Belém (pronounced be-lãe) is a riverside district, home to Lisbon’s finest monuments and museums, some of which, such as the peculiar Belém Tower, are testimony of Portugal’s maritime history.
It was from Belém that the explorer Vasco da Gama set sail in 1497 to a pioneering sea voyage to India, rounding the Cape of Good Hope and reaching Calicut in 1498.
The Unesco-listed Jerónimos Monastery was commissioned by Dom Manuel I, the Portuguese monarch at the time, to mark the important discovery.
Opposite Jerónimos Monastery, connected by an underground passageway, stands by the river the caravel-shaped Monument to the Discoveries (Padrão dos Descobrimentos). Just a short toddle west along the river, you’ll find the peculiar Belém Tower built to defend the River Tejo.
The Ajuda neighbourhood stands northeast of Jerónimos Monastery. Ajuda is home to a palace (former royal residence) and a botanical garden.
Getting to Belém and Ajuda from central Lisbon is easy following our directions.