The district of Belém is one of the most emblematic of Lisbon and is one of the essential places to visit when one comes to stay in the Portuguese capital. This district was the place from where we greeted the great Portuguese explorers exploring the world. It has become today a place full of cultural places with many monuments and museums to visit. What to visit in Belém during your stay in Lisbon? What are the best places to discover in this unique historical district, facing the sea? In this article, Bob, the expatriate assistant in Portugal, introduces you to the highlights of Belém to visit during your Lisbon stopover. As a bonus, we have prepared the itinerary : follow the guide!
Visit the Belém district in Lisbon
In Lisbon, each neighborhood has a special atmosphere. The district of Belém, it was the starting point of many expeditions during the Grandes Découvertes. A former sea port in the foreground, it is from Belém that Vasco da Gama set off to conquer India. Apart from its complete opening on the Tagus, it is the wealth of its monuments that hits you when you arrive in the neighborhood. Located west of the 25th of April Bridge, it will take you about 15 minutes to reach this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Be careful, though, of queues that tend to stretch heavily during the summer period. Bob therefore advises you to privilege the visit of Belém during the week (except Monday, closing day of many monuments) to avoid the influx of tourists of the weekend. Plan a whole day to enjoy your visit to the Belém district.
The Jeronimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos)
The Jerónimos Monastery is the largest of the rare Manueline monuments (named after King Manuel who made Portugal a great maritime power in the 16th century) remaining in Lisbon. The time was rich and opulent, and so was architecture too. It was the enrichment due to the profits of the spice trade that financed the monastery, itself dedicated to the success of Vasco de Gama's first expedition to India. The monument had to be exceptional. The cloister, beautifully worked, constitutes the major part of the visit of the monastery. Then the adjoining church, whose access is free, takes you even further into the world of Jeronimos. Vasco de Gama and the famous Portuguese poet Luis de Camões rests there in their tombs. If you are interested in these topics, you can also visit the archaeological and marine museums that are sheltered by the wings of the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos.
The Monument to the Discoveries (Padrão dos Descobrimentos)
Built in 1960 as a tribute to Portuguese explorers, the Monument des Découvertes recalls the shape of caravels. Up more than 50 meters, the bow of the boat is turned towards the sea as ready for new adventures. Among the sculptures that adorn the flanks of the monument are a multitude of historical figures related to the history of the Portuguese Maritime Grandes Discoveries: Vasco de Gama but also Magellan, Camoes, etc. It is possible to go to the top of the Padrão dos Descobrimentos in an elevator to admire the panorama that awaits you. To visit Lisbon and the Belém district is especially to think of those great explorers who have brought so much to Portugal and to the whole world.
The Tower of Belém (Torre de Belém)
Another emblem of the city of Lisbon, the Belém Tower, built in 1519 to defend the port of the city, is also dedicated to the glory of Portuguese maritime conquests. Like the Monastery, it represents Manueline architecture in all its splendor. Beautifully adorned, its particular silhouette invites the onlooker to approach to discover it. Take the drawbridge to go inside the Belém tower and climb the 5 floors (to visit) to the rooftop terrace to discover a superb view of Belém and the Tagus. Small anecdote, the tower was actually in the middle of the Tagus until the earthquake of 1755. For sure, a sunset with your friends near the Tower of Belém will be one of the highlights of your visit to Lisbon.
The historic bakery Pastéis de Belém
How to claim to have visited Lisbon without having tasted the most famous pastry of Portugal. It's hard not to stop at the most famous pastry shop in Belém! His flagship product? Pastéis de nata. Pastéis de nata is a traditional Portuguese pastry, derived from flan, and sprinkled with cinnamon. If we believe the legend, after the closing of the latter, one of the ancient monks of the Monastery of Hieronymites continued to manufacture tartlets according to the recipe originally used at the convent. This recipe has since remained secret and is only passed on to the pastry chef of Pastéis de Belém. The manufacture of these pastéis de nata has also remained artisanal, within the pastry.
Elevator and panoramic view of the Pont du 25 Avril
In order to celebrate the anniversary of the 50th anniversary of the Pont du 25 Avril, new equipment has been installed to offer visitors a breathtaking view of the Tejo and the Belém district. Suspended about 80 meters above the ground, this terrace offers a panoramic view. You have to take an elevator to be rewarded with what has become one of the most beautiful views of Lisbon. In the distance, the mouth of the Tagus dives into the Atlantic Ocean and allows us to think, for a moment, explorers who went on an adventure several centuries ago. Visiting Lisbon can also be done by gaining height.
Bob's advice: for a much more pleasant experience, no need to queue which is often very long! Borrow the left lane instead and sit at one of the many tables of the establishment, you will be served directly at the table and it will not cost you more. Inside you will also see the pastry chefs at work as well as magnificent azulejos. Perfect to regain strength after such a ride! No doubt you will enjoy your visit to the neighborhood of Belém!
Tell us which places you have preferred and if other monuments should be in this list!
As a bonus, Bob offers and suggests this route on foot to visit the top 5 best places to see in the neighborhood of Belém in Lisbon.