Torre de Belém - Tower of Belém, Lisbon
Leaving from Belem, in March 30 1922, Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral , succeeded in the first aerial crossing of South Atlantic. The plane, named "Lusitânia" is displayed close to the Tower, in the open garden.
It's free to see.
Walking along the riverside, you will arrive at the most paradigmatic neighborhood in terms of assets related to the findings:. BELÈM (Bethlehem) with its beach, which left the ships of Vasco da Gama to discover the sea route to India and around the side breathes the grandeur of the former empire.
At the waterfront, it is closely linked to the Age of Discovery, for it was here that the ships left to the discover. Today, it is a spacious area with large gardens and imposing monuments, such as the Jeronimos Monastery, the Monument to the Discoveries, the Torre de Belém, in addition to the Belém Cultural Centre.
Places to visit:
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
Museu Nacional dos Coches
Uma colecção única no mundo de viaturas de gala e de passeio dos séculos XVII ao XIX.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos
Descubra uma das melhores vistas de Lisboa, conheça as rotas e as principais personagens da Expansão Portuguesa.
Museu da Electricidade
Descubra o trabalho da antiga Central Tejo, as exposições temáticas e interactivas sobre energia e electricidade.
BBC - Belém Bar Café
Avenida Brasília Pavilhão Poente, 1300-598 Lisboa
Hotel Jerónimos 8
The Tower, which construction began in 1514 under supervision of Master Builder Diogo de Boytac, was build to defend Lisbon and its river entrance.
This superb example of the Manueline style (incorporation of elements from the oversea cultures) is a World Heritage site by the UNESCO. As a symbol of the King's prestige the tower’s decoration includes all the Manueline symbols - cables encircling the building and terminating in elegant knots, armillary spheres, crosses of the Military Order of Christ and naturalistic elements such as the rhinoceros, the first such representation in stone known in Europe.
A large symbol of the nautical Portuguese successes exploring the seas, close to the discoveries monument, has been drawn with colorful stones - the "Rosa dos Ventos".
Contrasting with the black in white of the typical Portuguese cobblestone pavement, this formation is better admired from the top of the adjacent monument.
Just a few meters west of the Tower of Belem, a monument inaugurated in 1994 celebrates the fighters in colonial war (about two hundred thousand and... me).
Surrounded by a long wall with the death's names, a modern formation pretends to be the symbol of the union among people.
OK! No problem. It's just beside the tower, can be seen in a glimpse, and, as a sample of modern architecture, it's better then the bunker called Cultural Center.
If you have plenty of time (and kids) The Planetarium, right beside the Jerónimos Monastery, may justify your visit.
Recreating the sky at night, their several sessions, presented in Portuguese, English and French, will tell you more about 'The solar system', 'The moon', 'The evolution of the stars", 'The movement of the earth', ' Earth - Planet Alive', 'The universe', 'The sun', 'The constellations' and many others.
You just have to choose the scheduled program.
Still with time? Good. The horse-drawn vehicles Museum (Museu Nacional dos Coches), right beside the Presidential Palace (a beauty from the 18th century, but closed to our eyes for natural reasons), has the best collections of classical vehicles in the world.
Showing several ceremonial vehicles used by the European courts, from the 17th to the late 19th century, it is one of the most visited museums in Portugal, and… with justice.
More time? National Archaeology Museum (Museu Nacional de Arqueologia), in the monastery, Navy Museum (Museu da Marinha), nearby, and Popular Art Museum (Museu de Arte Popular) in the buildings from the 1940’s exhibition also deserve your attention.
The Monument to the Discoveries was inaugurated in 1960 during celebrations of the 500 year anniversary of Infant D. Henrique (Henry the Navigator)'s death.
It evokes the maritime discoveries, and reproduces a model that was used in the 1940’s exhibition. With the shape of a caravel, it is headed by Henry the Navigator with the company of most of the historical Portuguese figures.
From the top, which you can access by elevator located inside the building, you have a magnificent view of the area, having at your feet the compass in paved stone offered by the Republic of South Africa, in 1960, to the celebration, and that between galleons and mermaids, shows the routes of the Portuguese discoverers.
Belém Tower was built in 1515, by order of king Manuel I according to the defense plan of the Tagus estuary decided by his antecessor, King João II.
The tower is replete with Manueline decoration, with crosses of the Military Order of Christ and some naturalistic elements such as the rhinoceros, said to be the first such representation in stone known in Europe.
If you have time you may go inside and up to the top, but if you are in a rush than maybe you'd better save your time for another highlight of the area –the monastery on the top of all.
If you have, at least, one day in Lisbon, Belem is one of the things you shouldn't miss. You may build your own program, from a couple of hours till one or more days.
