LisbonLisboaPortugal.com

The best independent guide to Lisbon

LisbonLisboaPortugal.com

The best independent guide to Lisbon

The Belem district of Lisbon; a tourist guide for 2022

The Belém district lies along the banks of the Tejo Estuary to the west of Lisbon. This pretty district is the setting for many of Lisbon's most iconic tourist attractions, including the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, Torre de Belem, and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos.

Historically, Belem was the location of Lisbon's shipyards and docks, and from here, 16th-century explorers discovered the sea routes to East Africa, Brazil and India. Later, these trading routes brought incredible wealth into Portugal, and funded the construction of the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, the extravagant monastery at the centre of Belem.

Belem is unlike the rest of Lisbon, being filled with parks, tree-lined plazas and scenic riverside walks, and is a breath of fresh air from the claustrophobia of central Lisbon.

The Belem district is highly recommended during your stay in Lisbon, and is easily reached by the E15 tram route. This article will provide an introduction to Belem and includes a suggested tour, and advice to get the most from the district.
Related articles: 3 days in LisbonAlfama district - Baixa district

Highlights of Belém

The Torre de Belem – The delightful fort that once stood in the centre of the Tejo Estuary and guarded Lisbon from seabound attack. The little fort was inspired by Moorish architecture and includes whimsically style watchtowers, decorative stone carvings and Europe's first depiction of a Rhinoceros (guide to the Torre de Belem).

Torre de Belem Lisbon

The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos – The magnificent monastery that took over 100 years to complete and was funded by the wealth of the 16th-century spice trade. Found within this huge complex are Manueline styled cloisters, the beautiful Igreja Santa Maria de Belém church and the elaborate stonework surrounding the southern doorway.

Mosteiro dos Jeronimos cloister Lisbon

Pastéis de Belém - The traditional home of the Pastel de Belém, the original Pastel de Nata custard tart. This bustling café is the perfect break from sightseeing, and one of their delicious custard tarts is a slice of Portuguese culture.

Pastéis de Belém

The Padrão dos Descobrimentos – The towering monument that stands high above the banks of the Tejo estuary and celebrates the seafaring history of Portugal. From a distance, it appears as just a massive concrete monstrosity, but up close, there is beautiful detailing on the figures and cleverly hidden symbolism. At the top of the monument is one of the best viewpoints of Lisbon (a guide to the Padrão dos Descobrimentos).

Padrão dos Descobrimentos Lisbon

A tour of Belem

Belém is one of the best tourist districts of Lisbon, and is highly recommended during your stay in the city. The district lies on the western outskirts of Lisbon, and is usually visited on the second day of sightseeing after the downtown districts of Baixa and Alfam.

It takes half a day to see the main sights of Belem, but a whole day can be easily spent here if you include the fascinating museums or take a stroll along the waterfront.

Insight: The Alcantara district and LxFactory artisan area, are also to the west of Lisbon (and served by the E15 tram route) and are often visited after the Belem district.

The following map is a suggested tour of Belem, which begins from the E15 tram stop (travel details are later in this article). The common tour of Belem is stages 1 to 10, but the day can be enjoyable extended by visiting the eastern side of the district and taking a riverside walk to the MAAT museum viewpoint (18).

Sights of the tour: 1) Southern Doorway (Mosteiro dos Jeronimos) 2) Igreja Santa Maria de Belém 3) Mosteiro dos Jeronimos 4) Jardim da Praça do Império 5) Padrão dos Descobrimentos 6) Farol de Belém (Old Belem Lighthouse) 7) Torre de Belém 8) Monumento aos Combatentes do Ultramar 9) Centro Cultural de Belém 10) Pastéis de Belém 11) Palácio Nacional de Belém 12) Jardim Afonso de Albuquerque 13) Jardim Botânico Tropical
Museums: 14) Museu Nacional dos Coches 15) Museu de Marinha 16) Coleção Berardo (contemporary art gallery) 17) Central Tejo (power station museum part of MAAT) 18) Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia (MAAT)

Getting the most from Belém

Belem is one of the most popular tourist areas of Lisbon and unfortunately, the district can get very crowded during the peak season. Here are some insights on how to get the most from your day trip during the peak season.

