Belem Tower, also called Torre de Belem, is one of the most recognizable historical sites in Lisbon. Portuguese explorers sailed past the this fortress on their way in and out of the city. Today, the site attracts over 500,000 visitors each year. If you’re planning on becoming one of those visitors, there are a few things you might want to know.
The Torre de Belem was constructed in the 16th century to serve as a fortress protecting the city of Lisbon. The Tower sits in the middle of the Tagus River, and guards the entrance to the Lisbon Harbor. Many explorers, including Vasco de Gama and Ferdinand Magellan, set sail from Lisbon Harbor and passed by this magnificent tower.
Belem Tower was built between 1514 and 1520, making it about 500 years old.
The tower is about four storeys tall, making it a little over 98 feet. The first floor contains the Governor’s Hall. A spiral staircase leads to the second floor, which is home to the Hall of Kings and an overlook to the Tagus River. The third floor houses the Audience Hall, and the fourth floor, while unnamed, features stunning vaulted ceilings.
Belem Tower is constructed from a type of limestone called lioz. It was designed in the Portuguese Manueline style, though there are many architectural elements drawing from other styles.
While the style of the tower certainly makes it seem like it could be featured on the hit HBO series, Belem Tower was not used as a filming location for Game of Thrones.
The Torre de Belem opens at 10:00am. It is open until 5:30pm from October to May, and is open until 6:30pm the rest of the year. The tower is not open on Mondays, or on select holidays. Check the official website for more details.
Yes, you will need tickets, which can be bought onsite. A standard ticket costs 6 Euros, though discounts are offered for seniors, families, children, and students. You can also buy a combination ticket that includes access to the Jeronimos Monastery and the National Archeological Museum for 12 Euros. The Belem Tower offers free admission on Sundays before 2pm.
Depending on when you visit the tower, there may be an admission line you have to wait in. However, some tours allow you to skip the line.
The outside of the Torre de Belem looks spectacular lit up at night. A walk along the banks of the Tagus River will allow you to see the stunning view. However, it is not possible to tour the interior of the tower after closing hours.
The Belem district is located about four miles outside Lisbon’s city center. From Downtown Lisbon, you can take either Tram 15 or Tram 127, and get off just past Jeronimos Monastery. From there, it’s an easy walk to the tower.
The exterior and first level of the tower are easily accessible. However, the higher levels of the tower are only accessible via a narrow spiral staircase. Those with mobility issues may have trouble touring the higher levels.
While you’re in Belem, you’ll want to check out the other nearby monuments celebrating Portugal’s Age of Discovery. The Discoveries Monument celebrates some of Portugal’s most famous explorers. This monument is easily accessible, and a lift can take you to the top for 2 Euros.
Across the street from Belem Tower and the Discoveries Monument, you’ll want to stop by Jeronimos Monastery. This former monastery of the Order of St. Jerome is now the final resting place of Vasco de Gama, one of Portugal’s most famous explorers. It’s also where Lisbon’s famous Pasteis de Belem originated, and you can still try some from the monastery’s bakery.
After the Jeronimos Monastery, check out the National Archeological Museum next door. This museum is home to some of the most fascinating archeological finds from the Iberian Peninsula.