Lisbon’s city centre is bustling with life, culture, and colour, with its winding hills and infamous cobbles adorning every corner. But if you find yourself looking for a break from the liveliness, in search of something a little less fast-paced, then a short adventure to Belém is perfect.
An area stretched out along the Tagus, Belém is recognised for its regal, pearl-white architecture, its well-pruned gardens, and its ornate tower. This neighbourhood is a must-visit on most tourists’ bucket lists. But what is there to do? And what exactly makes it so popular?
Here are our top picks for sights to see and things to do in Belém!
Once home to the city’s monks of the Order of Saint Jerome, this beautiful, imposing building marks the first sight you see upon stepping off the bus or tram. A classified UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Jerónimos Monastery is built in an intricate Late Gothic style and is as impressive from the outside as from the inside. It’s also pretty old – construction is said to have begun in 1501.
If you want to take a look inside the church, it’s free of charge, and open almost every day from 10:00, closing at 17:30 in the winter and 18:30 during the summer months. An adult ticket around the rest of the monastery costs only 10€. Oh, and we forgot to mention – this is where the mouth-watering Pastel de Nata was invented!
Palácio de Belém
Belem’s elegance and regal charm would seemingly make it the perfect place for royalty to reside – or maybe even the country’s president. Belem Palace has been home to Portugal’s presidency since the early 1900s. A blush-pink building nestled into a hill above the water, the palace itself is breathtaking. The carefully-cultivated garden isn’t so bad, either!
The Belém Palace itself is only open to visitors on Saturdays, from 10am to 5pm. The Presidency Museum, however, is open every day except Monday and tells the intricate story of the Portuguese Republic. There is a national collection which explains the history of the Portuguese flag and their national anthem, along with a portrait gallery of Portuguese presidents. An adult ticket into the museum costs only 5€.
Jardim Vasco da Gama
A step into the sunshine after your visit to the monastery will lead you straight out into one of the city’s best-kept green spaces: the Vasco da Gama Garden. A beautiful expanse of grass overlooking the water, this park is framed by trees and stone pathways and boasts an extremely impressive fountain in its centre.
If you’re a fan of Lisbon’s dazzling purple Jacaranda trees, then you’re in luck! You can also often find events and celebrations taking place here, such as the antique flea market, which occurs on the first and third Sunday of each month.
If you’re after a pampering session and don’t mind splashing the cash a little, then look no further than Sud Lisboa: a riverside events venue, pool and restaurant. This rooftop terrace bar boasts the city’s best view of the 25 Abril bridge and is the hottest spot for a sunset boogie. An all-day pool pass, which includes a DJ to help you celebrate into the night, costs only 45€. It’s worth it purely for the view.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos
One of Belém’s most widely-recognised symbols is the glistening white Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument which protrudes out over the banks of the Tagus. The statue, built in 1939, is called the Padrão dos Descobrimentos and represents the point at which ships used to depart to trade with India and the East during the Age of Discovery.
For traditional Portuguese cuisine, and some of the freshest fish dishes North of the river, then head to the Portugália Cervejaria Belém, located just next to the monument. With its walkway surrounded by water, its stunning views and its delicious food, this restaurant makes the perfect stopping point for your trip to Belém.
MAAT: Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology
Belém really likes their art and culture, and the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) perfectly represents this, uniting all the things Lisbon loves. The building itself is unusual in its form and style, reflecting the waves of the river it overlooks. It’s also shiny and brand-new, having only opened its doors in October 2018.
MAAT brands itself also as a cultural hub, offering courses and seminars in all sorts of interesting, international topics. Entry into both sections will cost you only 9€ (each section separately costing 5€), with prices for workshops and tours differing depending on your choice. MAAT is open from 11am to 7pm every day except Tuesday.
Jardim Da Torre De Belém
A stroll along the seafront will bring you to the biggest and liveliest park in the area: the Jardim da Torre de Belém. This garden is famous mainly for its uninterrupted view of the Belém Tower. However, it’s worth a visit in its own right; dotted with food and drink stands, and always teeming with life, this park makes the perfect place to enjoy the sun and take in the sights.
From yoga lessons to running groups, this green space always has something going on – for one month every year, the park is also home to one of Lisbon’s most popular music festivals, Somersby Out Jazz, which brings an eclectic collection of musicians to the city every Sunday throughout the summer.
PastéIs De Belém
People have been known to travel far and wide in search of the perfect pastry– and where better to go than the birthplace of this creamy Portuguese delicacy? Pastéis de Belém is a store and café specialising in these pastries, and ‘specialised’ is definitely the right word.
This bakery has been producing freshly-made Nata since 1837, using the original recipe created by monks in the neighbouring monastery.
Torre De Belém
An iconic symbol of Lisbon’s love of art, and a celebration of the city’s history, the Tower of Belém is not to be missed. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the tower is said to have played an important role in the Age of Discoveries, acting as both a fortress and as the main gateway into Lisbon for overseas traders.
