After I visited the Coach Museum in Belem, I took a walk up the road next to the museum (Calcada da Ajuda) to have a look around a less touristy part of town. It was quite steep and very warm but there were some lovely traditional Portuguese houses adorned with different styles and colours of the symmetrical tiling known in Portuguese as azulejo.
While in Belem I I think it's worth having a walk around the area beyond the tourist haunts to get a taste of traditional Portuguese life.
I did like the way the Palácio Nacional de Belém (the presidential palace) was so very, very pink. It is much oler than it might seem.......orginally uilt in the 16th century, with various additions in the 17th, 18th and 19th.
Since 1912, when Portugal became a republic, the various presidents have used it as their base.
I was also intrigued by the guards.
I'd spotted them the previous day, as I zoomed past on the number 15 tram (a whizzy state-of-the-art thing) and returned for a closer look.
Although they had sunshades, their uniforms seemed very warm for May...and it was an extremely hot day. I felt for them. They didn't seem quite as still as such guards usually are.
The reason I was intrigued is that their unifrom was so very like the UK Horseguards (who can be seen on sentry duty on Horseguards Parade in London). Trouble is, the Portugues guards did not have horses.
Dont miss to step up to the 1st floor of Museu National dos Coches, the museum of the royal carriages, because there you will have first of all find an interesting view-point for the total museum, a great place to take your photographs and like on my last picture youz will see that most carriages are also decorated on the top. Besides of this you will see interesting exhibits of "side-aspects" like saddles, horse-decorations and some smaller carriages of princes
During the fire of 1794 that destroyed the Royal Tent, the original royal residence at the site of the Palácio nacional da Ajuda, the only noticeable architectural feature that was preserved was the Torre Parroquial, a typical Baroque tower that now rises high above a parking lot. The Tower is also called the Torre do Galo, or the Cock’s Tower, by the local people, because of the bird perched on the top of it. It’s a neat subject for pictures, but I don’t think that it’s particularly ready for tourist visits, and I certainly didn’t find anyway to go into the tower.
Just a very short walk off the main street will bring you to these lovely gardens, yet it seems relatively few visitors to Belém find their way here. Created in 1906, it is also sometimes known as the Jardim do Ultramar or “Garden of the Colonies beyond the Sea”. The gardens feature avenues of towering palm trees and many rare tropical and subtropical trees and plants (some endangered species) from all over the world, including dragon trees from the Canary and Madeira Islands and monkey puzzle trees from South America. Many of them are labelled, although frustratingly we found a few specimens that intrigued and had no indication as to what they were. There are shaded benches, beautiful peacocks and other birds (one goose appeared to be particularly friendly), and in one corner a tantalising glimpse of the private gardens of the President’s Palace. A small fee is charged for entry.
By the way, you may be tempted to climb the inviting branches of one of the rubber trees as Gabriel was (see photo 4) but be warned – rubber is slippery and so is the tree that gives it to us, as Gabriel found out to his cost when he slipped on descending.
Directions Walk up the short road between the row of shops and restaurants (including the Casa Pastéis de Belém) and the monastery to see the gates just in front of you
There are some rather nice botanical gardens in Belem.
Actually, there are some rather nice gardens between the monastery and the river.....well worth wandering throgh...but I did like the Jardim Agrícola Tropical.
It isn't huge (15 acres) and isn't old (1912) but a group of VT-ers found it a lovely, shady place for a wander on a very hot day.
There are some pretty old trees, a lake, paths, benches, ducks, flowers.......most of the plants come from the old Portuguese colonies (another name for the gardens is Jardim das Colonias).
It's on Largo das Jerominos, to the left as you look at the monastery. Opening hours vary. Roughly 9-6 from April to October (11-6 at weekends) and 9-5 (10-5) the rest of the year. There is a small admission fee (think it was 2 euro, but may be wrong).
Centro Cultural de Belem / Belem Cultural Centre is not really "my cup of tea" but I know that for some people it seems to be necassary to "relax their minds" after so much old traditional works of art and this place might be a good place to do so. This building is on your way, when you walk from the monastery to Belem tower along the main trafic-road ( a pedestrian-bridge will take you finally to the tower.)
Centro Cultural de Belem is open daily
from 10.00am till 09.00pm
but closed on December 25th !
The bridge of April 25th is the giant bridge that takes you from Belem across the river Tejo to the monument of Cristo Rei, a giant sculpture overlooking the bay (see it on the very right on my 1st photograph, unfortunately it is quite small there.) I had been there many years ago and it makes sense to go there if you have enough time, but this time I left it for the next time !
Afonso Albuquerque Park is a lovely park, opposite of the official residence of the predident of Portugal. At first I had the feeling that this giant statue might be Columbus, but in fact it is Afonso, the first Viceroy of India (1502-1515). Take a closer look for the interesting decorations around the monument : male and female angels are guarding it and reliefs are showing different scenes of Afonsos life.
The park is also a great place to relax and find some shady benches.
Museu de Marinha / Maritime museum is built like a horse-shoe around a large square at the end of the Jeronimo Monastery and it has a lot of interesting things to be seen outside of the museum, free of charge and also outside of the official opening-hours.
My first 2 photos will show you the "skin" of a battle-ship, quite hard to believe that such a heavy ship could swim...
Museu de Marinha / Maritime museum is open for visitors:
From October 1st till March 31st : 10.00am till 5.00pm
and from April 1st till September 30th it closes at 04.00pm
closed on mondays & national holidays
25% reduction with LisbonCard
Opposite of the real Belem tower you will see this great small-scale-model of the tower, it is ment for blind people, who will be able to "feel" its shape and get an idea what it looks like. And for the other tourists it might be a possibility to see what it looks like, when they arrive outside of the opening-hours.
In any case it makes sense to pay the small entrance-fee, when you come in time and step up the tower for the great view over the river !
Built by the Conde de Aveiras in 1559 before the Tagus had receded,
this summer palace once had gardens bordering the river. Radically altered
during the earthquake of 1755. fearing another earthquake, the royal family temporarily set up camp in the
palace grounds, and the palace interior was used as a hospital. Today, this building
is the residence of the President of Portugal.
Not strictly off the beaten path as this row of orange trees was on the outskirts of a large grassed area very close to the town centre.
It was a delight to see oranges growing so openly like this - oranges on trees are unheard of in England, let alone in March!
Even if this statue is not so hidden, most of the people don't know of it's existence. The statue lies near a restaurant called "Vela Latina" not far from the Tower of Belém.
This statue was erected in memory of Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral, the two pilots that accomplished the first flight across the Southern Atlantic in 1922.
A similar statue can be found in the city of Mindelo (Ilha de São Vicente)
in Cape Verde.
The plaza sits right near the monument to the Navigator and is a very large area. Every few weeks you can find a wonderful market here where you can purchase many local products and tourist gifts.
Take a look in the museum which is near the north west part of the plaza. On the weekends you will find many Portuguese families walking around the plaza.