There will always be a long queue for the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, but there is rarely a queue for the Igreja Santa Maria de Belém, the church which is attached to the monastery. Inside the church is the tomb of King Manuel I and Vasco da Gama, along with beautiful examples of Manueline stone carvings. Best of all, the church is free to visit. The entrance to the church is via the Western doorway, next to the long queue to enter the monastery.

Igreja Santa Maria de Belém

The Igreja Santa Maria de Belém with its beautiful carved stone pillars

The finest stone carvings of the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos surround the exterior of the southern doorway into the Igreja Santa Maria de Belém. This can be viewed from the outside, with no need to queue or pay an admission fee.

The Torre de Belem is always busy, with again long queues to enter, but it's best aspects are all on the outside. The fort is surprisingly small, the internal rooms are sparsely decorated, and it is not worth a 40-minute wait to enter.

torre belem queue Lisbon

The best photo of the Torre de Belem is from the outside, and there is not much more to see by entering it.

The Fábrica Pastéis de Belém is deceptively large with many inner rooms, but it can still be a long wait for a table. Instead of eating inside, buy a pack of the taste Pastéis de Belém from the attached shop and eat them within the pretty gardens of the Jardim da Praça do Império.

At lunchtime, every restaurant in Belem will be busy; it's better to plan an early or late lunch to avoid rushed or poor service.

It is a very scenic walk between the Padrão dos Descobrimentos and the Torre de Belém, but again it will be busy. For a more peaceful walk, head eastwards from the Doca de Belém and ferry terminal to the MAAT museum. There is a scenic viewpoint on the roof of the MAAT museum, which is free to climb up to.

MAAT view point Lisbon

The view of the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge from the MAAT view point

Travel to Belem

Belem is 5km to the west of central Lisbon and the Baixa district. The easiest method to travel to Belem is by the number 15 tram, which departs from the Praça da Figueira and passes through the Praça do Comércio. The journey takes 15 minutes and a single ticket purchased on the tram costs €3.00. There is a 24h unlimited public transport ticket costing €6.40, but this can only be purchased from a metro station (not on the tram). The tram stop for Belem is called "Belem-Jeronimos" and is next to the Jeronimos monastery.

The E15 tram is the easiest way to travel to Belem, but it gets very crowded and is plagued by skilled pickpockets.

A good alternative to the tram is the 714 or 728 bus routes, which connect Belem and the Baixa districts, and follow the same route as the tram. The bus is cheaper than the tram and a single bus ticket costs €2.00.
Related articles: Tram E15

e15 tram lisbon

The E15 tram outside of the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos

Costs for a day trip to Belem

Belem can be an inexpensive day trip if you choose to wander the district, and view the exteriors of the main sights. Entrance fees and costs are:
• 2 x €3.00 for the tram (2x €2.00 return bus fare)
• €6.00 - Padrao dos Descobrimentos
• €6.00 - Torre de Belem
• €10.00 - Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
• Free - Igreja Santa Maria de Belém
• €5.00 - Pastel de Belém
• €5.00 - Museu Coleção Berardo art gallery

The tourist attractions of Belem

The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is the extravagant monastery that was funded by the 5% tax levied on spices that flowed into Portugal. Originally designed as a modest monastery, the excessive trade wealth extended the construction by 60 years, and created one of the most ornate religious buildings of Portugal.

The site has a close connection to the early explorers, as Vasco da Gama spent his last night here before his epic voyage to India. Later the church was the location that sailors' wives would come to pray for the safe return of their loved ones.

Mosteiro dos Jeronimos cloisters

The Manueline styled cloisters

The Padrão dos Descobrimentos
The Padrão dos Descobrimentos was constructed as a temporary exhibition for the World Exhibition hosted in Lisbon in 1940. It was made a permanent structure in the 1960s, and commemorated 500 years since the death of Henry the Navigator (Infante Dom Henrique).

