Guides Lisbon Visiting Belém Tower & Jerónimos Monastery: Tips & Insights

Visiting Belém Tower & Jerónimos Monastery: Tips & Insights

City Guide December 22, 2023



Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery are not just Lisbon landmarks; they are symbols of Portugal’s Age of Discoveries, essential visits for anyone in Lisbon. These stunning monuments are rich in history and architectural beauty, particularly the Manueline architectural style, which reflects the opulence of Portugal's golden age. The Jerónimos Monastery, which houses the tomb of Vasco da Gama, one of Portugal's most famed explorers, and historical connections to the royal family, offers a deep dive into the nation's past.

To make your visit as enriching as possible, explore the intricate designs of the Manueline style, understand the historical significance of the royal family's patronage, and pay respects to the tomb of Vasco da Gama, all while soaking in the grandeur of these iconic sites.

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Belém Tower: A Maritime Icon

Unraveling the History of Torre de Belém

Belém Tower, or Torre de Belém, is a sentinel at the edge of the Tagus River in Lisbon. This architectural jewel, built in the early 16th century under King Manuel I, is a prime example of the Manueline style, incorporating maritime elements and representations of the Age of Discoveries. Initially serving as a fortress and later as a customs post and a lighthouse, it has become a symbol of Lisbon's maritime past, commemorating the exploratory feats of navigators like Vasco da Gama.


Tips for Visiting

Best Time to Visit

To fully enjoy the experience, visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon. These times typically have fewer visitors, offering a more tranquil visit and better photo opportunities with softer lighting.

Climbing the Tower

Ascending the tower requires navigating a narrow spiral staircase, which can be challenging. However, the panoramic views from the top – overlooking the river and the picturesque surroundings – are a rewarding experience. The terrace offers a unique perspective of Lisbon's coastline and is a perfect spot for photography enthusiasts.

Nearby Attractions

While in Belém, visit the nearby Monument to the Discoveries, which stands tall along the riverbank. This modern monument, shaped like a caravel, features sculptures of prominent figures from Portugal's Age of Discoveries, including Henry the Navigator. Just a short walk away, you can also explore the Jerónimos Monastery, another marvel of the Manueline architecture, and indulge in the famous pastéis de Belém at the nearby pastry shop.

Exploring the Area

Belém is rich in cultural and historical sites. Spend some time walking along the riverbank or relaxing in the gardens of Belém. The Cultural Centre of Belém, hosting exhibitions and events, is also worth a visit.



Jerónimos Monastery: A Manueline Masterpiece

The Splendor of Mosteiro dos Jerónimos

Jerónimos Monastery, a magnificent example of the Manueline style, is a testament to Portugal's Golden Age of Discovery. This UNESCO World Heritage site symbolizes Portugal's wealth, power, and exploratory triumphs, commissioned by King Manuel I in the early 16th century and masterfully constructed by architect Diogo de Boitaca. The monastery's elaborate design features maritime motifs and symbols of exploration, reflecting the era’s exuberant spirit and Portugal's role as a maritime superpower.


Inside the Monastery

Tombs of the Greats

The monastery's interior is as impressive as its exterior, housing the tombs of Vasco da Gama and poet Luís de Camões, among other historical figures. These tombs, set within the church, pay homage to those who played a crucial role in Portugal's history.

The Church of Santa Maria

The Church of Santa Maria, part of the monastery complex, is an architectural marvel. Its stunning interior boasts soaring vaulted ceilings and a breathtaking altar. The intricate stonework and the beautiful stained glass windows create a serene and reverent atmosphere.

Exploring the Cloisters

The two-story cloisters of the monastery are a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture. The intricately carved columns, each uniquely adorned, and the detailed arches reflect the mastery of Manueline art. The cloisters surround a peaceful garden, offering a tranquil retreat and a chance to ponder the place's rich history.

Visiting the Refectory

Don't miss the monastery's refectory, where monks once gathered for their meals. The space is adorned with azulejos (traditional Portuguese tiles) that depict religious scenes and provide a glimpse into the daily life of the monastery.

The Maritime Museum and the Archaeological Museum

Within the monastery complex, visitors can also explore the Maritime Museum and the Archaeological Museum, each offering unique insights into Portugal's naval history and archaeological discoveries.


Visiting Tips

Timing Your Visit

It's important to note that the Jerónimos Monastery is closed on Mondays. To make the most of your visit, aim to arrive early in the day. This helps avoid the larger crowds that gather later and allows you to experience the monastery in a more serene setting. The morning light streaming through the windows adds a magical touch to the stunning interior.

Combination Tickets

Consider purchasing a combination ticket for those planning to explore more of Belém’s attractions. These tickets often include access to the Jerónimos Monastery, the Tower of Belém, and the Maritime Museum, providing a comprehensive Belém experience at a reduced cost.

Guided Tours

You might want to join a guided tour to enhance your understanding of the monastery’s history and architecture. These tours, often led by knowledgeable guides, offer insights into the monastery’s past and its significance in Portuguese history.



Exploring the Surrounding Area

Culinary Delights: Pastéis de Belém

A visit to Belém is incomplete without tasting the iconic Pastéis de Belém. These world-famous custard tarts are a culinary delight with their flaky pastry and creamy filling. The original recipe, created by monks in the 19th century, remains a secret, with only a few knowing the true formula. The café where these pastries are sold is often busy, but the experience of enjoying a warm pastel de nata, possibly sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar, is well worth the wait.


Strolling Along the Tagus

After indulging in the sweet treats, stroll along the banks of the Tagus River. This walk offers stunning views of the river and the 25 de Abril Bridge. It provides a peaceful escape from the bustling city. The riverside is perfect for walks, cycling, or simply sitting and watching the boats glide by.


Cultural Exploration

The Belém area is rich in cultural sites. After visiting the monastery, explore the nearby Belém Cultural Centre (CCB), which hosts various exhibitions and cultural events. The gardens of Belém, with their manicured lawns and shaded areas, are ideal for a relaxing break.


Discovering More Monuments

Don't miss other significant monuments, such as the Monument to the Discoveries, which celebrates the Portuguese Age of Exploration. The nearby Belém Tower, a fortress that once guarded the entrance to Lisbon's harbor, is another historical gem worth visiting.

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