Friday 4 January 2013

Attractions of Belém, Lisbon

Belém is the part of Lisbon I liked the most. Many of the most popular city's tourist attractions are situated there.
Jerónimos Monastery, Torre de Belém and the Discoveries Monument are just a few of the things that can all be found there.

Even if you do not intend to actually visit any of them, it is well worth taking a walk around this neighborhood and at least take a look at those magnificent buildings from the outside.

Especially Jerónimos Monastery blew me away - the building literary stretches for half a kilometer into distance. The front and inside details are all equally stunning. It is really hard to imagine enormous fortune spent on it (and that was just a portion of what trade with the Orient brought to Vasco da Gama and his men).
The church within the monastery is among others also the resting place of Vasco da Gama.
Besides great ornamental details on literary every step and an extensive presentation of building's history alongside other major events in the country and the world, there is not all that much to see inside.

The story goes Vasco da Gama and his men spent the night in prayer before departing on their expedition to the Orient in 1497 there. Then there was only a hermitage in disrepair, but they promised to build a monastery if they make it back. The building project was funded with money obtained from a 5% tax on commerce from Africa and the Orient, equivalent to 70 kilograms (150 lb) of gold per year.

The task of residing monks for centuries was to provide spiritual assistance to navigators and sailors who departed from the nearby beach to discover the world.

If you actually decide to see some of those attractions from the inside you can even do it for free if you follow this tip. Like some other attractions in Lisbon also these offer free entrance on Sundays until 14:00. If do not get there on a Sunday you can expect the following entrance fees:

  • Jerónimos Monastery - 6 euros
  • Belem Tower - 5 euros
  • Discoveries Monument - 2,5 euros
I found both - Jerónimos Monastery and Torre de Belém very interesting and well worth spending a Sunday morning there. The 52 meter high point of view is what you get if you go inside the Discoveries Monument. We decided to skip it.

When in the neighborhood you should also make a short stop at the Pastéis de Belém confectionery (on Rua de Belem 84, near the monastery) and try their delicious custard tarts. Since this place is always busy and they supposedly sell over 10.000 of these tarts every day, you can be pretty sure to get a fresh - still warm one for yourself.

I would hardly describe those custard tarts as "to die for" but I liked them, especially considering the price (just over 1 euro per tart). I also tried them on a few different locations and these were my favorite - there might actually be something about the hundred years old secret recipe. You should definitely try them.


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