|Insane ceiling tracery in the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos church|
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery)
Constructed in gleaming white limestone, the monastery was designed in the Late Gothic style, also known as Manueline because King Manuel was a big sponsor of architectural projects at the time.
Museu Nacional de Arqueologia (National Archaeological Museum)
|Praça do Imperio, seen from the Monument to the Discoveries|
Museu da Marinha (Maritime Museum)
Museu Nacional dos Coches (National Carriage Museum)
|(Source: Chuck Burgess)|
Museo Colecção Berardo (Berardo Collection Museum)
|The museum complex as seen from the Monument to the Discoveries|
Even if you aren’t particularly fond of modern art, you might leave with a new appreciation (or at least understanding) of paintings that often take a lot of work to figure out. On the wall at the beginning of each exhibit were a few paragraphs that introduced each movement and explained why they were unique, their significance, and what they were trying to accomplish. The museum’s free wifi and air conditioning are just the icing on the cake!
Torre de Belém (Tower of Belém)
|Floating in the Tejo River|
Like the grandiose Jerónimos Monastery further up the road, the limestone Tower of Belém was also designed in the Manueline style of architecture—how Late Gothic was expressed in Portugal at the time of the Age of Exploration. Thick stone ropes curl around walls and corners and delicate flowery windows screen off walls…but a Renaissance loggia overlooks the main patio.
Padrão dos Descubrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries)
The limestone monument was designed to look like the sails and prow of a caravel ship, with statues of important Portuguese figures instrumental in ushering in Portugal’s golden age half a millennium ago. This Portuguese pantheon crowds the prow, and Henry the Navigator leads the way.
A quick elevator ride to the top takes you to a cramped lookout point from which you can take in incredible vistas: the Atlantic, Belém, the Tejo River, and the Golden Gate Bridge lookalike, the 25 de Abril Bridge.
|A ship sailing into the Atlantic|
And the use of the word padrão instead of monumento is problematic; Wiktionary defines it as a “stone pillar, usually with a cross, inscribed with the coat of arms of Portugal, placed as a land claim along the coasts of Africa and Asia by numerous Portuguese explorers.” It’s important to keep in mind that when the monument was built, the nationalistic Estado Novo was resisting the decolonizing trends sweeping European empires, so perhaps colonialism didn’t seem such a bad thing at the time to them.
Jardim do Ultramar (Overseas Gardens)
|Fewer tourists, more flowers: YASS|
On the southeast corner of the park you can peek across the fence at the President’s Palace, basically Portugal’s version of the White House. Not sure why it’s so far out here in Belém and not in downtown Lisbon.
Pastéis de Belém (egg custard tarts)
|You can’t just have one!|
Order at least dois (two!) and make sure to have some coffee alongside them. There should be a jar of cinnamon on the table to round out the sweet flavors, and some powdered sugar, too.
How to get there
|Waiting for the tram|
Which museums and monuments would you visit if you spent a day in Belém? Did I forget any of them? Share your recommendations in the discussion thread below!
For more pictures, check out my Flickr album.