Here is everything you need to know about Lisbon’s Monument to the Discoveries (Padrão dos Descobrimentos), one of Lisbon’s top tourist attractions.
The Monument to the Discoveries or Padrão dos Descobrimentos is located in the Belém neighborhood on the outskirts of Lisbon. This is the spot where ships launched to go explore the world, spread Christianity, and create the Portuguese superpower in the 15th century.
The world-famous monument is across the street from the UNESCO World Heritage Site – Jerónimos Monastery and practically next door to the Belém Tower, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you only have one day in Lisbon, these three sites are on the top of my Lisbon 24 hour checklist – what should I see and do?
Every visitor to Lisbon should plan on spending at least half a day on this street.
Avenida Brasilia, Lisbon
GPS: 38.693810812696185, -9.205722231077837
T: 351 213 031 950
Hours and admission
March to September: every day, 10 AM till 7 PM. Last admission 6:30 PM
October: every day 10 AM to 6 PM last admission 5:30 PM
November to February: Tuesday to Sunday 10 AM till 6 PM last admission 5:30 PM closed Mondays.
General Admission: €6. Ages 13 to 18 pay €3, senior citizens €5. With the Lisboa Card admission is €4.80.
How to get to the Monument to the Discoveries
Taxi or Uber takes roughly 20 minutes and €10 from downtown.
You can take bus 714 or 728, or you can take the train toward Cascais from Cais do Sodré train station, which takes about 10 minutes.
Get off in Belém and walk west along the river.
History and design of the Padrão dos Descobrimentos
The original Monument to the Discoveries was a temporary monument made out of plaster and wood, constructed in 1940 for the Portuguese World Exhibition.
Twenty years later on the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator (O Infante Dom Henrique), it was proposed to build a permanent monument honoring the Portuguese Age of Exploration on the same spot.
The monument is more than 50 meters tall.
The permanent structure was built by architect Cotinelli Telmo (1897 – 1948) and sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida (1898 – 1975).
In 1985 the interior of the monument was remodeled, creating the Centro Cultural das Descobertas, an auditorium and exhibition center, and a rooftop viewing deck.
The viewing deck offers 360-degree views. To the north, you see the Jerónimos Monastery. To the east, the Ponte 25 de Abril Bridge. South lies the Tejo River, and west is the Belém Tower (Torré de Belém). You reach the viewing deck via elevator.
Viewed from the Jerónimos Monastery, the monument is in the shape of a Latin cross.
Within the cross, on the façade is a long sword. It shows a combination of Portugal’s military power and desire to spread the Christian faith.
On the ground in front of the monument is the Rosa dos Ventos.
On each side of the monument is a metal model of an armillary sphere – a 15th-century navigational device that gave the Portuguese explorers another edge over their rivals.
Viewed from the river, you see Henry the Navigator standing on the prow of a ship.
During the 15th century, Portugal had developed the swiftest boat on the sea, the caravel which is what Henry the Navigator is holding in his hands.
Ironically, Henry the Navigator never captained a boat.
He was a patron to the explorers and the scientists who developed the navigational equipment that put the Portuguese ahead of the rest of the world.
Viewed from the sides, the monument itself resembles a caravel.
On each ramp
Behind Henry the Navigator, there are 32 sculpted figures, each seven meters tall.
They are carved from Lioz limestone from a quarry in nearby Sintra, the same material which was used to build the Jerónimo‘s Monastery and the Belém Tower.
Who are the figures on the Monument to the Discoveries?
Behind Infante Dom Henrique (Henry the Navigator) are explorers, cartographers, sailors and knights, monks, poets, and artists, all of whom were pivotal in making Portugal into a world power during the 15th century.
