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Belem, Portugal is located just four miles from the Lisbon city center, but feels a world away. The serene riverside town is packed with charm and a boat load of history (pun intended)! During the Age of Discovery, ships departed from Belem on the Tagus River to explore new trade routes.
It was during that time, when Portugal controlled the Spice Trade and the Indian Ocean, that many of the top Belem, Portugal attractions were built. The historic sights today rank as some of the Best Things To Do in Belem!
Things To Do in Belem, Portugal
Our recommendations of what to do in Belem, Lisbon include our favorite spots and a few local suggestions. We have also added a Belem map of sights at the end of the article so you can easily navigate to the top Belem attractions.
How To Get To Belem From Lisbon
Before we dive into Belem sightseeing, let’s chat about how to get from Lisbon to Belem. Tourists who visit Belem have a few options when it comes to getting to Belem from Lisbon, including by train, tram, boat or on foot. Our preferred method of transport is the Lisbon to Belem Tram because it stops just a short walk from our first recommended sight: Torre Belem Lisbon.
Lisbon Tram 15
From Praco do Comercio, hop on a westbound Tram 15E and travel to Mosteiro Jerónimos. The ride takes about 30 minutes. Tickets for the Lisbon Tram can be purchased from the driver or paid via the Viva Navegante Transport Card for a discounted fare. Find the most current information for Lisbon Transport fares, tickets and cards on the official Carris Website.
8 Great Things To Do in Belem
Now that you know a bit about Belem, Portugal and how to get there, lets jump into our list of the Best Belem Things To Do!
Our article includes heaps of advice on What To See in Belem. Save, Pin or Bookmark this Belem Travel Guide to plan your trip to Portugal!
#1 Belem Tower Lisbon (Torre de Belem Lisboa)
The UNESCO World Heritage Site, Torre de Belem, is one of the most iconic symbols of Portugal. Situated along the shoreline in the Tagus River, the stone fortress was built in the 16th century to provide protection to the city of Lisbon.
The building is comprised of a large bastion and 4-story tower. Designed in the Manueline style (also called Portuguese late Gothic), the tower is one of the best – and last – examples of the extravagant architecture. In addition to its use as a defensive stronghold, the dungeon was used as a prison.
Visitors can go inside the Belem Tower (€6) to learn more about the history – and to take in the views from the top (just watch your head when walking up the stairs!). We recommend making Torre de Belem your first stop on your Lisbon Day Trip, as the line gets longer throughout the day (and especially long right after the cruise ship tour buses arrive!).
Top Tip: The views of the tower are actually more impressive than from the tower. For the best view, follow the shoreline west, where you can capture both the Belem Tower, Christo Rei Statue and Pont 25 de Abril bridge in the distance.
Opening Hours: Closed Mondays and public holidays (January 1, Easter Sunday, May 1, June 13 and December 25). Otherwise, open daily from 9:30am to 6:00pm (last admission 5:30pm).
#2 Monument to the Overseas Combatants
This impressive war memorial is dedicated to members of the armed forces who lost their lives during The Portuguese Colonial War (The Overseas War) from 1961 to 1974. An eternal flame burns solemnly at the center, resting below two massive pillars and a Portuguese flag.
#3 Monument to the Discoveries (Padrao dos Descobrimentos)
The 180-foot-tall Padrao dos Descobrimentos, proudly stands on the bank of the Tagus River in Belem. The monument, which resembles the bow of a ship and features key figures from the Age of Exploration, marks the site where many expeditions began their journey to discover the new world.
The Monument to the Discoveries was built in 1960 – commemorating the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. The permanent structure is based on a temporary artwork that was displayed at the 1940 Portuguese World Exhibition.
Inside the monument there is a small museum and the access point to the rooftop terrace. From the top, guests have 360-degree views of the Belem Tower, Jeronimos Monastery, Belem Palace, April 25 Bridge and Tagus River. Tickets, which allow entry to the viewing platform and exhibition, are €10.
