Guide to Lisbon’s Belém district

Belem Tower

Discovering Lisbon? Discover the emblematic Belém district, home to the city’s must-see monuments.

A visit to Belém is a must during your stay in Lisbon. Located 6 kilometers from the city center, the district stretches along the Tagus River. A symbol of Portugal’s great discoveries, it was from here that the great explorers of the 15th and 16th centuries set sail. The result is typical Manueline architecture and some of Portugal’s most beautiful monuments. Are you planning a visit to Belém? We’ll give you all the tips and information you need to plan your trip.

The History of Belém

Tour de Belem

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Historically, Belém was the district of the shipyards and the opening to the sea. It was the point of departure for Vasco da Gama ‘s expedition to India in 1497 and for many Portuguese explorers during the Great Discoveries.

Numerous monuments and museums in the district bear witness to this colonial past. The Belem Tower and the Hieronymites Monastery, both Unesco World Heritage Sites, are two of the most striking examples. Their architecture reveals influences from all over the world. The National Palace, a former royal residence now home to the President, is also in the district.

Finally, it was here that Portugal ‘s entry into the European Union was signed in 1986. A visit to Belém is guaranteed to take you on a journey back in time, between monuments, museums and the tranquil atmosphere along the river. Not forgetting the delicious pastéis de Belém, Lisbon’s emblematic pastries, which originated in this district.

What to see and do in Belém

Belem Tower

Vue sur la tour Belem au bord du fleuve Tejo à Lisbonne - Portugal

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Listed as a national monument since 1907, the Belém Tower is one of Portugal’s 7 wonders. It is the undisputed symbol of the great Portuguese explorations of the late Middle Ages, and a must-see when visiting Belém. Built in the early 16th century, it was part of a system of fortifications designed to protect Lisbon from enemy invasion. Built on the right bank of the river, it was used to control the passage of ships. Its architecture is in the Manueline style, typical of the period. The elaborate facades feature naturalistic and oriental elements inspired by the conquests and voyages of the great explorers.

If you only have a day to visit Belém, we advise you to make do with the view from the tower.

Monument of discoveries

Monument aux Découvertes

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From the tower of Belém, you need only follow the Tagus alongside several small ports to come upon the Monument to the Discoveries. Built in 1960, it commemorates the great Portuguese discoveries. Facing the sea, it depicts a caravel ready to embark on a new adventure. On its sides, you’ll notice sculptures paying tribute to Vasco de Gama and Magellan.

For just €4, an elevator takes you to the top, over 50 meters high. Like a lookout on its mast, you’ll have a view of the Tagus and the horizon, with the April 25 Bridge on your left and the Cristo Rei in the background.

Berardo Museum

Musée Berardo

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As you continue your tour of Belém, you’ll come across the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Lisbon’s most visited museum. Here you can admire Portuguese works dating from 1900 to the present day.

Admission is free on Saturdays, a great deal if you’re visiting Belém at the weekend. In the museum’s garden, a café overlooking the Tagus and the Monument to the Discoveries offers you a well-deserved break.

Hieronymites Monastery

Le monastère des Jeronimos ou le monastère des Hiéronymites est situé à Lisbonne, au Portugal

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The second monument on your itinerary to be classified as a Unesco World Heritage Site, the Hieronymites Monastery impresses with its beauty. Financed by the spice trade following the great maritime expeditions, it is the jewel of Manueline architecture. The cloister is the main part of the visit, and you can admire the chiselled sculptures adorning the interior facades.

  • The navigator Vasco de Gama and the poet Luis de Camões are buried in the adjoining church.
  • In the wings of the monastery, you can visit the Marine Museum and the Archaeology Museum.

A victim of its own success, the monastery is very busy. To avoid other tourists visiting Belém, we advise you to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

Boutique Pastéis de Belém

Pasteis de Belem,

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What could be better than the country’s traditional pastry after a busy day?

The traditional bakery Pastéis de Belém is the only one to serve these little flans sprinkled with cinnamon. It sells over 10,000 a day! Legend has it that the recipe has been passed down through the centuries, from the Hieronymite monks who used to make them for themselves. Today, only the pastry chef at the Pastéis de Belém store holds the secret. If you’d like to try the little tarts, you’ll have to queue, but you won’t be disappointed with the result.

Coach Museum

Museu dos Coches

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Carriages, horse-drawn carriages, sedan chairs, uniforms… This museum boasts the world’s only collection of period vehicles. It traces the different means of transport used in Portugal and Europe from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

The splendor of the era is reflected in the many gold-covered models, embellished with the most luxurious materials. Some of the finest pieces include the carriage of Pope Clement XI and that of King João V. An original activity if you’re visiting Belém with your family.

Guided tours of Belém

Bus tour of historic monuments

belém bus

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Yellow Bus offers a tour of Belém departing from the Hieronymites Monastery.

The buses have an open second deck, so you can enjoy the sunshine and unobstructed views of the Tagus and the monuments. An audio-guide accompanies the journey, giving you all the interesting information you need about the different places you pass through. There are stops at all the main points of interest, and you can get on and off the bus at any time with the same ticket. Departures take place every 20 minutes, and the entire non-stop bus tour lasts around 50 minutes.

