The 10 Best Things to Do and See in Belém, Lisbon
Planning your next Lisbon getaway? If you’re heading to the Portuguese capital, one place to have on your radar is the iconic Belém district. Located southwest of the city center on the Tagus River, Belém was once the heart of Lisbon’s bustling maritime trade. These days, the district is a must for visitors looking to explore Lisbon’s top sights and historic attractions.
The top Belém tourist attractions are anything but boring. Pack your walking shoes and grab yourself a fresh pastéis de Belém to snack on. There’s a lot to see and do in Belém Lisbon!
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As soon as you arrive in Belém Lisbon, you can’t miss the Jerónimos Monastery. This stunning building casts an imposing figure over the district, with its impressive, Late Gothic architecture. The monastery was once the home of the monks of the Order of Saint Jerome—creators of the original pastéis de nata.
Speaking of, the famous flaky pastry pastéis de nata is synonymous with the city of Lisbon. But it is here in Belém that you can taste the most authentic version. Visit the bakery Pastéis de Belém to sample some of the secret recipe made famous by the monks of Jerónimos Monastery. You can find similar versions of this popular Portuguese custard tart at bakeries all over Lisbon, but it’s only here in Belém that you can taste the original.
Located next to the monastery is the Belém Cultural Center. Designed by architect Vittorio Gregotti, Centro Cultural de Belém was built to host the European Parliament in 1996. Belém Cultural Center is now Portugal’s largest cultural building and home to some of Lisbon’s best art exhibitions. View a large collection of contemporary art at the Berardo Museum, which is free to enter and located within the BCC.
One of two major riverside landmarks in Belém Lisbon is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, the Monument to the Discoveries. The monument is a somewhat recent addition to the Belém skyline. It was built in 1960 to pay tribute to famous Portuguese explorers of the 15th century, including Prince Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan and more. The monument’s panoramic roof top viewpoint makes it one of the best views in Belém Lisbon.
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Just a 15-minute walk from the monument is Belém Tower. Perhaps the most famous landmark in the district, Torre de Belém is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tower was built in the 16th century, serving as the main gateway to the city and as a lookout point to ward off any foreign attack by sea. Today, Belém Tower is one of the most popular sights in Lisbon, Portugal.
Museu Nacional dos Coches Museum is home to one of the most unusual exhibitions in Lisbon. The National Coach Museum boasts a one-of-a-kind collection of lavishly decorated royal vehicles, ranging from coaches and horse-drawn carriages to 19th-century royal sedans. Among the most notable pieces are three magnificent, gilded coaches, gifted to King Philip I by Pope Clement XI in 1716.
The National Palace of Belém is the official residence of the President of Portugal. Palácio de Belém is recognizable for its pretty pink exterior and elegant gardens. Most of the 16th-century estate is off-limits to the public. However, visitors can tour the palace on Saturdays or visit the Presidency Museum from Tuesday to Friday.
Housed in Jerónimos Monastery’s west wing, the Maritime Museum (or Navy Museum) details Portugal’s historic dominance of the seven seas. Museu de Marinha in Belém holds an impressive collection of 17,000 naval items including model ships from the Age of Discovery. The oldest and best known exhibit is a wooden figurine representing the Archangel Raphael, said to have been carried by Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama on his voyage to India.
The park and gardens within Empire Square, or jardim da Praça do Império, represent the beating heart of Belém Lisbon. Located next to the Belém Cultural Center, this lush city square is surrounded by many of Lisbon’s top sights and most famous monuments. It’s also one of the largest plazas in Europe! Enchanting water gardens and a large fountain centerpiece make Empire Square well worth a stop on any Belém tour.
One of the final stops on any Belém walking tour is the Monument to the Overseas Combatants. Monumento aos Combatentes do Ultramar is found west of the Belém district, near Torre de Belém. The monument is a striking memorial to the Portuguese soldiers lost during the Overseas War, the flame at its center burning continuously in their honor.
Book Your Belém Tour in Lisbon Today!
As you can see, there’s no shortage of interesting things to do in Belém Lisbon, Portugal. This guide features some of the main Belém highlights, but you should consider enlisting the help of a local Belém tour guide to make the most of your trip.