Belem is one of my favourite destinations in Lisbon – such a beautiful part of town along the river and home to some of Lisbon’s most famous monuments including Belem Tower and the Monument to Discoveries. But there’s so much more to do there than you might expect – head to the Jeronimos Monastery or enjoy a fish stew along the river Tagus. Here are my top things to do in Belem. But first of all, how do you get to Belem?
How to get to Belem from Lisbon
Getting to Belem from central Lisbon is extremely easy. If you are up for a walk along the coast, it is actually possible to walk to Belem from central Lisbon, but expect it to take an hour. It’s a popular path with cyclists, dog walkers and runners and there are some lovely restaurants and cafes along the route.
But, most people will have limited time in Lisbon and will want to make the most of it – so in this case, you will probably want to take the train. From your hotel or Lisbon accommodation, walk down towards the seafront and to Cais do Sodre station. At Cais do Sodre you can jump on the train that stops off at Belem using your Viva Viagem card that you use with the Metro. Get the train going in the direction of Cascais.
The Best things to do in Belem
Torre de Belem – Belem tower
Jutting out into the ocean is the famous Belem tower, one of the most noteable landmarks of Lisbon. Built in 1515 and designed by architect Francisco de Arruda, it was built to protect Lisbon from attacks that would come by sea via the river Tagus.
It is possible to go up Belem tower and get a view from the top (for around €9) but this has been on hold for the last few years due to renovations. We will keep an eye out for when this is back on, but seeing the tower of Belem from the ground is still well worth it.
Eat a Fish Stew
There are some gorgeous restaurants along the river front in Belem. Just walk along from the monuments and you will see plenty of good options – just go where the locals go! I had a fantastic fish stew at O Pedrouços which had pasta, salmon and cuttlefish. It was so big that I asked to take it away (‘Posso tirar isso’ is Portuguese for can I take it away?).
Monument to the Discoveries – Padrão dos Descobrimentos
Monument to the Discoveries was built in 1940 as a celebration of the Portuguese discoveries during the seafaring ‘Golden Age’. It was reconstructed in 1960 – 500 years after the death of Henry the Navigator (Infante Dom Henrique). The monument was created by Cottinelli Telmo (1897–1948) and the sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida (1898–1975). It’s a huge stone ship decorated with important chracters from the age of discoveries on both sides. Look out for:
- Bartolomeo Diaz – The first man who managed to reach Cape of Good Hope.
- Vasco de Gama – After a two year epic journey he managed to find the route to the Indies.
- Pedro Álvares Cabral – The man who discovered Brazil.
- Ferdinando Magellano – the first European man to navigate in the Pacific Ocean.
You can view the official website of the monument here. It’s one of the best things to do in Belem – I love what it represents.
It is possible to go up the monument and get a great view from the top – just buy an entrance ticket as you go in. There is also the Belem cultural centre downstairs, which is a museum dedicated to this period in history.
The first time I visited Lisbon I was astounded by Jeronimos Monastery in Belem. It’s a monsatery on a massive scale that is worth visiting time and time again.
The Jerónimos Monastery is the best place to visit in Portugal for a number of religious, historical and cultural reasons. Sometimes known as Hieronymites Monastery, it is a former monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome. Construction started in 1501 and it took 100 years to build! It was originally built to commemorate the safe return of Vasco da Gama and his men.
In one wing of the monastery you will find the Maritime Museum – a collection of finely decorated boats, models, maps, astrolabes, and much more (https://www.portugal.net/en/lisbon/maritime-museum)
Eat a Pasteis de Belem
Next to the Monastery you will probably see long queues and a lot of people (Portuguese and international visitors) enjoying the traditional tarts – Pasteis de Belem. In 1837 they began making the traditional Portuguese tarts here using an ancient recipe from Jeronimos Monastery. But, did you know that only pasteis from THIS place can be called ‘Pasteis de Belem’ – everywhere else they are known as Pasteis da Nata!
If you are looking for other things to do in Lisbon, why not consider travelling across the bridge to the Cristo Rei statue in Alfama?