Today, the tower is open to visitors for only 6€ per ticket – but it’s also definitely worth a visit even without stepping inside. Grab a beer from a nearby stand, and perch on the esplanade steps, taking in the view and watching the tide morph the scene in front of you.
Museu Coleção Berardo
Although not as traditionally beautiful as many other buildings in the city, don’t be fooled; the Museu Coleção Berardo is adorned with some of the most well-renowned contemporary artists, including the likes of Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, and Francis Bacon.
A visit to the Museu Coleção Berardo is a must for any art fans and is the perfect way to take a break from the sun. Tickets are only 5€ each, and entry is totally free of charge on Saturdays. Check online for their latest exhibitions and installments!
How To Get To Belém
Although Belém is located 8km or so from the city centre, it’s pretty easy to get to via public transport.
From Cais do Sodré station, a train ticket costs only 1,35€, and takes roughly 10 minutes to reach. Alternatively, you can jump on one of the city’s old-fashioned trams; the number 15 goes directly to Belém, also leaving from both Cais do Sodré or from the Praça da Figueira, right in the heart of the city. Once you’re there, the best way to see everything is on foot, of course!
Accommodation In Belém
If you’re looking to treat yourself, then the Altis Belém Hotel and Spa is the fanciest hotel in the area. Sleek and modern, with a view right across the harbour, this hotel offers rooms for around 250€ per night. Its restaurant views are also to-die-for – as is the food!
Belém’s best mid-range hotel is the Hotel Jerónimos 8: a clean-cut design hotel in the centre of the neighbourhood, with an open-air patio area that acts as an oasis of calm from the lively, tourist-clad streets. Rooms cost roughly 120€ per night.
If a guest house is what you’re after, then try the Famous Crows Guest House. From around 80€ per night, the hotel’s rooms are each unique, named after and decorated around different areas of the city. With four apartments and three suites to choose from, this is the perfect family getaway spot, with apartments hosting up to 5 guests, and boasting private bathrooms and kitchens. With its super-central location, the guest house is an ideal starting point for anyone visiting Belém!
For anyone who’s on a slightly tighter budget, the Terrace Lisbon Hostel is located just around the corner from the monastery, dropping you right in the heart of the action. An eight-bed mixed dorm will cost you only 17€ a night, with a 24-hour reception, fully-equipped kitchen, and – of course – a terrace. In typical Lisbon style, the walls of this hostel are decorated with colourful, lively works of art.
What To Know For Visiting Portugal
Portugal is part of the European Schengen zone, which typically provides 90 days of free entry every 180 days to visitors from many countries. This means you can enter Portugal and travel between other European countries for up to 90 days per stay.
Be sure to check the EU Schengen website for the latest information for your specific country.
The currency used in Portugal is the Euro (EUR). The current exchange rate is approximately 1 EUR to 1.10 USD. You can check the latest EUR exchange rate on Google.
While traveling, our number one tip is to use a free Charles Schwab Debit Card which gives unlimited worldwide ATM Fee Refunds and the true exchange rate.
Best Tours In Lisbon
Some of the best tours and things to do in Lisbon are:
- Best of Lisbon Walk – Private 3-Hour Tour
- Historic Lisbon 25-Minute Helicopter Flight
- Lisbon Private Food Tour
Best Time To Visit Portugal
The best time to visit Portugal is during the dry season between April and October. July and August can be very crowded, so we prefer the shoulder months of April, May, September, and October.
Best Books About Portugal
Read more about Portugal before you go! Some of the best books about Portugal are:
What Power Adapters Do You Need
You can buy a universal adapter that will work in any country and has extra ports for USB cables to charge your phone and other devices.
We also always travel with a portable battery pack which is great to keep your phone charged on long journies.
Transportation In Portugal
- Public Transportation: Portugal has extensive public transportation by both buses and trains. The trains are particularly good, but make sure to book your tickets in advance to get the best price.
- Rental Cars: If you want flexibility, we recommend renting a car at the airport. This provides the easiest way to see certain landmarks.
- Uber: Uber is sometimes available in Portugal, though it depends on the area (mostly in major cities like Lisbon and Porto). However, the rules are constantly changing about Uber in Portugal due to the strict permits that are required for drivers to offer rides. An a similar rideshare alternative is Bolt, and you can use code BC222 for a free ride when you first sign up! Metered taxis are readily available is Portugal.
Our top recommended travel insurance companies for Portugal are:
- World Nomads: Comprehensive coverage for medical, travel delays, and electronics.
- SafetyWing: Cheaper monthly coverage primarily for medical, starting at $37 for 4 weeks of coverage.
For more information, read our article on why you need to book travel insurance for your next trip!
More Articles About Portugal
We hope that this article has helped inspire you to visit Belem, Lisbon. If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share please leave these in the comments below.
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We Are Travel Girls Contributor Abi Prowse of AbisPassport.com
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