The glories of Portugal's explorers and the Age of Discovery
Lisbon's most monumental and historical area is Belem. It was from here
that many of the great Portuguese explorers embarked on their voyages of
discovery: Prince Henry the Navigator and the first overseas expedition to
conquer Ceuta in Morocco, Bartholomeu Dias to round the Cape of Good Hope,
the first voyages of Ferdinand Magellan, Vasco da Gama to discover the sea
route to India, and Christopher Columbus stopped here on his way back to
Europe after discovering the New World.
During this time Lisbon flourished with riches pouring into Portugal and saw the construction of great monuments like the Belem Tower and Jeronimos Monastery. Today these monuments and their surrounding museums are essential viewing for any visitor.
With so much to see, the Ajuda Palace and its ostentatious interior is often overlooked, but combined with the opulence of the popular Coaches Museum, it's the best place to see the regal grandeur of 18th century Lisbon and of the European royal families.
For short breaks there are cafes housed in attractive traditional houses with terraces along Rua Vieira Portuense next to the garden in front of Belem Palace. But the best place for a drink and pastries is the cafe Antiga Confeitaria de Belem which has been serving delicious custard tarts in its rooms adorned with tiles since 1841. You can have a few inside or buy a dozen to savor by the riverfront as you admire the monuments, the river, and 25 de Abril Bridge.
Belem's attractions warrant a full-day visit, but don't go on a Monday, when many of the sites are closed.
See most of Belem's attractions and ride Lisbon's metro, buses, and trams for FREE with the Lisboa Card.
The area's top 3 sights: Jeronimos
Don't forget to: Give in to temptation and have several custard tarts ("pasteis de belem") at Antiga Confeitaria de Belem.
Off the beaten path: The Tropical Garden
Transportation: Take tram 15 from downtown's Figueira Square or Comercio Square
Recommended HOTELS: Jeronimos 8, Altis Belem Hotel
Recommended RESTAURANTS: Feitoria, Vela Latina
MAP of Belem: Where to locate all of Belem's sights
Monastery - A World Heritage monument; Vasco da Gama's resting place.
Belem Tower - The city's icon; a symbol of the Age of Discovery.
Berardo Museum - World-class collection of modern art.
Discoveries Monument - The world's explorers in stone.
Coaches Museum - The world's largest collection of magnificent royal coaches.
Maritime Museum - The story of Portugal's pioneering role in world exploration at the sea.
Archaeology Museum - Archaeological finds from over the centuries.
Belem Cultural Center - Modern cultural center with regular exhibitions and events.
Tropical Garden - Beautiful garden with rare plants from around the world.
Belem Palace - The home of Portugal's President.
Memoria Church - Elegant neoclassical church.
Ajuda Palace - An extravagant royal palace.
Ajuda Botanical Garden - Beautiful gardens overlooking the river.
25 de Abril Bridge - Golden Gate's twin sister.
Docas - Attractive dock area with cosmopolitan bars and restaurants.
Monument to Christ - Christ opens His arms to the city.
Broad squares, 18th century architecture, patterned pavements, popular
Bairro Alto & Chiado - Vibrant nightlife, picturesque streets, classic and alternative culture, chic shopping, restaurants
Belem - The Age of Discovery, grandiose monuments, museums
Alfama - Medieval maze, spectacular views, an imposing castle, the sounds of Fado
Uptown - Masterpieces and museum treasures, shopping malls
Parque das Nações - The 21st century by the Tagus; futuristic architecture