Top Tip: Don’t miss the beautiful tilework in the plaza in front of the monument. At the center is a large Compass Rose, made of red and black stones, as well as other stonework that includes nautical themes and sea routes.
Opening Hours: Closed on the same public holidays as the Tower (January 1, May 1 and December 25). Open daily between October to February from 10:00am to 6:00pm (last admission 5:30pm); and March to September from 10:00am to 7:00pm (last admission 6:30pm).
#4 Jeronimos Monastery, Belem
The magnificent Jeronimos Monastery was built in the 1500s, replacing a dilapidated church where explorers, such as Vasco da Gama, would pray before their expeditions. The purpose of the Belem Monastery was to house monks of the Order of Saint Jerome (who were to pray for the King of Portugal, the captain and the sailors).
Taxes imposed on new imports (from Africa and the Orient) were used to fund the project – and provided the means to create such a lavish building. Another fine example of Manueline architecture, the monastery was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
Tickets are required to enter the monastery and cost €10. Inquire about a combination ticket that includes the Jeronimos Monastery and Archaeological Museum, if you’re interested in visiting both.
Top Tip: Exploring the attached Church of Santa Maria (marked by the elaborate south portal entrance) is free! Inside visitors will find the tomb of Vasco da Gama.
Opening Hours: Closed Mondays and Holidays. From October to May, open from 10:00am to 5:00pm (last admission 4:30pm); from May to September, open from 10:00am to 6:00pm (last admission 5:30pm).
#5 Portuguese Egg Tarts (Pasteis de Belem)
Creamy Portuguese egg tarts are a culinary masterpiece in Lisbon – and the best tarts are made at Pasteis de Belem. The historic pastry shop uses a secret, 200-year-old recipe handed down by the monks from the Jeronimos Monastery (who, some claim, created the first Portuguese egg tart). Since 1837, Pasteis de Belem has been crafting the sweet confections for their eager patrons – and today tourists wait in long lines at the original shop for the delicious tarts.
Top Tip: Avoid the long take-away line and take a seat at the café, where waitstaff will likely bring you a custard egg tart much quicker than by waiting in the queue (and if you still have to wait, you can enjoy a beverage while you do!).
Hours: Open daily 8:00am to 10:00pm from June 1 to October 15, closing at 8:00pm the rest of the year (except December 24, 25, 31 and January 1 when they close at 7:00pm).
#6 Tagus River Walk
The wide riverside path in Belem is one of the most scenic routes in Lisbon! Lined with various places to perch, the shoreline walkway is ideal for a leisurely stroll. In fact, the path nearly extends all the way back to the Lisbon city center, allowing visitors to walk the 3 miles from Belem to Cais do Sodre.
Not up for a long walk? There are plenty of places to hop a tram, bus or catch the train along the way. We recommend walking east along the shoreline for about a 2 miles, where you can then catch a train at Alcantara-Mar and ride the rest of the way back into central Lisbon.
Top Tip: To get from Pasteis de Belem to the Tagus River, walk south through Jardim da Praça do Império and then access the waterfront via pedestrian tunnel under the railway.
#7 MAAT Museum, Belem
Whether you are walking back to Lisbon or not, there are a few more Belem sights you won’t want to miss. The MAAT Museum (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology) is housed in a former power station and is a fascinating place to visit. Even if you’re not interested in going inside, take the ramp up to the MAAT Rooftop. While not one of our all-time favorite Lisbon viewpoints, it’s great for views over the immediate area.
Closer to the Lisbon city center are two other attractions: the Pilar 7 Bridge Experience and, if it’s a Sunday, the LX Factory Market. Additionally, the marina facing bars and restaurants at Doca de Santo Amaro make for a pleasant pit-stop!
#8 Take a Belem Boat Ride
Sailboats are available for hire from the Belem Bom Sucesso Marina, but come at a fairly steep price. For an inexpensive Belem boat trip that features stunning views of the entire Lisbon area, hop on the Porto Brandao – Belem Ferry for a short ride across the Tagus River.
