Torre de Belem and Monument to the Discoveries

#8 in Best Things To Do in Lisbon
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Key Info

Praça do Império

Price & Hours

Free
Tues-Sun Tuesday 10 a.m.-5:30 or 6:30 p.m.

Details

Free, Sightseeing Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 0.0Food Scene
  • 4.0Atmosphere

What looks to be an idyllic mini castle seamlessly floating on the Tagus riverfront was originally a fort that served to protect Lisbon's port in the 16th century. It served as a departure point for explorers looking to travel the world during the Age of Discoveries. Today, the Manueline structure serves as a monument to that heyday and was named a UNESCO World Heritage site along with the nearby Monastery of Jeronimos. Visitors can go inside and explore the interiors, whose rooms once served as royals quarters, a prison and a chapel, to name a few. 

Padrão dos Descobrimentos, or the Monument to the Discoveries, is just a short walk away, and equally stunning. The waterfront structure was built in the 1960s in conjunction with the 500th anniversary of Henry the Navigator's death. Although he wasn't an explorer himself, he significantly supported a handful of important explorations during his time. The sail-shaped statue is lined with notable Portuguese figures throughout history, including other navigators, artists and King Manuel. Inside, visitors can watch a multimedia presentation of Portugal's history as well as climb to the top of the monument for greater views of the river. 

Travelers were taken by both of the attractions, but many lamented the crowds near and around other points of interest in historical Belém. Unless you are really curious to see what lies within the monuments, most visitors recommended appreciating the exteriors rather than waiting in the long lines to explore the lackluster interiors.

The Belém Tower is free to visit, but to tour the attraction's interior, you'll need to pay 6 euros (approximately $7.50) per person. The Monument to the Discoveries is also free to check out but costs 4 euros (less than $5) to tour. Hours for the Belém Tower vary by season, but it is generally open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 or 6:30 p.m. The Monument to the Discoveries is open Tuesday through Sunday between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. You can reach both attractions via Tram 15 to Belém. If you purchased a Lisboa Card, entrance to Belem Tower is free. For more information about the tower, visit the official government website.

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#1 Tram 28

San Francisco has its cable cars, London has its red double-decker buses and Lisbon has its trams. Tram 28, which extends from Martim Moniz to Campo Ourique, in particular takes riders on a tourist-friendly route. Not only does it pass through some of the city's most notable neighborhoods including Graça, Baixa and Bairro Alto, but it also travels by popular attractions, such as St. George's Castle and Alfama. Along with a scenic route, the cars themselves are also considered to be part of the experience. Many of Lisbon's trams, including some used on the Tram 28 route, are the same that were used in World War II, so don't expect air conditioning, or a smooth trip up and around the area's hills. But don't worry, recent travelers said it's all part of the tram's charm.

Some visitors recommend taking the tram up the steep Alfama hill and then walking back down to explore the neighborhood. Due to the tram's popularity, the tram cars tend to get crowded quickly, so make sure to arrive early or later in the day to avoid long lines. Also, because of the tram's popularity with tourists, it's a target for pickpockets. Remember to keep an eye on your belongings, especially cameras.

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