Belém Tower

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this fortified tower was used defence and ceremony during the Golden Era.

TravelCurious Tip

On your way back be sure visit Pastéis de Belém for some delicious, traditional Portuguese pastries

Built in 1521 to stand watch over the Tagus River, the pearly Belém Tower was the last glimpse of Portugal that many vessels saw as they set off on their voyages during the ‘Age of Discovery’. Indeed, for many of them it would be the last bit of Portugal they ever saw. As such, it encapsulates the daring spirit of the age and its adventures into the unknown.

More Than Meets the Eye

The tower has a six-sided base, with Moorish style turrets at each corner when batteries of canons were placed. However, for a fortress, the tower has an unusually fine exterior. It was built in Manueline style with stonework that incorporates motifs of the Discoveries and the maritime tradition. It bears, for example, carvings of exotic creatures, including what may have been the first rhinoceros depicted in Europe.


The tower is now a world heritage site, along with the nearby Jerónimos Monastery. UNESCO believe the tower epitomises a certain dialogue between cultures. For example, the cross of the Knights of Christ repeats all over the parapets of the fortress, while the flanking towers are inspired by Islamic architecture. As such, the tower exemplifies the Age of Discovery and the mingling - or appropriation - of cultures that it initiated.

Inside Out

The tower is really best viewed from the banks of the Tagus River, since the Manueline stone detail covers the exterior, whereas the interior is a little sparse. That said, the upper floors of the tower contain the royal residences, which feature a beautiful Italianate loggia with sculpted columns and a number of balconies with exquisite stone work. On top of the upper floor is another terrace, with beautiful views over Belém and the Tagus River.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Lisbon
Discoveries Monument
A monument celebrating the Portuguese Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries.
Jerónimos Monastery
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a prime example of the exuberant Manueline architectural style.
Calouste Gulbenkian Planetarium
This planetarium in the Belém quarter projects stunning astronomical shows inside its 25-metre dome.
Electricity Museum
A magnificent building that hosts exhibitions about the evolution of energy.
National Coach Museum
The most popular museum in Lisbon proudly displays one of the world's finest collections of historical carriages.
Cultural Centre of Belém
The largest cultural complex in Portugal, hosting opera, ballet, symphony concerts and much more.

Related Tours

Discover Belem & Jeronimos Monastery: Private Half-Day Tour

Set on the waterfront, beautiful Belém is a symbol of Lisbon’s seafaring past, once home to Lisbon’s shipyards and docks. It was from here that 15th-century voyages launched, blazing a trail of discovery across oceans to India, East Africa and Brazil.

On your private half-day tour, you will:

  • Travel by train from central Lisbon to Belém with your tour guide, the fastest way to reach Belém;
  • See some of Lisbon’s most famous landmarks such as the Belém tower and Jerónimos Monastery; 
  • Learn of Portugal's rich Naval history and its Age of Discovery that saw it create new trade routes to Asia in the 15th century;
  • Enjoy a guided tour of Jerónimos Monastery Cloister (tickets included), a prime example of Manueline architecture, combining Gothic, Moorish and Renaissance styles, that took almost 100 years to build; 
  • See the Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument that celebrates 15th and 16th-century Portuguese explorers and visionaries;
  • End your walk in Belém at the UNESCO-listed Torre de Belém, built in the early 1500s as a defence tower turned lighthouse and later a customs centre; 
  • Return to central Lisbon with a relaxing boat trip along the Tagus river - see the 25th of April bridge and the Cristo Rei statue - accompanied by your tour guide.

Belém is the perfect place to learn about Portugal’s Golden Age of Discovery, where the 15th-century explorers set sail to discover new worlds. Today their voyages are commemorated by the sail-shaped Discoveries Monument.

These discoveries gave rise to incredible wealth from Portugal’s new colonies, which funded Belém’s grand buildings, parks and leafy plazas. Take in views of the 17th century Belém Palace, home to the Portuguese Royal Family for centuries and a prime example of English Baroque design.

Belém is famed for its remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the 16th-century Torre de Belém, a thin, stone tower that has become one of Portugal’s most photographed monuments.

The gothic Jerónimos Monastery also claims UNESCO credentials, with its stunning Manueline architecture.

Lisbon & Belem: Private Full-Day Tour with tickets and Boat Trip

Portugal's capital city of Lisbon is built upon seven hills known as the seven giants — São Jorge, São Vicente, São Roque, Santo André, Santa Catarina, Chagas e Sant'Ana — all of them visible when arriving in Lisbon by the river. This private walking tour of Lisbon & Belém will take you through the city, past its iconic landmarks, castles, and gardens and will include a River Cruise to boot.

On your private tour, you will:

  • Enjoy an all-inclusive and fully guided private tour with an expert, licensed guide;
  • Enjoy a tour of Lisbon Castle, and enjoy the spectacular views over the city (tickets included);
  • See the top sites of the city centre, from the city's highest viewpoint to the waterfront pier in the historic commercial centre;
  • Brief stop at Sé Cathedral, often just known as Sé—one of the city’s oldest and most well-known sites, which has withstood several natural disasters, including the 9.0 earthquake of 1755;
  • Walk down streets lined with artisanal shops and learn about the craft of the colourful Portuguese azulejo tiles;
  • Enjoy time in the old harbour and Praça do Comércio, where the royal palace stood for over two hundred years until 1755 and one of the city’s most recognisable squares;
  • Learn of Portugal's rich Naval history and its age of world exploration in the Belem neighbourhood;
  • See the UNESCO-listed Torre de Belém and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (from the outside);
  • Enjoy a fully guided tour of Jerónimos Monastery Church and Cloister (tickets included);
  • Enjoy a Cruise along the Tagus River - see the 25th of April bridge and the Cristo Rei statue - accompanied by your tour guide (tickets included)

From the imposing São Jorge Castle, the view encompasses the old city’s faded pastel-coloured buildings, Tagus Estuary and Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge. Arguably one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Lisbon is a city of colourful balconies and views, trams and cobbled streets. Belém is a laid-back area of Lisbon on the Tagus River, known for its colourful houses and breathtaking landmarks that recall Lisbon’s seafaring history, like the 16th-century Tower of Belém. Your tour will end after the cruise back to central Lisbon. 



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