Portugal City Travel Guide: Belém, Lisbon
- Belém Tower & Jerónimos Monastery must-see attractions.
- UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- Portugal's historic gateway to the ocean.
- Vasco da Gama set sail from Belém in 1497.
- 6km west of Rossio Square in downtown Lisbon.
- Recommended half or full day trip.
- Excellent restaurants, cafes and museums in the area.
- Everything closed on Monday.
Belém, a short journey by tram, train, taxi or bus from downtown Lisbon, is a fascinating, historical district and easy to explore on foot.
Famed as the port Vasco da Gama (in 1497) and his fellow Portuguese adventurers set sail for the Indies and the Americas, Belém is the spiritual home of Portugal's 'Age of Discovery' and the opening up of the East to European traders and adventurers.
The huge sixteenth century Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Tel: 213 620 034; open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm or 6.30pm in summer; entrance free; small charge to enter the cloisters) took over 70 years to complete and is perhaps Portugal's most magnificent building.
The monastery and church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was built by King Dom Manuel I in memory of Vasco da Gama's successful two-year voyage to India. The vast construction costs were financed by taxes on spices imported from the East.
The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos was designed by a number of master architects over the years (1501-1541 - with later additions in the 19th century) and thus the building is a fusion of different and distinct styles: decorative Renaissance, detailed Manueline and spacious Gothic. In the west wing is the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia (Tel: 213 620 000) with exhibits of Portugal's archaeology including Greek and Roman antiquities and frequent temporary exhibitions from other collections.
The Belém Tower nearby (Tel: 213 620 034; open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm or 6.30pm in summer; small entrance fee) dates from around 1515 and was built as a marine fortress by Diogo and Francisco Arruda to protect Lisbon harbor from attack. Visitors can climb the tower and look down into the tiny dungeon.
For more information on Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and Belém Tower visit www.mosteirojeronimos.pt
The Padrão dos Descobrimentos - Monument to the Discoveries - is a vast stone caravel commemorating the heroes of Portugal's sea-faring history: including Vasco da Gama, Pedro Álvares Cabral - the discoverer of Brazil and Fernão Magalhães - who crossed the Pacific in 1520. There is a museum and fine views of the area. The limestone memorial was inaugurated in 1960 on the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. (Open Tuesday-Sunday 9am-5pm or 7pm in summer; small entrance fee).
The Belém area is full of interesting museums. Most museums may charge a small entrance fee though they are usually free on Sundays:
The Museu de Arte Popular (Tel: 213 011 282; Tuesday-Sunday 10am-12:30pm,
2pm-5pm) houses a collection of traditional folk art from around the country.
The Centro Cultural de Belém (Tel: 213 612 400; 10am-9pm Daily) complex houses the fascinating Museu do Design featuring the collection of Francisco Capelo, as well as performance and exhibition spaces. The museum is dedicated to 20th century design, with 'Cool' 'Luxury' and 'Pop' categories. The center's cooling cafe, courtyard and rooftop garden are good spots to relax.
The Museu do Centro Científico e Cultural de Macau (Tel: 213 617 570; Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm; Sunday 12pm-6pm) exhibits an interesting collection of art and artifacts from Portugal's former colonies and trading outposts such as Brazil, Macau, Goa, Japan and other places in the Americas, Asia and Africa. There are ceramics, furniture and paintings on display.
The Museu de Marinha (Tel: 213 620 019; Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm or 6pm) is focused on Portugal's long naval history with model ships and nautical instruments and uniforms.
The Museu Nacional dos Coches, (Tel: 213 610 850; Tuesday-Sunday 10am-6pm) which dates from 1905, has a world class collection of 54 historic horse-drawn coaches and carriages and is one of Lisbon's and indeed Portugal's most visited attractions.
Lisbon Tourist Office
Palácio Foz Building on Praça dos Restauradores.
Tel: 213 466 307
Fax: 213 468 772
9am - 8pm
Getting to Belém
Buses: 27, 28, 29, 43, 49, 51e 112
Trams: 15 (From Praça da Figueira and Praça do Comércio
Trains: From Cascais or Cais de Sodré on the Cascais Line; get out at Belém station
Ferries: From Porto Brandaõ and Trafaria on the south side of the Tagus River to Estação Fluvial de Belém
Book Hotel Accommodation in Belém
Pastéis de Belém (Antiga Confeitaria de Belém)
Rua de Belém 84-92
Tel: 213 638 077
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