Discover Belem And It's Mysteries
It is impossible to visit Lisbon and not see Belém.
Located near the “25 de Abril Bridge”, the beautiful neighbourhood is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city... and for a reason.
A History Lesson
The history of the Belém neighborhood starts as a small fishing village called Restelo. Тhe proximity of the river Tejo helped the place become a nice spot for the sailors to rest. It also flourished into a very important harbor for the city, but the infrastructure for the people that lived there was poor.
Things began to change when in 1496, Dom Manuel I - king of Portugal at the time - asked the faith for an authorization to build what became one of the most amazing sites in Lisboa: the Monastery of Jeronimos. It took hundreds of years to finish the constructions that had it’s final touches around 1940. Today the Monastery and the church in front of it are available for visitations.
What to See
The entrance to the church is free and many surprises hide inside, such as the huge arches on the ceiling and an amazing Manueline architecture. Also inside you can take a look at the gravesites of Vasco da Gama - a very important Portuguese explorer – and Luis de Camões, the most famous poet of the Portuguese language.
To go inside the famous monastery you would have to pay 10€ - if you go with your family or if you are older than 65 you get a 50% of discount. The price is totally worth it, once you get inside and see the garden with the Manueline pillars.
The next attraction, the Tower of Belém, was built shortly after the monastery. Built between 1515 and 1519, the true name of the tower is Tower of San Vincent, and it had the purpose of defending the river and the city of Lisboa, that’s why it’s located inside the river. You can go inside the tower for 6€. For the price you can check out old prisons, the meeting office and on the inside of the king’s room you can see a fireplace as well as a nice balcony to the river. Just imagine that site hundred years ago…
This new construction is newly built in comparison to the others, but has equal importance. The Pantheon of Discovery is a monument which was built in 1960 as a tribute to all the Portuguese explorers of the sea. It contains huge statutes of every man that was important for the rise of Portugal as one of the biggest kingdoms of the 1500’s. The monument is shaped as a huge caravel. In front of it you can find the square which has a huge compass rose and the world map, containing all countries explored and the dates that Portugal has set ashore. You can also get in the so called caravel and have an amazing view of the river, it costs 5€ and you get to see the amazing view to the river.
The Famous Pastéis de Belém
After the tower and the monastery were built, Belém became a neighborhood for the king and the rich people surrounding him. Full of farms and palaces the place transformed. With the visitors coming, the Monastery found a way to raise money and open a store to sell what would become the most famous desert of Portugal, the Pastéis de Nata.
Now called Pastéis de Belém, the desert is filled with custard and crunchy crust on the outside - it is totally worth a try. Located in a store next to the Monastery, you can stay on the line outside and pick some to go, or you can go in, pick a seat and enjoy some coffee and this amazing desert.
Nowadays Belém is known for many modern art museums, so if you are a fan of art, be prepared. The Berardo Collection is the most famous one. This museum got more than a million visitors in 2016 and holds amazing pieces of famous artists. The tickets start at 5€ for adults. Many other museums are available such as MAAT (the museum of architecture and technology), The Popular Art Museum and Archeology Museum.
How to Get There
As you can see Belém is a neighborhood full of attractions. It’s recommended that you go there and spend the day exploring with no rush. To go there, there are many options:
- You can take a train in the train station called CAIS DO SODRE and drop off at the BELÉM station. It will cost you 1,30€
- You can take the bus 727 that stops right next to the monastery. If you have a Lisboa Card - you can buy it and charge it on every metro station – it will cost you 1,45€ and you can also pay directly to the bus driver, but it will cost you 1,85€.
- If you are coming from the city center, a good option is the tram 15E, you can take it on PRAÇA DA FIGUEIRA, which is the first stop. The tickets costs 2,90€.
If it is a sunny day make sure to go prepared: with comfortable shoes and a hat. Enjoy your day!