What to see in Belém
Updated: May 23, 2018
Well known as the historic district of the Age of Discovery, you can't visit Lisbon without stopping by Belém.
It was from here that Vasco da Gama and other explorers departed for their voyages to discover the world and where grand monuments were built in their honour. There are also many museums in the neighborhood.
TOP 5 THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN BELÉM:
1) Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
Beautiful 16th century monastery and garden with stone carvings in the building and in the church. This is a Lisbon's must-see marvel, bringing you back to the days of the Age of Discovery, with an impressive architecture that has given it the status of World Heritage Site.
Vasco da Gama discovered the maritime route to India and this explorer's tomb is found in the church, a space filled with carvings of sea motifs. Another tomb is of the poet Luís de Camões. Coral, sea monsters and ropes are also represented in the even more magnificent cloisters, which are unlike any other in the world. #mosteirodosjeronimos
2) Torre de Belém
In the middle of Tagus River as it reaches the Atlantic, the sensational Tower of Belém (also a World Heritage Site) protected the city in the 1500s. Built in 1515, Belém Tower is a beautiful fortress that also served as the departure point for many of the voyages of discovery.
It is the result of the discovery of the sea route to India, the opening of trade with Japan, and the colonization of Brazil and parts of Africa and Asia. This monument is adorned and embellished with motifs of exotic lands elaborately carved in stone, as are the heroes of the age on the colossal Discoveries Monument. The highlight of a visit is admiring the façade facing the river and the views from its loggias and windows. #torredebelem
3) Padrão dos Descobrimentos
You can't miss the panoramic view from the top of the monument
The interior presents temporary exhibitions, and has an elevator that takes you to the lookout terrace at the top, offering a beautiful view of the several monuments nearby, such as the Jerónimos Monastery and Belém Tower.
The monument is made of concrete, but the sculptures are in limestone. Inaugurated in 1960, the year of the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator, it has the shape of a caravel heading into sea evoking the Portuguese Age of Discovery. Fifty-six meters high (184ft), 20 meters wide (66ft) and 46 meters long (151 ft), it shows a 9 meters-tall (26ft) Prince Henry leading 32 other personalities of the time, measuring 7 meters (23ft).
Before entering, you may want to walk all over the world, following the routes of the Portuguese explorers. We are talking about a beautiful map made in marble on a huge compass rose, measuring 50 meters in diameter (164ft), with caravels and dates marking the main routes of the Portuguese in the 15th and 16th centuries. It's surrounded by the traditional Portuguese cobblestone pavement, with the famous wavy design which can be admired from the top of the monument.
4) Pastéis de Belém
You can't miss eating Pastéis de Nata at the traditional home of this famous portuguese pastry - Pastéis de Belém #pasteisdebelem
Pastéis de Nata = Portuguese Custard Tarts made with sugar and eggs
Pastéis de Belém = Pastéis de Nata made in a specific store in Belém
At the beginning of the 19th century next to Mosteiro dos Jerónimos there was a sugar cane refinery attached to a small general store. All convents and monasteries in Portugal had the tradition of pastry but as a result of the 1820 liberal revolution they were all shut down in 1834. In an attempt at survival, someone from the monastery offered sweet pastries for sale in the shop; pastries that rapidly became known as ‘Pastéis de Belém’.
The monastery and the Torre de Belém attracted visitors who soon grew used to savouring the delicious pastries originated in the monastery. In 1837, the baking of the “Pastéis de Belém” began in the buildings attached to the refinery, following the ancient 'secret recipe' from the monastery. Passed on and known exclusively to the master confectioners who hand-crafted the pastries in the ‘secret room’, this recipe remained unchanged to the present day. In fact, the only true ‘Pasteis de Belém’ contrive, by means of a scrupulous selection of ingredients, to offer even today the flavour of the time-honoured Portuguese sweetmaking.
5) MAAT - Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology
Spread over two buildings, a former power station and a modern building for exhibitions and events, this museum is unique in the world, since no other crosses the disciplines of art, architecture and technology, through contemporary and international exhibitions.
It will also have a restaurant looking out to 25 de Abril Bridge, and it's possible to walk over the new undulating shell-shaped building of curved lines. The exterior staircase descends into the water, creating a large public space.
Walk, run and wander along Tejo river! #belem
HOW TO ARRIVE: From Carcavelos train station, leave in Belém station (10 minutes, 7 stops)