The greatest Portuguese explorers launched from the Belém neighborhood; here is everything you need to know about Belém’s UNESCO sites, fantastic sunsets, and pastries, museums, free tours, hotels, restaurants, and bars.
How to get to Belém
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.
Another option is the 15E tram, which takes 30 to 40 minutes. You can catch it at Praça da Figueira or Praça do Comércio. For more information on Tram 15E, see my article How to get from Alfama to Belém (Hint: Tram 15E)
History of Belém
Belém has always been associated with the great Portuguese explorers.
Portugal was out conquering the seas and the lands beyond them as early as 1341.
Many of these expeditions were launched from the port of Belém.
The mariners would pray for success and safety at the chapel of Santa Maria de Belém, which predated the Jerónimos Monastery.
Vasco da Gama and his men prayed in the old chapel prior to setting out in 1497.
When they returned in 1498, they had established a sea route to India.
This discovery would make Portugal a power player in the essential spice trade, which had previously been controlled by the Venetians.
As a result, Portugal removed the competition and began to make money like never before.
In thanks to God and the explorers, King Manuel built the Jerónimos Monastery.
He also ordered the construction of the Tower of St. Vincent, which is more commonly known as the Tower of Belém.
King Manuel was known as Manuel the Fortunate because he reaped the rewards of the Age of Exploration.
He built several opulent buildings, but very few survive today. Most were destroyed in the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake.
Manueline architecture is known for rounded vaulted arches and intricate carvings of nautical themes.
The monastery and the tower are both excellent examples.
In 1983, UNESCO named the tower and the monastery as World Heritage Sites.
Belém was also a hot spot for exploration during the 20th century.
In 1922, Belém was where Sacadura Cabral launched the first transatlantic flight from Europe to Brazil.
It was also the first flight using only astronomical navigation.
For much of the twentieth century, Belém was a busy industrial neighborhood.
The neighborhood was revitalized prior to the 1940 Portuguese World Exhibition, an event celebrating the foundation of Portugal back in 1140 as well as independence from Spain in 1640.
At this time, the first version of the Monument to the Discoveries was built.
Twenty years later, on the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator, a permanent monument was built out of the same Lioz limestone that was used to build the Jerónimos Monastery and the Belém Tower.
Neighborhood football team Os Belenenses was founded in 1919.
By 1933 the club had won three national championships.
They have not kept pace with the two other clubs from Lisbon, Liga NOS powerhouses Benfica and Sporting Lisbon.
In fact, Os Belenenses now play in Portugal’s fourth division.
You can see them at the neighborhood stadium, Estádio do Restelo.
Buy tickets at the stadium, not online. http://www.osbelenenses.com/
Best sites to see in Belém
The four most popular sites in Belém, by far, are:
- Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery)
- Torre de Belém (Belém Tower)
- Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries)
- Pastéis de Belém (world-famous custard pastry that originated in the neighborhood)
Beyond these four must-see sites, there are several other museums, gardens, and waterfront restaurants that you might really enjoy in Belém.
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery)
Address: Praça do Império 1400
GPS: 38.698062533207484, -9.206725359913055
T: 351 213 620 034
Closed on Mondays. To learn more about Lisbon’s Monday closures, see my article What’s open in Lisbon on Mondays?
October to April open from 10 am – 5 pm, May – September 10 am – 6:30 pm.
On Sundays from May – September the monastery closes at 6 pm.
Admission: €10. Children 12 and under are free. Ages 65 and older pay €5.
For many people, visiting a monastery does not sound interesting.
However, the Jerónimos Monastery is one of the most beautiful buildings in Portugal and should not be missed.
Commissioned by King Manuel, construction began in 1501 and ended in 1601. It is the sixth oldest public building in the city.
King Manuel is buried within, along with Vasco da Gama and Portuguese author Fernando Pessoa.
There is also a monument to national poet Luis de Camões. A warrior and adventurer as well as an epic poet, no one knows where his body lies.
For more information on the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, see my article Is the Jerónimos Monastery worth visiting?
Torre de Belém (Belém Tower)
Address: Torre de Belem, Avenida Brasilia
GPS: 38.6916° N, 9.2160° W
T: 351 213 620 034
Built between 1514 – 1519.
