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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.


Interchange

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

Private guided tour of Beautiful Belém from Lisbon with skip the line tickets
Visit Belém to see some of Lisbon’s most famous delights, from UNESCO World Heritage-listed towers and monasteries to monuments, museums and famous custard tarts.
 
  • Visit the 17th century Belém Palace, home to the Portuguese monarchy for centuries
  • See the UNESCO-listed Torre de Belém, a seafront tower
  • Tour the Gothic Jerónimos Monastery for grand Manueline architecture
  • Marvel at the sail-shaped Discoveries Monument
  • Explore cultural treasures at the National Carriages and Maritime Museums
  • Try a delicious Pastel de Belém, Portugal’s famous custard tart
Set on the waterfront, beautiful Belém is symbolic 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. Discover Belém with an expert local guide on this four-hour tour, which takes in the area’s most historic landmarks.
 
Golden Age of Discovery
 
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 which has become one of Portugal’s most photographed monuments. The gothic Jerónimos Monastery also claims UNESCO credentials, with its stunning Manueline architecture. To delve deeper into Belém’s history, you’ll spend some time perusing the Maritime Museum and Cultural Center of Belém as well as the National Carriages Museum, which boasts the biggest collection of royal carriages in the world.
 
Portuguese Sweet Treats
 
After your fill of Portuguese history, you can unwind by tasting a Pastel de Nata, the traditional Portuguese custard tart. These originated in Belém and have been sold on the steps of Jerónimos Monastery by the same bakery since 1837. Enjoy one of these delicious, iconic Portuguese treats for a small extra cost, while savouring the views of Belém’s beautiful monuments.

No visit to Lisbon would be complete without visiting Belém and this compact tour is the perfect way to get to grips with this historic neighbourhood and its ornate landmarks. 
Private Lisbon Full Day Highlights Walking Tour inc skip the line tickets
Explore Portugal’s capital on this full-day Lisbon walking tour, which showcases everything from cathedrals to castles, praças to palaces and monasteries to UNESCO monuments.
 
  • Take in the panoramic views of Lisbon from the Moorish St George’s Castle.
  • Visit key religious sites including the Sé de Lisboa cathedral and the earthquake-ravaged ruins of Carmo Convent.
  • Soak up the atmosphere in the thriving downtown Baixa district and in Lisbon’s most iconic praças: Rossio and Comércio.
  • Learn about Lisbon in the Middle Ages as you wander the steep gothic streets of the Alfama neighbourhood.
  • Explore the bohemian Bairro Alto, Lisbon’s entertainment district with its bars and Fado music.
  • Stop for a traditional Portuguese lunch (not included in price).
  • Head to historic Belém to see its 17th century palace, UNESCO-listed tower and Jerónimos Monastery.
  • Discover cultural treasures at The National Coach Music and Cultural Centre of Belém.
 On this comprehensive, eight-hour walking tour, you’ll explore Lisbon’s most important cultural and historic sites with an expert local guide. Discover everything from Lisbon’s roots as one of Europe’s most important seaports and magnet for world explorers during the Age of Discovery, to how its progressive city grid plan was developed after the horrific earthquake of 1755. Visit religious monuments, trendy cobblestone districts, historic Belem and so much more.  
 
The origins of Lisbon
 
You’ll begin delving into Lisbon’s history, which dates back to 1200 BC, by visiting key landmarks like the 1st century Roman Theatre of Lisboa and 12th century gothic cathedral, Sé de Lisboa, which has withstood the city’s cataclysmic earthquakes. From the Moorish St George’s Castle, you can admire sweeping views over Lisbon and the Tagus River and walk its impressive stone walls, which date back to the 6th century.
 
Travel back to the Middle Ages in the cobblestone streets of the Alfama neighbourhood, where vibrant yellow trams chug up the steep, narrow roads. Once a poor area located outside of Lisbon’s city walls, Alfama is now one of Lisbon’s trendiest districts and you’ll get to explore its colourful shops, buildings and bars whilst learning about the area’s Jewish and Moorish culture.
 
Back in downtown Baixa, you’ll hear about the magnitude nine earthquake which levelled much of Portugal’s capital and killed thousands in 1755. Rossio Square and Commerce Square are the perfect places to appreciate the revolutionary grid-like city plan and earthquake-resistant buildings that were implemented by the Marquis of Pombal after the disaster. The remains of  Convento do Carmo, with its roofless nave, are a reminder of the damage caused by one of the strongest quakes ever recorded.
 
Belém and Lisbon’s Age of Discovery
 
You’ll get the chance to visit Bairro Alto, a bohemian quarter known for its street art, bars and traditional Fado houses before heading to the beautiful Belém municipality. This area is famous for the 17th century Belém Palace, which was home to the Portuguese Monarchy for centuries. Both the Torre de Belém, a 16th-century fortification tower, and grand Jeronimos Monastery are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which you’ll get to admire.
 
Stop by the Discoveries Monument, which celebrates Portugal’s role in the Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries, then take some time to peruse the world’s largest collection of horse-drawn carriages at the National Coach Museum. Round off the tour with a visit to the Cultural Centre of Belém, the largest museum in Portugal which showcases the country’s cultural and technological achievements. 

Looking for an in-depth tour of Lisbon? Than this full-day highlights tour fits the bill, offering an overview of the city’s most famous sights and historical moments. 
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