Portugal's Museums: Belem Tower
Torre de Belem
The Belem Tower in Belem in the west of Lisbon is one of the city's finest historical sites. Easy walking distance from the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos and Museu Nacional dos Coches, the Belem Tower is best visited in the early morning before the crowds arrive.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the 35m-high Belem Tower was designed by the military architect Francisco de Arruda between 1514 and 1520 as part of a defensive system at the mouth of the River Tagus. The fortress was named the Torre de Sao Vincente de Belem after the patron saint of Lisbon.
The tower is Manueline in style with the customary motifs of armillary spheres, Templar crosses and thick ropes and also shows the Moorish influences on Arruda's design - he had built a number of forts in North Africa previously. Diogo de Boitaca, the initial chief architect of the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, is also thought to have participated in constructing the building.
The bulwark through the main entrance is surrounded with cannon and there are four storeys rising upwards from a narrow spiral staircase and a claustrophobic dungeon below in what were the original storerooms.
There are excellent views over the River Tagus from the beautifully decorated watch towers.
As the tower lost its defensive purpose over time the building was used as a light house, customs office and a political prison.
Belem Tower, Lisbon
Belem Tower, Lisbon
The tower was original constructed more midstream but the change in the course of the river has brought it nearer to the shore.
Avenida de Brasilia
Tel: 21 362 0034
Buses: #27, #28, #29, #43, #49, #51 or #112. Tram: #15 from Cais do Sodre; From Cascais or Cais de Sodre on the Cascais Line get out at Belém station; Ferry: From Porto Brandaõ on the south side of the River Tagus to Belém.
Hours: October to April from 10am - 5.00pm;
May to September from 10am - 6.30pm
Admission: Adults 4 EUR; free with Lisboa Card