The interior of the Belém Tower is closed until further notice. Visitors can still appreciate the exterior of the building for free.
Normally admission is €6. Children under 12 or admitted free, seniors receive a 50% discount.
If you have a Lisboa card admission is free.
You can also buy a combination admission to the Jerónimos Monastery for €12, or a combination ticket to the Jerónimos Monastery and Ajuda Palace for €16.
Hours October to May 10 amto 5:30 pm. Last admission 5 pm.
Belém tower opening hours of May to September 10 am to 6:30 pm. Last admission 5 pm.
Closed on Mondays.
The tower is 59 feet wide. It is four stories and 98 feet tall.
The four stories are connected by a narrow, spiral staircase of 120 steps.
The maximum capacity is 150 people, therefore lines to get in are always long.
For more information about the Belém Tower, see my Surprising Belém Tower facts
Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries)
Avenida Brasilia, Lisbon
GPS: 38.693810812696185, -9.205722231077837
T: 351 213 031 950
Hours and admission:
March to September: every day, 10 am – 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. The last admission is 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.
A temporary prototype of today’s monument was built on this spot in 1940 as part of the Portuguese World Exhibition.
With much public support, twenty years later, on the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator, architect Cotinelli Telmo (1897 – 1948) and sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida (1898 – 1975) began working on this permanent structure in his honor.
The monument resembles the prow of a Portuguese caravel – the Portuguese ship that was the fastest boat in the ocean in the early 1500s.
Henry himself is standing at the front, looking forward to discovery and the open sea. In his hands, he holds a model of a caravel.
He is flanked by thirty-two of Portugal’s greatest explorers, poets, and cartographers.
To the sides of the 50-meter tall monument are metal sculptures of armillary spheres – a 15th-century navigational device invented by the Portuguese explorers.
This is another tool that helped the Portuguese dominate the seas.
In front of the monument is a mosaic called the Rosa dos Ventas, a map showing all of the Portuguese colonies.
The beautiful map was a gift from the government of South Africa.
The Padrão dos Descobrimentos has an elevator that will take you up to the rooftop viewing deck for 360-degree views.
To learn more about the Monument to the Discoveries, read my Lisbon’s Monument to the Discoveries | Everything you need to know
Pastéis de Belém
Antiga Confeitaria de Belém (Pastéis de Belém)
Rua de Belém 84 -92
GPS: 38.69847369167841, -9.20351439687887
Hours: 8 am – 8 pm everyday
T: 351 213 637 423
While you can find Pastéis de Nata all over town, even all over Portugal, the only ones that can be called Pastéis de Belém come from the old bakery at number 84, Rua de Belém.
The custard tarts were invented down the street at the Jerónimos Monastery.
The monks would use egg whites to starch their cassocks, and then use the yolks to create sweet desserts.
The monks sold their secret recipe to the bakery on Rua de Belém in 1837, and they have been selling the world-famous pastries ever since.
To learn more see my article, The big difference between Pastéis de Belém and Pastéis de Nata
MAAT Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology
Avenida Brasilia, Central Tejo (east of Belém)
Latitude 38º41’44.52 N, Longitude 9º11’44.30 W
Bus 201, 714, 727, 751 – Altinho, Tram 15E, 18E – Altinho Stop (MAAT)
Train from Cais do Sodré to Belém Station (Cascais Line)
Closed Tuesdays, Open 10 am – 7 pm Wednesday – Monday. From June – September open til 10 pm on Friday and Saturday nights
Admission: €9 adults, Children over 12 pay €7.20, seniors pay €6.
The MAAT focuses on the past, present, and future of energy.
The museum exhibits include works by modern Portuguese artists and photographers.
It is a combination of two buildings, the 1906 brick Tejo Power Plant, which has been completely preserved (visitors can explore the generators and boilers), and the 2016 wave-like structure built by British architect Amanda Levete.
For more information, see my article Visit Lisbon’s Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology (MAAT)
Jardím Botánico Tropical (Tropical Botanical Garden)
Largo dos Jerónimos, east of the monastery
GPS: 38.69832645924872, -9.203914517583796
Official website: https://www.ulisboa.pt/patrimonio/jardim-botanico-tropical
Started in 1906, relocated to Belém in 1912.
This tropical garden is a peaceful oasis near the best sites of Belém and provides refuge from the crowds.
