The Belem Tower is one of Lisbon’s most recognizable landmarks as well as one of its most visited attractions. This miniature castle guarding the city and the Tagus Estuary has been a symbol of Lisbon for centuries, and it continues to attract thousands of visitors every year to enjoy the magnificent view and experience the history of the city through one of his best-known buildings.
If you’re interested in Lisbon’s history, or you just want to enjoy a great view, the Belem Tower is definitely worth adding to your Lisbon itinerary. Drop off your bags at a luggage storage near the Belem Tower, and you’ll be able to explore for yourself.
But before you go, check out our guide to one of Portugal’s most iconic attractions. Knowing a little bit about the tower before you go is a great way to get the most out of your experience.
The Story of the Belem Tower
The tower is officially known as the Tower of St. Vincent. It has its origins in a defensive project that began in the early 16th century by Portuguese King John II. The king didn’t live to see the tower built, but his successor Manuel I, put the previous king’s plans into action and began construction on the tower in 1516. While the tower was being built, a heavily armed ship was deployed to guard the river entrance to Lisbon and protect it from attack.
Construction was completed in 1519. However, in 1580, the tower was attacked and taken by Spanish forces. After being retaken by the Portuguese, the tower was renovated and served as a prison as well as a fortress. It was also used as a customs house to monitor traffic on the river.
By the 20th century, the tower had long outlived its usefulness as a fortification, but its historic importance was beginning to be more widely appreciated. Conservation efforts began on the tower, which was named a National Monument in 1907, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
Part of the tower’s historical importance was its role as the gateway to Lisbon from the sea. During Portugal’s Golden Age of Exploration, this is where ships set out to explore and then colonize South America, Africa, and Asia. The tower itself is part of the larger complex that includes the Jeronimos Monastery, and explorers like Vasco da Gama would ask the monks of the monastery to say prayers before they set out on their world-changing journeys to establish Portugal’s maritime empire.
But it’s not just the tower’s historical importance that brings tourists here today. It’s also its extremely photogenic architecture. While the tower may have been conceived as a fortress and later as a prison, it’s an extraordinarily beautiful one. And this striking architecture, combined with the sweeping views of the river that the tower offers, makes it the perfect place to capture some stunning photographs of your Lisbon trip.
Getting to Belem Tower
The tower is located in the southern part of the city on the banks of the river in the fascinating and historic Belem district. The Belem railway station is the closest train station to the monument, and is only a short walk away. If you’re coming from the south part of the city, you can also take a boat across the Tagus from Porto Brandao to Belem River Station and walk to the tower from there.
However, for most visitors, tram line 15 is the easiest way to get to the tower and explore it for yourself. Alternatively, you can take city buses 27, 28, 29, or 43. You can also reach the tower on one of the city’s many hop-on hop-off tourist buses. If you’re pressed for time and don’t want to have to worry about navigating the city’s transit system, this is probably the easiest way to see the tower, but it’s not the cheapest.
You can admire the tower’s striking architecture from the outside, and it needn’t cost you a thing. However, if you really want to understand the importance of the tower along with its place in the history of the city, you should go inside.
It costs six euros for an adult ticket, and there is a 50% discount for over 65’s and young adults. Kids under 12 can visit for free.
It’s also possible to buy a combined ticket for the tower and the nearby Jeronimos Monastery, and given everything there is to see the Monastery, it’s probably a good idea to visit both. An adult combined ticket costs €12.
It’s worth noting that admission to the Belem Tower is included in the price of a Lisbon Card, which also covers free public transportation in the city, so if you plan on seeing a lot of attractions in Lisbon, this can be a good way to save money.
From October to April, the tower is open from 10 AM to 5:30 PM. From May to September, it’s open from 10 AM to 6:30 PM. The tower is closed on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, and May 1.
Tips for Visitors
Belem Tower is a popular attraction, so it can get quite busy during peak hours. To avoid crowds, aim to arrive as early as possible.
Also, make sure you bring your camera! The views of the river from the top of the tower are truly breathtaking and definitely worth capturing with some photos!
Finally, remember to dress appropriately. There’s no dress code here, but you will definitely want comfortable shoes to navigate the narrow passageways and steep stairs inside the tower itself.
Belem Tower is an important part of the history of Lisbon, and its beautiful architecture makes it one of the most popular places to see in the Portuguese capital. If you’re interested in history, you have to come here. But even if all you want is a nice view, the tower is still an iconic place to see in Lisbon.
Hopefully, this information will help you make the most of your visit to the Belem Tower. Happy traveling!