Fast Facts

  • Location: At the mouth of Tagus River in Lisbon harbor
  • Time to Visit: Throughout the year; closed on 1st Jan, Easter Sunday, 1st May, and 25th Dec
  • Preferred timings: May to Sept — 10 am to 6:30 pm; Oct to Apr — 10 am to 5 pm
  • Admission fee: â‚¬ 4, € 2 for visitors over 65, and physically retarded Admission free for children under 14 years, and on Sundays and holidays till 2 pm
  • How to reach: By bus routes 112, 51, 49, 43, 29, 28, and 27; tram route 15; Train from Cascais to Belem; Ferry from Porto Brandao to Belem
  • Nearest International Airport: Lisbon Portela Airport
  • Nearest Railway Station: Belem
  • The time required for sightseeing: 1 hour

Belem Tower, Lisbon’s iconic landmark, symbolizes the age of discovery. This UNESCO world heritage monument was a starting point for many of the remarkable discoveries in the 14th and 15th centuries, and the last sight of Portuguese sailors of their motherland before they left for foreign lands in search of new trade routes and colonizing opportunities. The Tower of Belem symbolizing Portugal’s pioneering efforts in conquering the still unknown Atlantic Ocean stood guard over Lisbon harbor at the mouth of Tagus River.

During the age of discovery in the 14 and 15th centuries Portugal in general and Lisbon in particular, grew in importance. With an increase in economic activity, it became necessary to protect Lisbon from pirates, attackers from North Africa and those from North Europe. Belem Tower of Lisbon was conceived by King Joí¤o II as a fortress guarding Lisbon. Construction of the fortress began in 1514 under the guidance of master builders Francisco de Arruda and Diogo de Boitaca. After completion in 1520 during King Manuel I’s reign, Gaspar de Paiva was appointed the first governor of Belem Tower.
The architecture of Belem Tower

The Tower of Belem is a representation of Moorish and Oriental architectural patterns characterized by pepper pot-shaped cupolas atop sentry boxes, Manueline symbols, stone knots, and representations from nature. Belem Tower dedicated to St. Vincent, the patron saint of Lisbon city, consists of two parts: the tower and the bulwark. The 35-meter tower is slender and featured by vaulted ceilings reminiscent of medieval architecture. On the western outside wall facing the sea, you discover the idol of ‘Our Lady of Safe Homecoming’, a symbol of safety for sea voyagers. The upper corners of the tower walls have sculptures of St. Vincent and St. Michael, and the entire tower is decorated with stone ropes. Of the four stories, the fourth is the chapel decorated with Manueline rib vault, the cross of the Military Order of Christ and the armillary sphere.

From the top of the tower take a bewitching view of the Atlantic Ocean and the Lisbon city. The bulwark with 3 ½ meter-thick walls is wider, more modern. Fitted with 17 breech-loading large-caliber canons the bulwark was used as artillery. The platform of this bulwark or bastion was used as an emplacement for light guns. Belem Tower and fortress was the first Portuguese fortification with the dual-level gun arrangement. At the base of the turrets, you will notice figures of animals among which the image of a rhinoceros was most significant.

You will be surprised to learn that with the passage of time Lisbon Belem Tower was used as a political prison during the Spanish occupation, thereafter a telegraph office, a customs house, and also a lighthouse. When you visit this world heritage site collect postcards, slides, memorabilia, silverware, painted tiles, porcelain, pottery, educational games and publications from the stores around this monument.

There are wonderful images of the Belem Tower and interesting travel accounts of visits to this popular Portuguese destination, click on the following links: To see great views of the Belem Tower and the picturesque setting of this historic monument, click on this clip! This is a very interesting and informative travel blog on a journey to the beautiful Belem Tower. You will definitely enjoy it!

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