1147 was one of the key points in removing the North African Moors from Portugal and the country gaining its independence.
It was restored in the 19th century by King Ferdinand II as part of the Pena Palace Gardens (you’ll read about that later). It provides stunning views of Sintra and the surrounding area.
When: 9th century
Open for Visit: Yes. 09:30 – 20:00 from March to October. 10:00 – 18:00 from October to March
3. Castelo de Sesimbra
Standing high above the picturesque fishing village of Sesimbra, you’ll find another relic of the Moorish occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. If you’ve made the 230-metre climb to the castle, make sure after admiring the views to visit the Igreja de Santa Maria at the centre of the complex.
It may seem unremarkable from the outside, but the interior is adorned with traditional azulejo tiles. There is no cost to visit the castle, and most visitors spend about half an hour inside. Sesimbra is around a 40-minute drive from Central Lisbon.
When: 10th century
Open for Visit: Yes. 07:00 – 20:00 in the summer season. 07:00 – 19:00 in the winter season.
4. Fortress São Filipe
The fortress of São Filipe is also known as Setúbal Castle; it dominates the skyline above the city.
Nowadays, the fort is home to a luxury hotel with 16 rooms, but it’s free for the public to visit. It’s definitely worth heading up; for a half-hour walk, you can get incredible views over Setúbal, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Troia Peninsula.
One of the best times to head up is at sunset. Fortress São Filipe hasn’t always been such a lovely place to stay by the way – it used to be a prison!
When: 14th century
Open for Visit: Yes.
5. Obidos Castle
In 1282, Obidos Castle was gifted by King Dinis to his bride on their wedding day. Since then, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has been the wedding venue for many Portuguese royals. The beautifully preserved castle is also known as one of the seven wonders of Portugal.
As with Setúbal Castle, you’re able to stay the night here. Yes, Pousada de Obidos gives you an experience in medieval luxury and a chance to sample delicious Portuguese cuisine. You can also stroll around this beautiful castle in the sun.
When: 13th century
Open for Visit: Yes.
6. Almourol Castle
Located on an islet in the middle of the Tagus River, the Castle of Almourol is one of the most stunning castles near Lisbon. The name supposedly comes from Almorolan, which means high rock in Arabic – a title that describes the castle perfectly.
The history dates back around 2,000 years, but its origins are not entirely clear. The current castle seems to stem from around the 12th century when it was rebuilt by the Knights Templar. Despite being abandoned for centuries, it was renovated in the 19th century.
Where: Praia do Ribatejo
When: 12th century
Open for Visit: Yes. 10:00 – 17:30
7. Castle of Alcanede
Dating as far back as the 1st century BC, the Castle of Alcanede is one of the oldest castles near Lisbon. The original structure was expanded and occupied by the Alans and the Moors. The Castle of Alcanede was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake in 1531 but was rediscovered in 1936 in a state of almost complete ruin.
It was restored over the years between the 1940s and 1990s. Nowadays, you can visit and explore the two towers and a central courtyard. There is a local tradition that a pot of gold and a pot of plague are buried in the castle. As yet, neither has been found!
When: 1st century BC
Style: Medieval, Romanesque, and Gothic.
Open for Visit: Yes.
8. Pena national palace
This colourful yet imposing national palace is one of the most famous UNESCO World Heritage sites in Portugal. Located in the town of Sintra, its range of architectural styles shows everything from medieval and romantic to Moorish.
There has been a chapel on the hill since the Middle Ages dedicated to the Lady of Pena, which grew into a monastery, and then the palace. Taking a walk through the staterooms and interiors of the palace means that you’ll be able to see a huge range of artefacts from the building’s history.
Pena National Palace is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Portugal, so try to get here earlier to miss the crowds.
When: 19th century
Style: Romanesque Revival, Neo-Manueline
Open for Visit: Yes. 09:30 – 20:00 from March to October. 10:00 – 180:00 from October to March.
9. Belem Tower
Along with Castelo Sao Jorge, Belém Tower is one of the easiest castles to visit near Lisbon. The iconic landmark was built in the early 16th century and is located at the mouth of the River Tagus – the first building to defend the Portuguese capital.
It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and as well as a prison for political dissidents, it has been used as a lighthouse and customs house. One of the more unusual parts of Belém Tower is the rhinoceros gargoyle on the western façade.
Where: Belém, Lisbon
When: 16th century
Open for Visit: Yes. 10:00 – 18:30 from May to September. 10:00 – 17:30 from October to April. Closed on Mondays.