Travel Tip: Tourist boats, operated by Grayline or Lisboat (which are far more expensive than the local Lisbon Ferries), transport passengers from a pier near Torre de Belem to Praca do Comercio.
More Belem Things To Do
We’ve outlined the absolute best things to do in Belem, but what if you want to see more during your day in Belem? Add these fun Belem Lisbon things to do to your list!
See the Belem Palace
The National Palace of Belem was built in the 17th century for royalty, and today it’s the official residence of the Portuguese President. The onsite museum is open for guided tours at various times throughout the week, but also closed on Mondays. For the best views of the Belem Palace without entering, cross the street to Jardim Afonso de Albuquerque, which also features an impressive statue of the Second Governor of Portuguese India.
Visit More Belem Museums
There are numerous interesting museums in Belem, however, during our visit to Belem the weather was just too nice to be indoors! However, on rainy or extremely hot days, visitors can enjoy top-rated Belem museums like Museu Colecaso Berardo (modern and contemporary art), the Maritime Museum (Belem Navy Museum) or the National Coach Museum (featuring royal coaches).
Alges Beach Belem
Also popular on warm, summer days, this small Belem beach is a sandy spot along the Tagus Riverside. While the sand looked inviting enough, the water didn’t appear particularly clean for swimming. Alges Beach also doesn’t have any public facilities and the only other services are (somewhat oddly) a Mexican restaurant. Our advice is to stick to the riverside walking path and the top Belem attractions.
Looking for more Lisbon Things To Do? Check out our list of Free Things To Do in Lisbon!
Tips For Your Day Trip To Belem From Lisbon
Before you head off for Belem, we have a few more tips for your Lisbon Day Trip to Belem, Portugal.
Visiting Belem, Lisbon Attractions
Anyone who wants to visit Belem, Lisbon likely wants to actually enter the sights…not just see them from the outside. Most Belem sights are closed on Mondays. Make sure to check schedules in advance if you want to enter any the attractions in Belem. On the flip side, if you are content seeing the beautiful monuments from the outside, visiting on Mondays is ideal, as far less tourists take day trips to Belem on Mondays.
The Lisbon Card
The Lisbon Sightseeing Card can provide substantial savings for your Belem trip. Both the Belem Tower and Jeronimos Monastery are included with the card as well as other Belem, Portugal things to do, like the Coaches Museum and the Pilar 7 Bridge Experience. And, public transportation is also free with this Lisbon travel card. The Lisbon Card can be purchased for 24, 48 or 72 hours and includes top Lisbon sights, too. Check to see if you can save money with the Lisbon sightseeing card!
Top Tip: If using the Lisbon Card, request a combo ticket at Belem that includes the Jeronimos Monastery. That way, you can skip the long line at the monastery and walk straight in!
Plan Your Complete Lisbon Itinerary!
Interested in learning even more about the history of Belem? Join a tour led by a professional guide on a 3-hour Belem walk. The guide offers insight into all the best attractions in Belem. Find out more about this highly-rated tour!
Where To Stay in Belem
On our very first trip to Lisbon, we decided to stay in Belem at the posh Altis Belem Hotel and Spa. The contemporary rooms at the 5-star Belem hotel feature floor-to-ceiling windows and some even have small balconies offering incredible views. Located right on the Tagus River, the Altis Belem features a rooftop pool, an excellent buffet breakfast and amazing spa facilities.
Take A Lisbon to Sintra Day Trip!
Belem, Lisbon Map
Use this direct link for an interactive version of our Belem Portugal Map of Sights.
Are you also Visiting Porto? Excellent! Be sure to read our plan for 10 Days in Portugal and Best Porto Itinerary before you go. During your visit use our top tips for Porto Food, Craft Beer in Porto and go on our Free Porto Walking Tour!
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