In this research park owned by the University of Lisbon, you can easily find a bench to sit on and enjoy the peacocks and ducks while you munch on your takeaway from Pastéis de Belém.
The garden, considered a national monument, is more than 70k sq meters (70 hectares). It has more than 500 types of plants.
Among the garden’s many plants, you will find species from former Portuguese colonies – such as the Royal Imperial Palms from Rio de Janeiro, and an Asian garden from Macau.
Museu da Presidência da República (Museum of the Presidency of the Republic)
Praça Afonso de Albuquerque 1349, Belém, near MAAT
GPS: 38.69759882797218, -9.201401888748444
Hours: 10 am to 6 pm, Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 1 pm and 2 pm until 6 pm.
Closed Mondays, January 1 Easter weekend, May 1, December 24, 25
Admission: €2.50, students and seniors €1.50,
Official website: https://www.museu.presidencia.pt/
Learn about the Presidents of the Republic, their powers, and their official residence, the Palace of Belém.
National Archaeology Museum
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm
Admission: 5 euros, children under 14 are free (€12 with a dual ticket to the Jerónimos Monastery)
Official website: http://www.museunacionalarqueologia.gov.pt/
The largest archaeological museum in Portugal is located in a building adjacent to the Jerónimos Monastery in Belém.
Founded in 1893 by noted archaeologist Jose Leite de Vasconcelos, the museum has artifacts from the Paleolithic to the Middle Ages.
Highlights include the Roman and Egyptian exhibits.
Museu Coleção Berardo (Berardo Collection Museum)
Praça do Império 1449, Belém
Take Tram 15 to Praça do Império, Belém. Or take bus 714 from Praca da Figueira.
GPS +38.695533, -9.209288, N 38º 41′ 47.71” / W 9º 12′ 26.78”
The museum is free on Saturdays. Open every day from 10 am – 7 pm.
This private collection is the premiere gallery of contemporary art in Portugal.
It includes pieces by Dalí, Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Piet Mondrian.
The collection is located in the exhibition hall of the Centro Cultural de Belém.
Centro Cultural de Belém
Praça do Império
GPS: 38.696092651532915, -9.20836565489516
Official website: https://www.ccb.pt/en/
Hours: Monday to Friday 8 am to 8 pm.
Saturday 10 am to 6 pm.
Closed Sundays and holidays.
The Cultural Center of Belém promotes art and culture in all of its different forms, holding a variety of performances from classical music to jazz, theater to dance, opera, literature, architecture, and cinema.
The cultural center is also host to many of the conferences held in Lisbon.
Museu dos Coches (National Coach Museum)
Praça Afonso de Albuquerque 1300, Belém
GPS: 38.697065195864724, -9.198422679908804
Official website: http://museudoscoches.gov.pt/pt/
Hours: 10 am – 5:30 pm.
Closed on Mondays.
Admission is €8.
One of Lisbon’s most visited museums, it exhibits a collection of royal carriages and private horse-drawn carriages that were used from the 16th century until the 19th century.
Museu do Oriente (Museum of the Orient)
Praça do Império
GPS: 38.70331555734805, -9.169945685614586
Avenida Brasilia, Alcântara Dock
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm, Friday 10 am – 8 pm, free admission from 6 pm – 8 pm on Fridays.
Admission: ages 6 -12 €2, students €2.50, adults €6, seniors €3.50, family discount available
Official website: https://www.foriente.pt/
Learn about Asia and the role of the Portuguese in Asia.
Palácio Nacional de Ajuda (Ajuda National Palace)
Largo da Ajuda
GPS: 38.70783398472328, -9.197645108851745
T: 351 213 637 095
Hours: Weekdays 10 am – 6 pm (last entry 5:30),
Weekends and holidays 10 am – 6 pm (last entry 5:30)
Admission: €5, seniors €2.50, children under 12 are free
Official website: http://www.palacioajuda.gov.pt/
Two floors of the former royal palace are open to visitors.
You can see the ground floor which includes the Blue Room, the royal family’s daily dining room, and leisure areas.
On the Noble Floor, you will see the Throne Room, Room of Great Dinners, the Diplomatic Corps Room, and the João I gala ballroom, the painting workshop, the library, and the king’s bedroom.