Supposing that you will have only half day, then you can only have a glimpse of the ensemble of the Praça do Imperio, visit the Tower and Jeronimos. The area is still keeping the look won in 1940, when the political regime tried to make an impressive exhibition to hide the colonial nature of our possessions in Africa and Asia, spreading the idea of a multiracial, multicultural, and universal country.
The gardens and some buildings were kept. For instance, the Popular Art Museum (Museu de Arte Popular) and the restaurant in the artificial lake (Espelho de Agua) were part of the exhibition. But the real gems of Belem come from history, with Jeronimos and the Tower on top.
The Monument to the Discoveries (in Portuguese “Padrão do Descobrimentos”), created by Cottinelli Telmo (1897–1948) and the sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida (1898–1975), was first erected in 1940, in a temporary form, as part of the Portuguese World Exhibition. Built with perishable materials, it had a light iron and cement frame, while the moulded sculpture was made of gypsum (formed of plaster and burlap, and reinforced by a wooden and iron structure).
The monument was reconstructed in 1960 to mark 500 years since the death of the Infante Dom Henrique (Henry the Navigator). This time it was made of concrete and rose-tinted Leiria stone masonry, with the sculptures made of Sintra limestone masonry.
The Centro Cultural das Descobertas was opened in 1985. Architect Fernando Ramalho remodelled the interior, giving the monument a viewpoint, auditorium and exhibition hall.
Standing alone in a striking position on the breakwater on the bank of the Tagus, the Monument to the Discoveries evokes the Portuguese overseas expansion, recalls the country’s glorious past and symbolises the enormity of the work carried out by the Infante, the driving force behind the Discoveries.
A stylised caravel seems to be setting out to sea, with Henry the Navigator in its prow. On the two lateral ramps ascending to the symbolic figure of the Infante are some of the major figures of the Portuguese overseas expansion and cultural figures from the age of the Discoveries, 32 in total, all portrayed with symbols that allude to their identity: navigators, cartographers, warriors, colonisers, missionaries, chroniclers and artists.
Composed of a vertical element consisting of a stylised mast oriented North–South, with two Portuguese coats of arms on each side with its five small shields, surrounded by a band with 12 castles and stylised fleurs-de-lis in the centre.
On each side are three triangular structures, each with one curved side, giving the illusion of sails blown out by the wind.
The north side is formed by two giant stones which bear inscriptions in metallic letters. On the left side, the inscription above an anchor reads ‘TO THE INFANTE DOM HENRIQUE AND THE PORTUGUESE WHO DISCOVERED THE SEA ROUTES’. On the other side, the inscription above a laurel wreath reads, ‘ON THE V CENTENARY OF THE INFANTE DOM HENRIQUE 1460–1960′.
In the middle of the monument a flight of nine steps gives access to a platform with a view over the entire surrounding area.
A second flight of five stairs and a portal with a round arch formed by vaulted stones lead through to the interior of the monument.
The monument is flanked by two metal armillary spheres on two parallelepiped platforms.
Built on the northern bank of the Tagus between 1514 and 1520 as part of the Tagus estuary defence system, the Tower of Belém is one of the architectural jewels of the reign of Manuel I.
In the tower as a whole one can distinguish two distinct volumes and military architectural models: the mediaeval keep tower and the modern bulwark which, as it contained two artillery levels, allowed for long-distance cannon firing as well as ricochet shots over the water.
The Tower of Belém is a cultural reference, a symbol of the specificity of Portugal at the time, including its privileged exchange with other cultures and civilisations. As a protector of Portuguese individuality and universality, the tower saw its role confirmed in 1983 when it was classified by UNESCO as "Cultural Heritage of Humanity".
It took about 45 minutes for our visit. You can climb all the way to the top and admire the sea views just like they have done for centuries.
We bought a combo ticket from the Monastery and Tower for 10 Euros.
Most visitors don't enter the Tower of Belem. It's acceptable, because its content is poor and time generally short, but if you have time, and want to discover how it was conceived and used as stronghold, you may go inside and have a look. It is not a waste of time, and it will not consume much of it (time).
Dedicated to the Portuguese who led Europe’s Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries, the Monument to the Discoveries was constructed in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator, the first in a long line of explorers to venture into the great unknown. Led by Prince Henry at the helm, the monument also features the likenesses of explorers Magellan, Vasco da Gama and Cabral, kings Manuel I and Alfonso V, poet Camões and several other notable Portuguese historical figures.
Built in 1515, the Belem Tower was once a fortress that guarded the entrance to Lisbon’s harbor. Countless caravels set sail from this point in hopes of finding new trade routes to Africa, India and the Orient. Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Torre is the symbol of the Portuguese capital city.
Visitors can go inside for a price.