On the western side of the monument are the depictions of the explorers, while on the eastern side are the key financiers, with both sides supporting the statue of Infante Dom Henrique, the driving force behind Portugal's 15th century “Age of Discovery”. The monument is ingeniously designed so as to give the appearance of the bow of a boat overlooking the estuary, with the rear representing the Latin Cross.
Related articles: Padrão dos Descobrimentos

Padrão dos Descobrimentos belem

The eastern side of the Padrão dos Descobrimentos

Torre de Belem
The delightful Torre de Belem once stood in the centre of the Tejo Estuary, and guard the city against sea bound attack. For such a minor defensive fortification, the Torre de Belem was built with elaborate craftsmanship and is adorned with beautifully carved stonework that exemplifies the Manueline style of architecture.
Related articles: The Torre de Belem

Torre de Belem battlements

The shield-shaped battlements of the Torre de Belem

The Centro Cultural de Belem (CCB)
The Belem Cultural Centre (BCC) was constructed to host the 1992 European presidency. Today this sprawling complex contains concert halls, exhibition rooms and the Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon's best contemporary art gallery. http://museuberardo.pt

Museu Coleção Berardo Lisbon

Museu Nacional dos Coches Museum
The Museu Nacional dos Coches Museum exhibits a fascinating and niche collection of horse-drawn carriages. These wonderfully decorative carriages span many centuries and include vehicles used by European royalty. The museum has two buildings; the main collection is housed in a modern complex, while the secondary, smaller collection is displayed in the formal royal arena.
Official website: http://museudoscoches.gov.pt/pt/

Museu Nacional dos Coches Museum Lisbon

The royal riding arena and the delightful coaches

Palácio de Belém
The pink Palácio de Belém is the official residence of the President of Portugal

Palácio de Belém lisbon

Museu de Marinha
The Museu de Marinha details Portugal's maritime history and is housed in the western end of the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. The museum is divided into two sections; the first contains historical artefacts and models of the ships, while the second displays royal yachts and fascinating early aircraft. https://ccm.marinha.pt/pt/museu

Museu de Marinha belem lisbon

Jardim da Praça do Império
The Jardim da Praça do Império is one of Europe's largest plazas and is filled with ornamental water gardens, with a grand fountain as the centrepiece.

Jardim da Praça do Império lisbon

Monumento aos Combatentes do Ultramar
The Monumento aos Combatentes do Ultramar is the war memorial that honours Portuguese soldiers who died during the Africa independence uprisings of the 1960-1970s. Each soldier who died is inscribed on the walls that surround the memorial.

Monumento aos Combatentes do Ultramar lisbon

Discover more of Lisbon with our most popular guides

lisbon Portugal guide
top 10 lisbon
Secret Lisbon
Where to stay which district lisbon
48 hours lisbon
lisbon food and meals
Lisbon day trips
lisbon beaches
3 days in Lisbon
1 week in lisbon
24 hours in lisbon
lisbon for families
Baixa district lisbon
belem distrcit lisbon
lisbon shopping
alfama district lisbon
Parque das Nações district lisbon
sintra portugal
Costa da Caparica
cascais portugal
Lisbon viewpoints
lisbon airport guide
Cost of a holiday to Lisbon
wet day in lisbon
Lisbon museums

A complete list of all of our Lisbon articles

uk - es pt it de fr

LisbonLisboaPortugal.com

The best guide to Lisbon

lisbon Portugal guide
top 10 lisbon
Secret Lisbon
Where to stay which district lisbon
48 hours lisbon
lisbon food and meals
Lisbon day trips
lisbon beaches
3 days in Lisbon
1 week in lisbon
24 hours in lisbon
lisbon for families
Baixa district lisbon
belem distrcit lisbon
lisbon shopping
alfama district lisbon
Parque das Nações district lisbon
sintra portugal
Costa da Caparica
cascais portugal
Lisbon viewpoints
lisbon airport guide
Cost of a holiday to Lisbon
wet day in lisbon
Lisbon museums
lisbon Portugal guide
top 10 lisbon
Secret Lisbon
Where to stay which district lisbon
48 hours lisbon
lisbon food and meals
Lisbon day trips
lisbon beaches
3 days in Lisbon
1 week in lisbon
24 hours in lisbon
lisbon for families
Baixa district lisbon
belem distrcit lisbon
lisbon shopping
alfama district lisbon
Parque das Nações district lisbon
sintra portugal
Costa da Caparica
cascais portugal
Lisbon viewpoints
lisbon airport guide
Cost of a holiday to Lisbon
wet day in lisbon
Lisbon museums