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Latest update: 9 August 2023

You can easily spend a day in the Belém district in Lisbon. This district contains some of Lisbon’s most important sights and a few cool spots you may not have heard of. So quickly find out what you can do in Belém.

Get to know Belém, Lisbon

Belém is a former fishing village. It is located directly on the Tagus River. What is remarkable is that many Portuguese explorers started their adventure here. The district is actually called Santa Maria de Belém. But that is such a mouthful that everyone simply calls it Belém. When you are in Belém, you immediately notice that it is much flatter than the center of Lisbon. But your calves won’t get any rest because there’s plenty to do in Belém!

How to get to Belém from Lisbon center?

Belém is located west of the center of Lisbon (when facing the river, turn right, past the big red bridge). If you walk all the way from the center to the Torre de Belém, it will easily take you 1.5 hours. It’s a lovely walk along the water, but you might want to get there a little faster.

An option is to catch the hop-on hop-off bus from the center of Lisbon. It makes a tour through Belém. Or go on a bike tour to Belém to get some good information from the guide along the way and explore the neighborhood afterward.

If you want more freedom, choose tram 15 from Baixa, take the train and get off at Cais do Sodré station, or go by taxi. Uber and Bolt run in Lisbon, and the latter is usually cheaper. Because Bolt was new to me, I got a discount on my first rides, so I paid less than 5 euros to travel from the center of Lisbon to Belém.

Visit Belém with a discount

If you plan to visit several sights and attractions, it may be smart to buy a Lisbon Card. The card allows you to visit many sights for free or at a discount and use public transport for free. So make sure you calculate if it works out for you. You buy the Lisbon Card here.

The square tower: Torre de Belém

The Torre de Belém is just about the most famous landmark of Belém, Lisbon. The square tower is even on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Torre de Belém lies directly on the river and used to serve as a defense tower against danger from the water. It’s already beautiful from the outside. You can also go in; you do that mainly for the view. The rooms in the tower are bare, so you don’t really get an idea of what it used to look like.

You can buy a ticket for the Torre de Belém here.

Google Maps location

Try the world famous Pastéis de Belém

The Pastéis de Belém is the one and only original ‘pastry’ of Lisbon, made of dough and cream. You can get Pastel de Nata everywhere in Lisbon, but for the Pastéis de Belém, you must go to Belém. A bakery here has the exclusive right to the name and the recipe. That is obviously worth a try. The bakery is enormous but often not big enough for the large interest. People line up to sit at the table or pick up the Pastéis de Belém.

If you can, I would try to taste a Pastéis de Belém in the bakery. Once in, you can quickly peek into the kitchen. There, the pastries are made by the hundreds at a time. Don’t forget to order one extra to take with you so you can do a taste test with the Pastel de Nata.

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Admire the impressive Jerónimos Monastery

Wow, admiring the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos’s exterior is worth going to Belém for. It is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is a gigantic monastery with beautiful decorations. And with a gigantic queue. That line scared me off, so I didn’t look inside. But online, I see very nice photos and enthusiastic reviews about the monastery, so the queue might be worth it.

Warning! Many online ticket sellers say you can skip the line, but in reality, this is not the case. Get Your Guide is honest about that, so buy your ticket there.

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Go to the top of the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge

You have probably already seen the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge from the boulevard in Lisbon or one of the vantage points in the city. It is long (2277 meters), and you might recognize it from something else… The makers of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco designed it. So you are right: the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge looks like a copy.

The date April 25 refers to the date the bridge changed its name. The bridge was previously named after a Portuguese dictator, but in 1974 people felt it lasted long enough. Time for a new name.

If you want to see it up close, head to the Pillar 7 Bridge Experience. With multimedia and virtual reality, you get to know the bridge better, but the literal and figurative highlight is the 70-meter high glass platform where you can see the cars and trucks pass by a few meters away. Book your tickets.

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Tip! Discover what else to do in the city in my blog with Lisbon’s best sights and attractions.

Walk/cycle/step along the Tagus

The river that flows through Lisbon is called the Tagus. This river starts in the east of Spain and ends in the Atlantic Ocean at Lisbon. From the center to Belém, you can actually walk a long straight line along the water. You will find benches or a lovely café to rest at various places.

If you want to speed up, rent an electric bicycle or scooter. You can find them at many spots in the city and rent them via an app. Several providers exist: Lime, Frog, Bolt, Voi, Hive, Link, and Bird. So look at the bike or scooter to find out who the provider is, download the app, and you’re good to go!

Modern museum MAAT

If you are walking along the river, you will undoubtedly come across the MAAT museum in Belém. It’s that ultra-modern building that looks – or should look – like a wave. It consists of 15,000 tiles that reflect the water. From the top, you have a beautiful view of the river. MAAT (Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia) is the museum of art, architecture, and technology. It consists of the eye-catching white building, but the building next to it is also part of it. That is a former power plant. So it’s no surprise that part of the collection is devoted to Portugal’s electricity history.

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The carriage museum in Belém

A stone’s throw from MAAT is the Museu Nacional dos Coches. So I thought this was some kind of car museum, so I skipped it. But it is a carriage museum in the old royal riding school. It is full of old carriages, most of which once belonged to the royal family. Oops, if I had known that, I would have stopped by. Next time then! Buy your ticket online in advance.

Google Maps location

Explorers Monument Padrão dos Descobrimentos

Not far from the Torre de Belém, you will find the great explorer’s monument. Fifty-two meters high, with 33 statues of 9 meters tall. The statues are of all kinds of important people from the time when the Portuguese set out to discover the world. From the explorers themselves to artists and the royal family. You can enter the monument for a few euros.

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Stroll through the botanical garden in Belém

Near the monastery, behind the Pastéis de Belém bakery, is a beautiful botanical garden. This one is called Jardim Botânico Tropical. The name says it all: you will mainly find tropical plants here. There are several greenhouses, and peacocks roam the gardens. Big palm trees, big cacti, and that’s where my botanical knowledge ends. 😉

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Jardim Botânico Tropic Lisbon Belém: lane with palm trees on both sides

Tip! See Belém from the water and book a boat trip. Extra beautiful around sunset. This boat trip is a good option.

A walking tour of the Belém district

If you like to discover the Belém district with a guide, there are plenty of options. Check out the following Belém tours:

LX Factory (an outsider in the Belém list)

The LX Factory is not actually located in Belém, but it is nearby. And it’s too much fun not to include in this list. After a day of wandering around Belém, you deserve a snack or a drink. The LX Factory is a creative industrial site. Textile factories used to be here, but in 2008 they transformed the area into a hotspot full of good restaurants, fine coffee cafés, trendy shops, and even a hostel (LX Hostel). A fun area to walk around and then choose a spot to soak up the sun AND some drinks.

Google Maps location

More Portugal inspiration?

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