The best of Belém in one day

Famous for the tower that has its name, Belém is one of my favourite’s areas in Lisbon. As many people who visit Lisbon doesn’t have much time to explore all the beauty of Belém, this quick guide will give you enough reasons for not missing Belém when visiting Lisbon, even if you only had one day left for it.

Hosting some of the most important Lisbon attractions, two of them listed on the Seven Wonders of Portugal (the Belém Tower and the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos (Monastery of Jeronimos)), and the most traditional Portuguese custard tarts bakery (Pastéis de Belém), not including Belém in your Lisbon itinerary is a huge mistake.

Belém stole my heart for different reasons, but mainly because it is one of the most kids’ friendly areas in Lisbon. And for those who have kids like me, this is already a good reason to visit it. But there is much more about Belém to be said, and I will do it right now.

First, it is a flat neighbourhood. For families with small kids, having a break on climbing stairs holding a stroller or pushing one over the cobblestones might be convenient! Elderly visitors or the ones with reduced mobility won’t have problems strolling around as well.

Second, the most important attractions in Belém are withing walking distance. It is easy to navigate from one to another, and in a single day, you can accomplish visiting Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, Monument of Discoveries (Padrão dos Descobrimentos) and the Belém Tower.

Third, Belém is placed alongside the bank of the Tejo River. From there you have beautiful views of the Ponte 25 de Abril (the April 25th Bridge), the Cristo Rei monument and watch amazing sunsets by the end of the day.

Fourth, it is where you will find Pastéis de Belém, a must-go place if it is your first time in Lisbon, or even if it is not. It was there that I learned to like the Portuguese pastry Pastéis de Belem. Note: The custard tarts made in Pastéis de Belém bakery are the only ones allowed to be named as Pastéis de Belém, the others are all called “pastéis de nata”.

Finally, Belém has a lot of outdoor space to practice sports and to keep kids entertained.

The itinerary I recommend doing for first-time visitors, travelling with kids or not, is starting the day by visiting Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. If you have kids, consider spending some minutes at Jardim de Belém after the visit, so kids can have a little fun at the playground.

Cross to the other side of the railway in front of Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of Discoveries) to see the beautiful stone mosaic map, illustrating the path of Portuguese navigators in the Age of Discoveries.

If anyone starts to get hungry, there are plenty of options for eating, on the way from Monument of Discoveries to the Tower of Belem. Take your time to enjoy the excellent space by the river and relax observing the Ponte 25 de Abril and the boats on the river.

Arriving at the Tower of Belém, you can choose if you will lay down on the large lawn before or after visiting the monument. It is also a great place to have a break for kids to play.

Finish this long day of visiting monuments at Pastéis de Belém bakery and indulge yourself eating the original “pastel de Belém”.

I’m sure no one will be bored.  From adults to kids, there is a lot of activities for everyone.

Some smart tips:

– As Belém is a little more distant from Lisbon downtown (around 7 km), you will need to take public transport to arrive there. Consider taking the Eletrico 15 that leaves from Praça da Figueira (information on Carris´website. http://www.carris.pt/pt/electrico/15E/ascendente/ )

– If you have kids that love football like mine, take a small ball with you and a towel to use as a picnic blanket, and while your kids play in the lawn in front of Belém Tower, relax a little bit enjoying the scenery.

– If you don’t have time to visit both the Tower of Belém and Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, consider picking one of them. Although their buildings had completely different purposes, both have a similar architecture style, the Manueline style.  The tower was a military building and part of the Tagus estuary defence system. The Monastery as its names says it was a religious building, dedicated to Santa Maria de Belém and where the monks of the Order of Christ provided spiritual guidance to seafarers. Visiting the tower needs less time than the Mosteiro. Take this into consideration while planning your day.

-If you decided not visiting the Monastery, at least enter in its church. The entrance for the church is for free, and the highlights are the tombs of Portuguese poet Luis de Camões and the famous explorer Vasco da Gama. Visiting one or the other is worth it!

– If your time in Lisbon is limited and you don’t have time to visit the monuments, walking around Belém and being able to see them by yourself is already a good idea. At least you will come back home with the image of those monuments in your memory and on your camera roll.

– But don’t skip Pastéis de Belém. In my opinion, they have the best custard tarts ever! Always fresh, crunchy and warm! Eating a “pastel de belém” with a cup of espresso is something you must try at least once in your life!

– For information of hours and tickets check the official website of the monuments and Carris (Lisbon transports company)

– For information of hours and tickets check the official website of the monuments and Carris (Lisbon transports company)

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