The western wing of the palace was renovated in 2021, and now houses the Portuguese Crown Jewels and the Portuguese Royal Treasure Museum.
Museu de Marinha (Maritime Museum)
Praça do Império
GPS: 38.69767256765735, -9.207989516242113
Hours: 10 am – 6 pm
T: 351 210 977 388
Official website: https://ccm.marinha.pt/pt/museu
Adjacent to the Jerónimos Monastery, this great naval museum has a children’s room, and small-scale models of boats, as well as full-sized replicas of boats.
They have armor and treasure from the Portuguese Age of Exploration. The collection includes weapons, photos, paintings, and documents as well.
Descriptions are in Portuguese and English.
Belém, Lisbon, Map
Hotels in Belém
Doca do Bom Suçesso 1400
GPS: 38.69344598344776, -9.210772816242246
T: 351 210 400 200
Altis Belém is a five-star hotel with a Michelin Star restaurant, one of the top spas in Portugal (BSPA by Karin Herzog), and a cocktail bar with sunset views of the river.
For more information on spas in Lisbon, read my article Find a great spa to relax at in Lisbon, Portugal
The hotel features two pools, one located on the roof.
Rooms start at €195 per night.
Hotel Palácio do Governador
Rua Bartolomeu Dias 117, Lisbon
GPS: 38.69509000660697, -9.214908104595805
T: 351 213 007 009
Five-star hotel built in the remodeled governor’s palace, which itself was built atop Roman ruins. Amenities include a pool, a fitness center, a lobby bar, room service, a spa, soundproof rooms with air conditioning, safe, flatscreen tv, and wifi.
Rooms start at €120 per night.
Chef Vera Silva’s Ânfora restaurant serves contemporary Portuguese and international dishes.
Hours: 7:30 am – 10:30 am, 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm, 7:30 pm – 10:30 pm
T: 351 212 467 800 or email the hotel for restaurant seating
Famous Crows Lisbon Suites
Rua de Belém 70
GPS: 38.69763294117392, -9.202986860418894
Famous Crows Lisbon Suites provides cute, soundproof rooms with air conditioning.
The hotel is in a great location if you choose to stay in Belém.
Rooms start at $50.
Terrace Lisbon Hostel
Rua dos Jerónimos 16, Belém
GPS: 38.69978844523176, -9.205298439100435
T: 351 211 394 328
Terrace Lisbon Hostel offers budget accommodations in a convenient location.
They are only one minute away from a bus stop, and a seven-minute walk from the Jerónimos Monastery.
The hostel has dorm rooms with four, six, or eight rooms.
They also offer private rooms.
Prices for dorm beds start at €18 per night. Breakfast is included. Laundry facilities are available at the hostel.
Interesting restaurants in Belém
Doca do Bom Suçesso, located in the Altis Belém Hotel
GPS: 38.69357351490472, -9.21050803600829
Chef João Rodrigues’ Michelin Star restaurant.
Feitoria means Trading Post. Prices start at €120 per person.
For more information on Feitoria, as well as the other Michelin Star restaurants in Lisbon, see my article, Introducing Lisbon’s Michelin Star Restaurants, 2021 edition
GPS: 38.69351004393394, -9.220465233992535
Hours: 12:30 pm – 1:30 am everyday
T: 351 210 480 222
Official website: DARWIN’S CAFÉ (darwincafe.com)
Next door to the scientific research facility Fundação Champalimaud, one of Lisbon’s most interesting modern architectural structures.
Darwin’s Café has great sunset views, whether you dine indoors or out.
Their menu is printed in English, and the main courses are roughly €20 per person.
They serve a variety of risottos, including a shrimp and octopus risotto.
There are plenty of fish dishes, including escabeche mackerel fillets, chipped cod, tuna steak, salmon loin, and tiger shrimp.
Other entrees include hamburger, duck tenderloin, sirloin steak, lamb chops, chicken thighs, and tagliatelline with grilled chicken.
Darwin’s Café also has vegetarian vegan and gluten-free options.
Calçada de Ajuda 14
GPS: 38.69817553303966, -9.199465960617493
Hours: 12:30 pm – 3 pm, 7:30 pm – 11 pm
T: 351 939 482 939
Price range €35 – €65
Official website: https://www.facebook.com/ofradebelem/
O Frade serves traditional Portuguese cooking from the Alentejo region of Portugal.