To see a who’s who of the monument, click on the links below:
Photos by Walrasiad, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
- Afonso V (King of Portugal from 1438 – 1481, conquered Tangiers and Ceuta in north Africa)
- Vasco da Gama (discovered the sea-route to India)
- Afonso Gonçalves Baldaia (explored the Western Sahara, early settler of the Azores)
- Pedro Álvares Cabral (discovered Brazil)
- Fernão de Magalhães (Ferdinand Magellan – first to circumnavigate the globe)
- Nicolau Coelho (sailed with Vasco da Gama to India, captained a boat on the discovery of Brazil. Died at sea.)
- Gaspar Corte-Real (explored Greenland and Newfoundland)
- Martim Afonso de Sousa (colonized / populated Brazil and explored as far south as the River plate)
- João de Barros (wrote “Décadas de Asia,” chronicaling the history of the Portuguese in Asia, India, and Africa)
- Estêvão da Gama (son of Vasco, Governor of West Africa, Governor of Goa, Commander of the Red Sea)
- Bartolomeu Dias (first European to round the southern tip of Africa)
- Diogo Cão (explored the Congo River)
- António de Abreu (led the first expidition to reach Timor and Indonesia)
- Afonso de Albuquerque (Viceroy of India, secured the Asian empire via land)
- São Francisco Xavier (Spanish co-founder of the Jesuits, missionary in Portuguese India)
- Cristóvão da Gama (led a crusade in Ethiopia 1541 – 1543)
- Infante Pedro, Duque de Coimbra (prince who fought in the Battle of Ceuta, named Duke of Coimbra, spent ten years travelling Europe)
- Filipa de Lencastre (Wife of King João I, mother of Henry the Navigator. Portugeuse-English treaty kept Portugal neutral during WWII and still stands)
- Fernão Mendes Pinto (wrote about his voyages to India and Asia)
- Gonçalo de Carvalho (Dominican missionary in Africa and India)
- Henrique de Coimbra (Franciscan monk and bishop, missionary in Africa and India. Celebrated the first Mass in Brazil.)
- Luís de Camões (lost an eye fighting in Africa, wrote the national epic “Os Lusíadas”)
- Nuno Gonçalves (Court painter of Afonso V)
- Gomes Eanes de Zurara (Knight of the Order of Christ and writer)
- Pêro da Covilhã (diplomat and explorer in India and Ethiopia)
- Jácome de Maiorca (master cartographer)
- Pêro Escobar (commanded a ship on Vasco da Gama’s journey to India, later discovered São Tomé, Ano Bom, and Príncipe)
- Pedro Nunes (applied mathematics to cartography, invented cartographic instruments)
- Pêro de Alenquer (sailed with Bartolomeu Dias around the southern tip of Africa)
- Gil Eanes (captained several voyages along the west coast of Africa)
- João Gonçalves Zarco (fought in Ceuta, governed Madeira)
- Fernando o Infante Santo (son of King João I and Filipa, brother of Henry, sacrificed himself in Morocco in order to protect his men)
Tours of the Monument to the Discoveries and Belém
Get Your Guide does a two-hour boat tour which begins at Terreiro do Paço Boat Station (Praça do Comércio) and takes you past the Monument to the Discoveries.
The tour includes audio guides and includes access to the Santa Justa Lift.
The tour costs $22. https://www.getyourguide.com/lisbon-l42/yellow-boat-tour-in-lisbon-t54826/
If you don’t like boats, there is always the Hop-on, Hop-off Bus, which runs three different routes around Lisbon.
There are 24 and 48-hour options with an audio guide, starting at $21.28. https://www.getyourguide.com/lisbon-l42/lisbon-sightseeing-hop-on-hop-off-tour-t1021/
Want a private tour of Lisbon in a car with a local guide? http://lisbonselectiontours.com/ offers a full-day tour with hotel pickup for $100.
Prices may vary. I am not affiliated with any of the businesses mentioned in this article.
For more information on the Jerónimos Monastery, see my article, Is the Jerónimos Monastery worth visiting?
If you are willing to get out of Lisbon, you might be interested in 19 Awesome Landmarks You Should See in Portugal