The Best Way to Visit the Belem Tower


 

The Belem Tower is the most visited landmark in all of Portugal, drawing in an estimated 500,000 travelers per annum.

The tower sits on the coast of Lisbon, a short drive out of the city center. It’s a must-see attraction during your time in the Portuguese capital, as is the neighborhood in which it exists.

Having done my fair share of visits to this renowned site, I can tell you exactly how and when to make your venture. Read on!

Tower of Belem – by Anton Zelenov – Wikimedia Commons

What is the Tower of Belem

To understand the significant of the Tower of Belem to the Portuguese people is to understand the history.

During the reign of King John II, an order was passed stating that a ship should be permanently stationed in the bay of Belem to watch over the shores and protect/warn the people of incoming threats.

It remind here for the duration of his kingship, and it was only his successor, King Manuel I, who revisited the issue later on. He decided it would be more economically sound to simply build a fortress of sorts to stand permanently in the bay.

Tower of Belem – by Marin Barisic – Unsplash

The Tower of Belem was constructed on a small island just off of the coastline. If you visit the tower today, however, you’ll notice it’s now part of the mainland. This is because said island was shifted closer to Lisbon during the Great Earthquake in 1755 and has merged fully over the years.

For more interesting facts about the Tower of Belem, click here!

Getting to the Belem Tower

How to get to the Belem Tower will depend on where in the city you are coming from.

From the city center, one simply has to make their way down to the water’s edge in Cais do Sodre and catch the train to the Belem stop. From here it’s a short walk to the tower itself; you’ll see it from the station.

There are no metros directly into Belem, the train is the only rapid-transport option. Alternatively, any taxis or Ubers will get you from the city center to Belem in around 13 minutes.

One fun transposition option to consider is using the Lisbon tuk tuks. You can’t miss these, they are all over the city, especially in the more touristic zones. The drivers will offer you a range of tour options, such as visiting the cathedral or the various miradouros.

The longest tour option they offer will take you from the center, to the various attractions and then finally through to the tower of Belem. It’s a unique way to see the city before ending off at the main attraction, and it costs juts a few euros to enjoy.

Belem as a Day Trip

As mentioned, visiting the neighborhood of Belem is as interesting as visiting the tower itself. This short stretch of Lisbon’s coast is lined with museums and attractions, including the renowned MAAT Museum, Museu Coleção Berardo, the Popular Art Museum, the Belem Harbor and the Lisbon Planetarium.

Two famous attractions include the Padrão dos Descobrimentos and the Jerónimos Monastery.

Everything in Belem is within walking distance from one another, so you simply need to get yourself onto the Praça do Império and walk from here.

Belem – by Cayambe – Wikimedia Commons

Because of the abundance of attractions in this historical hub, Belem is a popular district to do as a day trip, arriving early in the morning and leaving late evening once everything has been seen.

Entry Into the Tower

Tours of the inside of the tower are available on a daily basis… almost.

You see, because of the geographical location of the tower, there are some days when the weather and/or sea levels make the site unsafe for public visitation. While the exterior of the tower is viewable daily, the interior might be off limits when you arrive.

If you do get to be part of the interior tours, then you’re looking at roughly €8.50 per ticket.

The best way to know in advance whether or not you’ll be grated interior access would be to visit their website and check for relatively live updates.

Tower of Belem – by Matt Kieffer – Wikimedia Commons

With this in mind, I can absolutely still recommend visiting the tower even when interior access is being limited. The facade of the fortress is beautiful to see in person, with the picturesque Tagus bay in the background.

There are grassy areas and ample seating for all to spend a few minutes taking in the view.

Tower of Belem – by Sheila Thomson – Wikimedia Commons

Nearby Attractions

Since you’ve made your way out to Belem, I can recommended some additional things to see before venturing home to the city center.

Lisbon’s LX Factory is also on the coast. It sits almost exactly halfway between the city center and the Tower of Belem.

I would recommend making a stop here en route home and spending some time exploring what this up and coming cultural hub has to offer. The LX Factory is an old factory yard that has been filled with vibrant restaurants, concept shops, cafes and galleries.

If you’re in need of a break from crowds after your time in Belem, rather pass through the Jardim da Estrela en route back to the city.

Jardim da Estrela – by GualdimG – Wikimedia Commons

This is one of Lisbon’s most beautiful green spaces, offering landscaped gardens, greenhouses and even a lake with a waterfall. In the summer it’s the perfect place to lose a few hours, while in the winter a simple stroll will suffice.

If you travel back toward the centre by train, you’ll get off where you got on: Cais do Sodre station.

Just outside the entrance of the station you’ll find the entrance to the widely renowned Time Out Market. This is a converted warehouse space that houses many different food vendors and a central informal dining space in which to eat.

Most of the stalls are open until late, so this makes for a great end to a long day out in Lisbon!

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