Menu items include octopus, beef tartare, and duck rice.
The vinho de Talha is popular as well.
You can sit at the curved central bar and watch the chefs prepare your meal, or dine outside.
Taberna dos Ferreiros
Taberna dos Ferreiros 5,
GPS: 38.69771499877351, -9.20193359274999
The restaurant is located in a little alley near the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos.
A Trip Advisor Travelers’ Choice award winner in 2021, Taberna dos Ferreiros offers a variety of local and Meditteranean dishes.
Entrees are more than €13.
Among the entrees are tuna with portobello and wasabi purée in a ginger sauce, duck leg with risotto, grilled sardines, pasta Pomodoro, pasta carbonara, pasta with fresh shrimp and asparagus, and Portuguese style steak.
Terraço de Belém
Avenida Brasilia, Edificio Polo Náutico S/N
T: 351 214 040 036
Hours: noon – 11:30 pm
Official website: Terraço de Belém – Home | Facebook
Their second-floor open terrace has a view of the river and is great for a sunset meal or drinks.
The menu includes clams, oysters, cataplana de mariscos, pasta dishes, fresh fish, hamburgers, and ribs, as well as a variety of soups and salads.
The average price is €20.
Popular bars in Belém
The View Rooftop by Frize
Rua de Alcolena 9 (Complexo Olímpico)
GPS: 38.70190249632115, -9.2102196
Hours: 4 pm – 10:30 pm
Official website: https://www.facebook.com/theviewrooftop/
Crowded and hectic, a rooftop bar with views of the river featuring international DJs, including bachata and afro-Latin beats from Angola.
Bar 38° 41’
Altis Belém Hotel, Doca do Bom Suçesso
GPS: 38.69344598344776, -9.210772816242246
Hours: 11 am – 10:30 pm every day
T: 351 210 400 210
Official website: https://www.altishotels.com/PT/HotelAltisBelem/Bar3841/
Located at the Altis Belém Hotel, the bar is popular for its Sunset Sessions and Jazz Nights.
Enjoy a beautiful sunset and high-end cocktails on their outdoor terrace.
Largo dos Jerónimos 6
GPS: 38.70002080070643, -9.204691707878869
Official website: https://www.facebook.com/bananacafelx/
Kind of like a permanent food truck, this bar serves patrons out of a vintage trolley car.
They have outdoor seating and are located between the Botanical Garden and the Vasco da Gama Garden.
Bananacafe has petiscos (Portuguese tapas) and drinks at good prices. They may have live music or a DJ at night.
First, you can do a FREE walking tour of Belém with https://freetourportugal.com/en/lisbon/belem-free-tour/
The two-and-a-half-hour-long tour in English on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday starts at 4:30 at Jardím Afonso de Albuquerque in Belém.
On Sunday the tour departs from the same location at 10:30 am.
On this tour, you will see and discuss the Jerónimos Monastery, the Belém Tower, the Monument to the Discoveries, and Pastéis de Belém.
The tour guides work for tips only.
Another FREE OPTION is https://www.hilisbonwalkingtours.com/free-tours-lisbon
Also, a two-and-a-half-hour free walking tour that departs from Jardím Afonso de Albuquerque in Belém.
This tour is Tuesday through Sunday, starting at 11 am.
Again, tips are important to the guides.
Get Your Guide offers a boat tour for $22. https://www.getyourguide.com/lisbon-l42/yellow-boat-tour-in-lisbon-t54826/ The two-hour tour begins downtown at the Terreiro do Paço dock (Praça do Comércio) and takes you past the Monument to the Discoveries.
For basically the same price, $21.28, there is the Hop-on, Hop-off Bus, which runs three different routes around Lisbon.
They offer 24 and 48-hour options with an audio guide. https://www.getyourguide.com/lisbon-l42/lisbon-sightseeing-hop-on-hop-off-tour-t1021/
You could also hire a private driver for an eight-hour tour of the city via van. Hotel pickup is provided. http://lisbonselectiontours.com/ This tour is $100.
Thanks for reading about the Belém neighborhood. If you book one of the hotels mentioned on this page, I may receive a commission, but that will not affect the price you pay. I am not affiliated with any other business mentioned in this article. Prices may change over time.