Torre de Belem, Belem.

Torre de Belém


Jutting out onto the Rio Tejo, this Unesco World Heritage–listed fortress epitomises the Age of Discoveries. You'll need to breathe in to climb the narrow spiral staircase to the tower, which affords sublime views over Belém and the river.

Francisco de Arruda designed this giant pearly grey chess piece in 1515 to defend the city's harbour, and nowhere else in Lisbon is the lure of the Atlantic more powerful. The Manueline show-off flaunts filigree stonework, meringue-like cupolas and – just below the western tower – a stone rhinoceros.

The ungulate depicts the one Manuel I sent Pope Leo X in 1515, which inspired Dürer’s famous woodcut. Crowds here can be intense on weekends (especially Sundays) – a warning to claustrophobes.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Belém attractions

1. Museu de Arte Popular

0.41 MILES

This museum is set in one of the remaining buildings from the 1940s Exhibition of the Portuguese World, part of the city's architectural heritage…

2. Museu Coleção Berardo

0.46 MILES

Culture fiends can get their contemporary-art fix at Museu Coleção Berardo, the star of the Centro Cultural de Belém. The ultrawhite, minimalist gallery…

3. Padrão dos Descobrimentos

0.58 MILES

The monolithic Padrão dos Descobrimentos, looking like a caravel ship frozen in midswell, was inaugurated in 1960 on the 500th anniversary of Henry the…

4. Museu de Marinha

0.58 MILES

The Museu de Marinha is a nautical flashback to the Age of Discoveries, with its armadas of model ships, cannonballs and shipwreck booty. Dig for buried…

5. Museu Nacional de Arqueologia

0.66 MILES

Housed in the western wing of Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, the intriguing stash here contains mesolithic flint stones, Egyptian mummies inside elaborately…

6. Mosteiro dos Jerónimos

0.72 MILES

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…

7. Jardim Botânico Tropical

0.82 MILES

Far from the madding crowd, these botanical gardens bristle with hundreds of species, from date palms to monkey-puzzle trees. Spread across 7 hectares, it…

8. Museu da Presidência da República


Portugal's small presidential museum is worth a look for its fascinating state gifts exhibit – note the outrageous 1957 offering from Brazil's Juscelino…