Belem Tower is the most emblematic monument of Lisbon and a symbol of Portugal! Officially called Torre de São Vicente, it is located in the parish of Belém and on the right bank of the river Tagus.
The ornamentation and beauty of the Tower of Belém, may make us think that the monument was idealized as a decorative element on the banks of the River Tagus. Nothing more false! Its fire power, combined with the border tower (on the other bank), played a phenomenal role in the defence of the Port of Belém.
The south side of Torre de Belém (facing the river) is its most ornamented face. If you have the opportunity to observe it, you will see, at the bow of the monument, a sculpted image of the virgin with the baby Jesus in her lap.
It was built by John II of Portugal and was erected on top of a basalt base. It began to be built in 1515 and was completed in 1519. The work was directed by Francisco Arruda.
A Manueline-style architectural work that results in a synthesis between a keep (medieval-style) and the walls where the defense weapons were fixed.
In the past, the fortification was completely surrounded by water. Today, the tower is connected to land through a wooden walkway that rises above the ancient beach of Belém.
On the west side of the Tower we can see a rhinoceros gargoyle (it was in the year 1513 that the first rhinoceros arrived in Portugal from India).
It is a UNESCO World Heritage monument (since 1983). It won the prize of one of the wonders of Portugal (in 2007).
INSIDE BELEM TOWER
When you enter Belem tower, you will see 16 windows with ancient cannons of war. With the Philippine occupation (1580-1640), the storerooms gave way to the prisons where the prisoners were kept.
The fortification has five floors and ends on a large terrace. The connection between the floors is made through a snail staircase (on days when the tower has many visitors, it is difficult to go up and down the staircase…).
The floor (room) in the tower has a different name, namely (from top to bottom): terrace, chapel, courtroom, kings’ room, governor’s room.
Closing days: Monday January 1st, Easter Sunday, May 1st and December 25th.
May to September: 10:00 – 18:30
October to April: 10:00 – 17:30
Adults: 6 euros (visit to the tower); 12 euros (Tower + visit to the Monasteries of Jerónimos); 16 euros (Tower + Monastery of Jerónimos + National Museum of Archaeology).
Over 65 years and young card: 50% discount
Free for children under 12 and used from Lisboa card
CURIOSITIES ABOUT THE TOWER OF BELEM
1-The official name is Torre de São Vicente de Belém (tribute to the patron saint of Lisbon)
2-The Tower of Belém was built on a basalt island that was on the beach of Belém
3- At the top of the fortification, you will find a magnificent terrace which is also a fantastic viewpoint over the Tagus River, Belém and Trafaria (south bank of the Tagus)
4-None of the faces of the tower is carved an image of a rhinoceros. On another face of the monument we can find the image of Our Lady of Good Success (also called the Virgin of Restelo). It was believed that this image protected the boats that left here.
6-The architect responsible for the construction was Francisco Arruda
7-Father it was a defense structure, it was also a dungeon and a lighthouse.
8- Since 1983 it has been a world heritage site (classified by UNESCO)
WHAT TO SEE NEAR THE TOWER OF BELEM
The area of Belém is very beautiful and very rich in tourist attractions. Among so many monuments, museums and gardens, the most difficult part is to choose…
BELEM TOWER GARDEN
The Belem gas factory operated at this precise location until approximately 1940. With the organization of the “Exhibition of the Portuguese World” in 1940, the whole area of Belém was renewed. Palm trees were planted here, which were another sign of the Portuguese expansion throughout the world. If you are interested in the “Exhibition of the Portuguese World” then don’t miss our article about the “padrão dos descobrimentos”.
In this green space, you can also see a moment that honors Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral. These two pilots made the first crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in the seaplane.
With the tower garden, the area has become a very pleasant place to be relaxing. It was like this in 1940, it’s like this in 2020!
TAGUS RIVER – BELEM TOWER
The tower of Belém is on the right bank of the Tagus River in an area where the river meets the ocean.
If you are visiting the Torre de Belém, then be sure to take a walk along the river banks. Between Torre de Belém and the 25 de Abril bridge, there is a wide and extensive sidewalk that you should walk along. Along the way you will find the pattern of the discoveries, the water mirror, the Belém river station, the electricity museum, the MATT Museum and several esplanades. Sit down in one and have a beer (or two!).
I have lived in Belem for 43 years and I have not gotten tired of walking or cycling this way.
STRONG OF SUCCESS (BY THE TOWER OF BELÉM)
The fort is next to the tower of Belém and was built in 1780 with the aim of protecting the port of Lisbon. During the French occupation (Marshal Junot), this military structure had a direct connection to the Belém Tower.
The fort was abandoned between 1836 and 1879. During the Overseas War, it was the headquarters of the military postal service. In 1999 it was handed over to the League of Combatants and today houses the Combatant Museum.
It is located next to the Combatant Museum and inside the Bom Sucesso Fort. The museum is run by the Combatant League and opened its doors in 2003. Here you can see, among others, the following exhibits:
- The combatant of the 20th century (from the 1st great World War to the Overseas War
- History of aviation in the 20th century. Here you can see 500 planes (in scale). Some of these planes were major players in the great battles of World War II.
- The Reach. It is a 3D exhibition and a life-size representation of a 1st World War trench.
BELEM TOWER MONASTERY OF THE JERÓNIMOS
Belem tower is a 10-minute walk from the Jerónimos Monastery. It is a grandiose monument that was built in the 16th century. In 2016 it was elevated to the status of National Pantheon. Its construction lasted over 100 years.
In 1983, the tower of Belem and the Monastery of Jerónimos was classified as world heritage by UNESCO. In 2017, it was visited by 1 166 793 tourists.
DISTANCE BETWEEN THE BELEM TOWER AND THE CULTURAL CENTRE
The cultural centre (CCB) is located between the Torre de Belém and the Mosteiros dos Jerónimos. By foot, it is 5 to 7 minutes away.
Construction began in 1988 and finished in 1992. The starting point for its construction was the reception, in 1992, of the Portuguese presidency of the European Union. From 1993 it was converted into a cultural center. Today it maintains an enormous cultural activity.