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Jerónimos Monastery

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a prime example of the exuberant Manueline architectural style.

TravelCurious Tip

Make the most of your trip to Belém: be sure to visit the Tower, and also try some Pastéis de Belém!

A Passage to India

Where the Jerónimos Monastery now stands, near the coast of Belém, there was once a rather more humble hermitage, founded by Henrique the Navigator. The nearby harbour used to shelter ships before sending them on their great voyages during Portugal’s ‘Age of Discovery’, and the hermitage and its monks helped prepare them. Vasco da Gama and his men passed the night in prayer there before setting out on their famous journey to India in 1497.


Nautical Style

During the 16th century the church was rebuilt as a grand monastery to celebrate the success of that same voyage. The result is an exemplar of the Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style of architecture. It is a richly ornate style that often incorporates maritime themes, here carved into calcário de lioz, a golden limestone quarried from Ajuda. Scalloped arches, coils of rope and shell-like turrets nestle among the usual motifs of leaves and vines.


The monastery was founded in celebration of - and funded by - Portugal’s Age of Discovery. Portuguese vessels reaped wealth from Africa, Asia and South America, and held tight control of the spice trade through their navy. However, the monks were moved out in 1833 when the building became state property; it was then used as a rather magical orphanage until 1940 and is now open to visitors. It is certainly one of the most beautiful buildings in Lisbon.


The Great and the Good

Inside the church Vasco de Gama himself is interred in the lower chancel, across from the 16th century poet Luís Vaz de Camões, author of the epic The Lusiads in which he lauds the exploits of Da Gama and his compatriots. And these two are not alone: other great figures in Portuguese history are entombed here, including King Manuel and King Sebastião, as well as the poets Fernando Pessoa and Alexandre Herculano.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Lisbon
Discoveries Monument
A monument celebrating the Portuguese Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries.
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.
Belém Tower
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this fortified tower was used defence and ceremony during the Golden Era.
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. 
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