Home to a number of Lisbon’s important monuments and several locations key to understanding Portuguese culture and history, Belem is a unique and pleasant neighbourhood to explore. Though a popular area, Belem never seems to be too crowded. The streets are wide and most spaces are open and breezy, unlike many other districts in Lisbon.
The only exception may be the popular Pastéis de Belém, a traditional pastry shop that sells the famous custard tarts, the crown jewel of Portuguese sweets. Despite the crowds, the long line is mostly for those who want to take away the precious Portuguese delicacies and enjoy them elsewhere. Inside the tiled historic house, there are 400 seats set around a charming winter garden. It’s a wonderful spot to recharge and take a breath before visiting all the surrounding landmarks.
One step ahead, there is Jerónimos Monastery, a Gothic-style masterpiece with an exquisite architectural twist, known as the Manueline style, built during the reign of King Manuel I who, from 1495 to 1521, shaped the historical period that still makes the country proud of their past - the Age of Discovery. The Belem Tower, located about 1,500 metres ahead, is also of the same era and features the same architectural style. From there, soldiers would patrol the sea and the surrounding area. Further ahead, sits the Discoveries Monument which was built from 1940 to 1960 during the dictatorship to honour of the great Portuguese explorers from this era. From the top, one can witness the wind rose carved in the ground below, a gift from the South African government.
A place not to miss is the Belem Cultural Centre. Since 1989, the building brought a modern touch amid the surrounding historic sites. A visit to the Berardo Museum is a must. The collection boasts works of art by Andy Warhol, Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Calder. One can also take a break and relax at the great Leste Oeste, a terrace cafe with a wonderful view of the Tagus coursing alongside the Jardim das Oliveiras, a garden framed by beautiful olive trees.
This touristic frontline hides a vast residential area with new and comfortable apartment buildings, with spacious apartments and good floor plans. Belem is perfect for the culture and art lovers and families who enjoy staying close but sheltered from city centre buzz. There are clubs, kid-friendly parks and restaurants nearby such as Real Nunes Marisqueria, one of the busiest places to eat lobsters in the city. Darwin’s Café at the Champalimaud Foundation is also among the neighbourhood trendiest spots.
- Lisbon’s centre - 10 minutes by car
- Cascais - 20 minutes by car
- Aeroport - 15 minutes by car