Pretty as a picture, Belém is a can’t-miss day trip while visiting Lisbon. A small western suburb of Lisbon, Belém was once an escape for Lisbon’s elite from the poverty of the city—just like Sintra was an escape for royalty (we’re seeing a trend here!). It’s historic roots go much deeper than that: due to Belém’s ideal location on the northern banks of the Tagus River, the many of the 14th century adventurers and explorers set sail from here, and there’s a monument to prove it.
- Where to stay: My Story Hotel Ouro in Lisbon (Belém is a day trip from Lisbon)
- Flight details: Fly into Lisbon Portela Airport (LIS), then take Tram 15 to Belém from Lisbon
- Time of year visited: Summer
- Time in Belém: 1 day
- Portugal itinerary: Day trips to Belém and Sintra, 3 days in Lagos and Lisbon, 2 days in Porto, a road trip through the Douro Valley (2 weeks off of work!)
Save this map to use on your trip:
- Click the star to the right of the map title
- Open the Google Maps app on your smartphone
- Click on the three lines in the upper left corner and select “Your Places”
- Select “Maps” and the map will be saved there for you to use on your trip. Have fun!
You’ll hear about the Late Gothic Manueline style of architecture while visiting Portugal, and Jerónimos Monastery is one of the most prominent examples (think richly ornate portals, windows, columns, and arcades, giving you so much to see and photograph!). Because of its important position on the river where the voyages of discovery would depart, Jerónimos Monastery used to be inhabited by monks whose sole mission was to give spiritual guidance to sailors. You can still see the maritime theme reflected coils of rope, sea monsters, coral, and other sea details in the architecture.
Don’t Miss: If you’re visiting Belém from Lisbon, Tram 15E will drop you off right before Jerónimos Monastery, the perfect location for picking up a pastéis de nata (custard tart) at Pastéis de Belém, who have been creating the treat since 1837 from a recipe found at the Monastery. The line will be massive for both dining in and take out, but the takeout line will move quickly, and it’s worth the wait.
Logistics: When you approach the Monastery, there will be three lines: one for tickets, which was the front left when I visited (always buy your tickets online in advance to avoid the lines!); one to enter the Church of Santa Maria de Belém at the front right; and one at the back left to enter the Monastery. Let a security guard know you have a ticket, and you should be able to skip right to the back left to enter the Monastery. You can visit the Church of Santa Maria de Belém when you’re finished, or skip it. You get a bird’s eye view of it from areas within the Monastery.
Belém Tower is another architectural jewel from the reign of Manuel I. Sitting on the Tagus River (it presumably used to be on land), it has served as both an artillery/first line of defense for anyone sailing to Lisbon from the ocean and a dungeon for anyone who had crossed the crown. Now, it’s another place to get those fantastic vistas offered all over Lisbon.
Don’t Miss: Make sure to wait in line to climb up to the Tower’s terrace. The views are outstanding!
Logistics: There are two separate lines for ticket holders and ticket buyers, so buying tickets in advance is really important here. There’s a limited number of people allowed into the Tower at a time, so you’ll be able to get in much faster with tickets already in hand.
Take some time to wander from the Monastery to the Tower along the waterfront, past the Discovery Monument and marinas, or better yet, grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants surrounding Doca do Bom Sucesso and toast the sailors headed out to sea.