Located in western Lisbon, Belém is famous as a museum district, as it is home to many of Portugal’s notable monuments such as The Belém Tower, The Jeronimos Monastery and the Bélem Palace (which is the current official residence of the country’s president).
Originally, Belém was the location of Lisbon's shipyards and docks, and from here departed the 15th century voyages that discovered sea routes to India, East Africa and Brazil. This rich heritage is still shown in Belém through extravagant buildings funded by the vast wealth that flowed into Portugal from the newly discovered colonies.
For visitors, Belém is one of the finest areas of Lisbon, as it offers outstanding tourist attractions, informative museums and magnificent views.
Built as a military defensive building in 1700, the Torre de Belém was also a ceremonial entry into the city. And yet the delicate ornamentation of the tower, including arcade windows, complex statues and Moorish-style watchtowers, makes it a true architectural wonder, considering its primary position as a defensive structure. The entry queues are always incredibly long during the high season, but it's well worth waiting to visit the dungeons and stunning viewpoints.
You can get to Belém tower by train from Cais Do Sodré (the train to Cascais, stopping at Belém) or via tram 15. The tower is open from 10am to 5pm October through to April and then 10am to 6.30pm from May to September.
The Belém Tower is a cheap tourist attraction costing only 6 euros or free when you have a Lisboa travel card.
A world heritage monument, Vasco da Gama’s resting place - This monastery is the most impressive symbol of Portugal's power and wealth during the Age of Discovery. The cloisters are magnificent, and the church interior is spacious with octagonal piers. In the centre, there is a large fountain also decorated with coats of arms, which is often illuminated during special occasions.
Entry to the monastery is 10 euros or free with a Lisboa travel card.
Jardim Vasco da Gama is small park faced by a row of pretty 16th century houses that are home to a number of traditional restaurants with outdoor seating available! Here, you can also find the Thai Pavillion which was built in Bangkok but shipped to Portugal in 2011 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Portuguese arrival in Thailand, which led to the first alliance between Thailand and a European country.
Portugal's world-famous custard tarts, or pastéis de nata, were first created by the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos monks in the 18th century. Now, they've been making them at the nearby family-owned Pastéis de Belém since 1830. The original recipe is still in use, and this popular confectionary now hires well over 100 individuals every day to manufacture an amazing 20,000 of the tasty treats. Don't let the long queues scare you off - the majority of tourists buy their pastéis to go, so in no time you can have one in your hands (and mouth!).
Sitting high up in gardens on a gently sloped hill, the Belém Palace has been the official residence of Portugal's president since 1910. King José I was inside the palace in 1755, when the Great Earthquake was felt but only to a slight degree, and it was not as badly damaged, like most buildings around this area. The richly decorated rooms, carvings, tiles and various works of art that can be visited on Saturdays are still preserved.
Note: most tours take place in Portuguese, so please ask what times the English tours are available.
Belém is home to some of the finest museums in Portugal. To learn more about the maritime past of the region, check out the Museu da Marinha, which houses an amazing array of over 17,000 items, including model ships from the Age of Exploration. If ancient history is more of your taste, visit the nearby Museu Nacional de Arqueologia, dedicated solely to ancient art from the Iberian Peninsula. And don't skip the Museu Nacional dos Coches, one of Portugal's most visited attractions; recently moved to a brand new building, its enchanting range contains coaches and carriages dating back to the 17th century.
For those looking for cutting-edge contemporary art, the recently inaugurated Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) is Lisbon’s answer to the Tate Modern and MoMA. It soon became one of Lisbon's most thrilling institutions for visual art, thanks to impressive new architecture and a dynamic schedule of exhibits and events.
Lisbon Portela Airport is the nearest airport to Belem: 16 minutes via car (follow A36 and E1) and 1 hour 1 minute via train from Belém station.
There are no beaches in Belém, but if you feel like getting vitamin SEA, you can go to Oeiras coast where the Tejo meets the Atlantic. Explore Oeiras beaches here.
To go to Belém from Lisbon, you can either take the tram 15 or tram 127 from Figueira Square in the downtown area ('Praça da Figueira' in Portuguese) or Comercio Square ('Praça do Comércio' in Portuguese) and get off as soon as you pass the Monastery of Jeronimos.
Much like any southern European country, Portugal offers a warm climate and Lisbon is no exception. No matter which month, Lisbon offers a mild climate.
In July/August you can expect the average temperature to reach a warm 24°C and the coldest average temperature in January of 11°C. November experiences the most rainfall in Lisbon, with the average reaching 128mm compared to July where you will only receive an average of 4mm of rain. In order to check the national weather forecasts feel free to see more HERE.
There are many restaurants located in Belém, and it is a nice place to go for dinner as some restaurants overlook the river. Here are our suggestions:
Alecrim no Prato (Mediterranean / Portuguese)
O Navegador (Mediterranean / Portuguese)
Terraco De Belem (seafood)
In CCB, there is also a restaurant, EsteOeste Restaurant which has an open window over Tagus River, it offers a nice multicultural atmosphere and delicious meals.
CCB also has a tea room and coffee shop offering traditional Portuguese speciality doughs and wraps! It’s open Monday to Sunday from 9.30am to 6pm.
If you have a sweet tooth, Doce Arte is a place to get chocolate, cake and other sweet treats! They also have a selection of Belgian chocolates to choose from.
Centro Cultural de Belém (CCB): This centre is a complex of artistic venues. It is the largest building with cultural facilities in Portugal.
In this centre, there are lots of different events to see, and it’s a famous place for school trips. This includes exhibitions, orchestra shows and aquariums!
CCB also offers guided tours of the building history and a view of the surrounding areas by the river. Guided tours are available from 10am to 6pm, and roughly take half an hour, and cost 5 euros per person.
Other facilities that CCB has to offer include a toy shop, a beauty and hair salon, an art gallery and many more!
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