Walking tour

belém pied

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To make the most of the district’s atmosphere, we recommend visiting Belém on foot.

A number of associations, such as Lisbon Me and Secrets, offer themed tours of the city’s different districts. Enthusiastic guides will adapt to your desires to create the optimal tour according to your wishes. These French guides, who have fallen in love with the white city and live on site, know the history and amusing anecdotes of the Belém district inside out. The tour lasts between 2 and 4 hours, depending on the association you choose.

Tour on the theme of the Great Discoveries

Padrao dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries)

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Departing from the famous Place du Commerce, this tour takes you along the banks of the river to the Belém district.

Your guide will tell you how Portugal contributed to the discovery of the world thanks to the great explorers of the 15th century. You’ll discover many anecdotes and stories about these emblematic figures, as well as the monuments that pay tribute to them, such as the Monument of Discoveries. The tour also includes the Belem Tower and the Hieronymite Monastery, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Guided electric bike tour

belém vélo

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To cut down on travel time between the various monuments to be visited, you can opt for a tour of Belém on an electric bike. As most of the route is on cycle paths, you’ll be safe all the way. Your guide will take you to all the must-see sights in Belém, such as the Monument of Discoveries and the Hieronymite Monastery.

Interactive tour of Belém’s hidden treasures

belém monument

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This tour will allow you to discover Belém in a fun way thanks to a treasure hunt accessible directly from your smartphone:

  • Download the application and start solving the riddles.
  • With each correct answer, you’ll receive information about the history of the neighborhood or the local culture, and you’ll be guided to a new location.
  • You’ll discover the district’s most emblematic monuments, as well as lesser-known places, all while having fun.

This tour is an ideal way to visit Belém with family or friends.

The best hotels to stay at in the Belém district

As the district is located a little way from the city center, we recommend that you find a room that will enable you to visit Belém in the best possible conditions.

  • For example, we recommend the Hotel Jeronimos 8, ideally located between the Hieronymites Monastery and the Belém pastry shop. This 4-star establishment welcomes you in designer surroundings, with a sunny terrace and Pastéis de Belém for breakfast. Ver Belém Suites and Pensão Residencial Setubalense are two other great options, just a stone’s throw from the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos stop.
  • For bigger budgets: the Altis Belém Hotel & Spa is a 5-star hotel with rooms offering breathtaking views of the Tagus River. Impeccable service and contemporary decor will make your stay a relaxing and unforgettable interlude.
  • Travelers looking for basic comfort will find what they’re looking for at the Belém Guest House and Belém Backpackers Hostel, two youth hostels with a friendly atmosphere and affordable prices. Both are located in the same area, near theIgreja da Memória.

Where to eat in the Belém district

In addition to the Pastéis de Belém boutique, the district boasts a number of sumptuous, quality restaurants offering Portuguese cuisine at all price levels.

  • We can’t recommend Le comptoir Parisien enough, with its menu featuring a mix of French and Portuguese dishes. Don’t miss classics such as octopus risotto or brandade de morue. To discover traditional Portuguese products, you can also trust the Prova Enoteca restaurant, located a little outside the traditional tourist circuit.
  • If you’re looking for a lunchtime break with a breathtaking view, Darwin’s Café offers haute cuisine in an enchanting setting overlooking the Tagus River and the Belem Tower.
  • If you’d like to visit Belém and indulge in some of Portugal’s finest cuisine, head to La Feitoria, just a stone’s throw from the Monument des Découvertes. Michelin-starred chef João Rodriguez offers a true experience centered on the product and the material. Choose between the Terra and Matéria menus for an 8- or 10-course gustatory journey.

How do I get to Belém?

As the district is at the western end of Lisbon, you’ll need to take public transport from the city center to visit Belém. There are plenty of economical options.

Daily transportation

  • By bus: Numerous buses take you to Belém from the city center. Buses 723, 732, 748, 751, 760 and 776 serve the district. To help you find your way around, please note that the bus lines have different colors according to the neighborhoods they serve. To visit Belém, take the pink line. The bus fare is €2.
  • By cab: there are over 3,000 cabs in Lisbon, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding what you’re looking for. You can recognize them by their color: black, green or creamy-white. If they’re free, the terminal is lit up in green. Journey time from downtown to Belém is around 20 minutes.
  • By train: a quick, easy and economical way to visit Belém from Lisbon. Just get off at Cais do Sodré station. There are departures every 12 minutes during the day, and the journey takes 7 minutes. The train ticket costs €1.35.

Original transport

  • By streetcar: streetcar line 15 takes you from downtown Lisbon to the Belém district. You can board the bus from a number of locations, including the Praça do Comercio(Trade Square). Get off at the Belém-Jeronimos stop, right next to the Hieronymites monastery. The journey costs €3, but a 24-hour unlimited public transport ticket is also available for €6. From the Cais do Sodré station, take streetcar no. 18 to visit Belém.
  • By boat: if you’re on the other side of the river, the ferry is the most convenient way to reach and visit Belém. You can board at Trafaria or Porto Brandão, for the modest sum of €1.25.