When visiting Lisbon be sure to spend at least a half day (although I would recommend a full day) visiting the gorgeous neighborhood of Belém. Located on the banks of the River Tagus, Belém is packed with some of Lisbon's most iconic attractions. It is where the Lisbon's elite resided and all the main attractions are within easy walking distance from one another.
It is very important to note that ALL of the attractions in Belém are closed on Mondays.
How to get there
Belém is to the west of the Baixa district/Downtown Lisbon. The 15E is the easiest tram to catch. It departs from the Praça do Comércio fairly regularly. Be prepared though it is always very crowded. The Tram stop is called “Belem-Jeronimos” and you will be able to see the massive Monastery from the window of the tram as you disembark.
A Day in the Belém district
Start your day at Pasteis De Belem.
This Shop has been around since 1837 and it is where the Pastel de Nata - the famous Portuguese egg tart pastry - originated. They serve up over 30,000 of the pastries a day. It is widely regarded as the absolute best place in the city, maybe the country, to try the national Portuguese treat. You want to start your day there because even though the restaurant seats over 200 the line for a table gets longer and longer as the day goes on.
Their pastries are made fresh every morning and they still use an ancient recipe from the Mosteiro dos Jeronimo which is located right next door. The rest of their food is excellent - don't be afraid to have a full meal here.
After breakfast head over to the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos.
This extravagant Monastery was built in the 16th century using funds from the busy port right outside its doors.
The inside is covered top to bottom with intricate carvings and even though it is a heavily visited attraction in Portugal it is generally very peaceful inside. It was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. The Monastery was so well built it even survived the devastating 1755 earthquake with minimal superficial damage, while the rest of Lisbon was leveled.
Important: The Monastery is open from 10:00-18:00 (summer) and 10:00-17:00 (winter). It is €7 to enter. Visits to the chapel are free everyday and the entrance is free on Sunday mornings, but the lines are long. A combined ticket to the Belem Tower and Monastery is €12.
Using the underground subway make your way across the busy street to Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Discoveries Monument).
The huge monument is dedicated to the 14th century explores who made Portugal a superpower. It stands 52 meters high and was originally built in wood for the 1940 World Fair. It was later recast in stone in the 1960's. Inside is a small museum with access to an observation deck at the top. Make sure to view the monument up close to full appreciate the delicate detailed carvings on the side figures.
Important: The Monument museum and observation deck is open from 10:00-19:00 (summer) and 10:00-18:00 (winter). It is €3 to enter.
Continue heading west to the Torre de Belém.
This small fort was constructed in 1521 to guard Lisbon from raiders. The fort is detailed inside and out in a North African Moorish style. The outside is a bit more interesting than the empty inside and if you are a budget traveler I suggest skipping the inside to save money.
Important: The Tower is open from 10:00-18:30 (summer) and 10:00-17:30 (winter). It is €6 to enter. Entrance is free on Sunday mornings (till 14:00), but the lines are long. A combined ticket to the Tower and Monastery is €12.
Start heading back towards the Monastery and make a brief stop at the Palácio de Belém.
This pink building was home to the Royal family in the 1700's and is now the official address of the Portuguese president - although most live in their own houses. It is not open to the public but it pretty to look upon from the street.
For your last stop of the day visit the National Coach Museum.
The museum is full of intricately designed rare and valuable ceremonial coaches. All the coaches date back to the 16th - 19th century and are fascinating to admire.
Important: The Museum is open from 10:00-18:00. It is €6 to enter.
Right outside the Coach Museum is a tram/bus stop to take you home!
Food in The Belém district
There are many great restaurants along the water if you get hungry for lunch or dinner while visiting Belém. I would suggest Nosolo Itália Belém, À Margem, or Feitoria Restaurante & Wine Bar. The restaurants in Belém are all pretty expensive but you can easily find food trucks along the walk from the Discoveries Monument to the Tower of Belém for a more budget friendly option.