Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
Museu Nacional de Arqueologia
Housed in Mosteiro dos Jerónimos’ western wing, this intriguing stash contains Mesolithic flintstones, Egyptian mummies inside...
Jardim do Ultramar
Far from the madding crowd, Jardim do Ultramar bristles with 4000 species from date palms to monkey puzzle trees. It’s a peaceful,...
Jardim Botânico Tropical
Far from the madding crowd, these botanical gardens bristle with hundreds of tropical species from date palms to monkey puzzle trees....
Pão Pão Queijo Queijo
Join the snaking queue for Belém’s tastiest falafel (both hands required), sardine baguettes and Mexican salads.
Praça do Império · interesting places nearby
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos information
Belém’s undisputed heart-stealer is this Unesco-listed monastery. The mosteiro is the stuff of pure fantasy; a fusion of Diogo de Boitaca’s creative vision and the spice and pepper dosh of Manuel I, who commissioned it to trumpet Vasco da Gama’s discovery of a sea route to India in 1498.
Wrought for the glory of God, Jerónimos was once populated by monks of the Order of St Jerome, whose spiritual job for four centuries was to comfort sailors and pray for the king’s soul. When the order was dissolved in 1833, the monastery was used as a school and orphanage until about 1940.
Entering the church through the western portal, you’ll notice tree-trunk-like columns that seem to grow into the ceiling, which is itself a spiderweb of stone. Windows cast a soft golden light over the church. Superstar Vasco da Gama is interred in the lower chancel, just left of the entrance, opposite venerated 16th-century poet Luís Vaz de Camões. From the upper choir, there’s a superb view of the church; the rows of seats are Portugal’s first Renaissance woodcarvings.
There’s nothing like the moment you walk into the honey-stone Manueline cloisters, dripping with organic detail in their delicately scalloped arches, twisting auger-shell turrets and columns intertwined with leaves, vines and knots. It’s just wow. Keep an eye out for symbols of the age like the armillary sphere and the cross of the Military Order, plus gargoyles and fantastical beasties on the upper balustrade.
If you plan to visit both the monastery and Torre de Belém, you can save a little by purchasing an €10 admission pass valid for both, or €13 including the Palácio Nacional de Ajuda.