The original, independent guide to Lisbon
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Belem is a picturesque district to the west of central Lisbon that stretches along the banks of the River Tejo. Contained in Belem are numerous interesting historical monuments and fascinating buildings which are set amongst carefully maintained parks and open areas. Traditionally Belem was the district of Lisbon where the elite and nobility resided and today Belem is Lisbon’s finest tourist district.
Belem light house
This guide will provide a walking tour of Belem that encompasses all of the main tourist attractions and takes around 3-4 hours to complete. Belem is ideal to be explored by walking and unlike central Lisbon there are no steep hills to contend with.
Portugal's 14th century age of discovery originated from Belem; such great explores as Vasco de Gama and Henry the Navigator departed from the harbours of Belem to explore the uncharted oceans. The wealth that these voyages discovered and subsequent trade from the colonies was funnelled back into Belem and constructed the mighty Mosteiro dos Jeronimos.
Highlight of Belem include:
Belem is connected to central Lisbon by the trams network and is served by all trams heading in a westerly direction from Praça do Comércio. The route passes the regenerated docks area and passes beneath the massive 25th Of April suspension Bridge. The entire journey takes approximately 15 minutes. The Tram is exited at the stop marked Belem and this is where most visitors exit the tram.
The stunning Ponte 25 de Abril in Lisbon
The first attraction of the Belem walking tour is the Palacio Nacional de Belem (Belem National Palace). This grand palace is painted a distinctive pink colour and is the official residence of the president of Portugal, though few choose to live here.
The pink Palacio Nacional Belem
To the right of the Belem National Palace is the Coach Museum, which contains an extensive collection of horse driven carriages and was the private collection of Queen Amelia. The interesting museum is housed in the 18th century royal riding hall that was part of Belem National Palace complex.
Heading south from the museum passes through the Square of Afonso de Albuquerque the first of numerous neatly laid gardens. This tranquil park used to be a busy harbour up until the 18 century and in the centre is a monument dedicated to Afonso de Albuquerque staring gracefully over the Tejo.
There is a footbridge to the south east side of the park which crosses of the rail. At the water front turn west (right) and stroll along the water front, this walk follows banks of the Tejo estuary towards the Discoveries Monument (approximately 500m). This section provides fine views of the 25th Of April suspension Bridge and Statue of Christ the King on the opposite bank of the Tejo. Unfortunately there is no bridge over the entrance to the marina and visitors must walk round the edge of it.
The Padrao dos Descobrimentos monument
The Discoveries Monument (Padrão dos Descobrimentos) is situated at the month of the old harbour (which no long exists) where many of the great expeditions left to discover the riches of the new worlds. The carved statues on the side of the monument, reaching up to the heavens, illustrate the explorers to the west side and the supports of the voyages on the east side. Inside (entrance €3) there is a lift taking visitors to the top for spectacular panoramic views of the Tejo. On the ground in front of the monument is a large stone map (the Rosa dos Ventos) that details the voyages of the early explorers and was a gift from South Africa.
From the Discovery Monument use the underpass to cross the railway and enter the Praça do Imperio. This square of planted gardens and neat gardens is one of Europe’s largest squares and is bound by the grand Mosteiro dos Jeronimos and bland looking CCB.
Portuguese custard cakes
To the north eastern side of the Praça do Imperio (close to tram stop) is the Pastries de Belem a great place for a coffee and traditional custard cake. The Cafe “Pasties de Belem” is the tradition home of the cake and it is a busy rowdy place which apparently sells over 10,000 cakes a day (with the record day being 55,000 sold!). Cakes cost €1.40 for one or a pack of 6 for €7.
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