Things to do in Belém

The spot where the Portuguese sailors set off to explore the world is an excellent place for you to begin your exploration of Lisbon.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


The best things to do in Belém

If it’s your first trip to Lisbon, I really recommend you head out to Belém, where you'll find some of the city's most important sights.

Because there's so much to see in Belém, I've put together this suggested itinerary for how to spend one day in Belém and not miss any of the highlights.

The Portuguese began their exploration of the world from here at Belém. For you, as a visitor, it’s a perfect place to begin your exploration of Lisbon.

Two of the most important sites in Lisbon are here in Belém – the Jerónimos Monastery and Belém Tower. I’ve already written a bit about them and why they are so significant.

Things to do in Belem, Lisbon, Portugal

But there are many more things to do in Belém than just these sights. It’s one of the most important neighbourhoods of Lisbon and is full of national monuments, museums, public parks, and grand buildings.

In fact, it’s easy to fill an entire day seeing the sights of Belém. You’ll finish with an excellent understanding of the history of Lisbon during the Age of Discoveries and the period of colonisation that would follow.

Things to do in Belem, Lisbon, Portugal

The name Belém is a derivation of the Portuguese translation of ‘Bethlehem’, and you’ll easily be able to see the strong connection between church and state that defined the rule of Portugal for many centuries.

However, Belém now also has modern architecture and museums that reflect contemporary society, offering you a bit of variety for a day of sightseeing.

I think one of the most enjoyable ways to see the best of Belém is with this fun electric bike tour of the neighbourhood.

Although a tour is a great way to see the best things to do in Belém (more on that later), it’s also easy enough to do independently.

There’s plenty to see so, to help, I’ve planned this list as a one-day Belém itinerary so you can use your time efficiently.

If you want to see all of the Belém highlights that I’ve included then, I’ll warn you, it will be a bit of a rush. If you prefer a leisurely pace then you might want to skip one or two things.

Things to do in Belem, Lisbon, Portugal

Before I get into the details, I’ll also point out that you’ll save a fair bit of money if you use the Lisboa Card for these sights.

Even with the 24-hour Lisboa Card, you save about €22 compared to paying for all of these attractions individually – including free transport too! (If you get the 48-hour or 72-hour card to see other sights, you’ll save even more.)

Anyway, onto the sights! You can see all of the places I have recommended on the map below. It’s fairly easy to walk between them all and there are nice things to see along the way.

If you’re not going to take a tour, and try to do it independently, you’ll first need to get out to Belém from central Lisbon, where I’m going to assume you’re staying.

How do you get to Belém from Lisbon?

If you want to get to Belém from central Lisbon, I would recommend taking the train from Cais do Sodré, which is connected to the Lisbon Metro system.
It leaves regularly and takes just nine minutes. Get off at Belém station and you can walk from there.
Alternatively, you can take the tram 15, which starts in Baixa and then follows a similar route to the train (but is much slower).
Or you can also use the city buses with the numbers 727, 728, 729, 714 or 751.

Of course, the other option is to have everything arranged for you. There are some great tours to Belém, and I particularly like the ones that go by bike from central Lisbon, because cycling along the river is really easy and such a great way to see this part of the city.

I would recommend this electric bike tour that will show you many of the best things in Belém. Or there are some other really good options here:

Otherwise, let me tell you a bit more about how you can visit Belém on your own.


Monument to the Discoveries

From Belém train station, walk along the waterfront until you reach the Monument to the Discoveries. You won’t be able to miss it – it’s the enormous monument that rises 56 metres high from the side of the Tagus River.

The Monument to the Discoveries was opened in 1960 and is a tribute to the Portuguese Age of Discovery of the 15th and 16th centuries.

Along either side are sculptures of 32 historical figures from this period. At the peak is a 9-metre statue of Henry the Navigator holding a model of a type of ship called a ‘carrack’.

Monument to the Discoveries, Belem, Lisbon, Portugal

You can go inside and climb up to the viewing platform at the top. There is also an exhibition on the lower level.

If there’s a long wait, don’t worry, because you’ll get a similar view from the top of Belém Tower.

From March – September, the Monument to the Discoveries is open from 10:00 – 19:00.

From October – February, it is open from 10:00 – 18:00.

Entry to the monument costs €5 for a regular ticket and €2.50 for a concession.

For more information, you can visit the monument’s website.

Belém Tower

I would suggest trying to get to Belém Tower fairly soon after it opens because a long queue can form during the day because there’s only a limited number of people allowed inside.

(Alternatively, you can buy this official ticket in advance to skip the queue when you arrive.)

Belem Tower, Lisbon, Portugal

Belém Tower is an impressive building, surrounded by water in the Tagus River.

Construction started in 1514 on the tower that was designed primarily to be part of the defensive system – it has spots for cannons that could shoot at any enemy ships sailing towards Lisbon. But it was also a monument to the power of Portugal at the time.

Although it looks great from the outside, I would really recommend going inside as well.

You get a completely different perspective from the terrace on the far side. Then you can climb up to the top of the tower for amazing views.

Belem Tower, Lisbon, Portugal

By the way, I suggest asking for a combined ticket for the tower and Jerónimos Monastery to skip the line at the monastery later, if you can’t get the skip-the-line ticket in advance.

From October – April, Belém Tower is open from 10:00 – 17:30, with the last admission at 17:00.

From May – September, it’s open from 10:00 – 18:30, with the last admission at 18:00.

It’s closed on Mondays and on 1 January, Easter Sunday, 1 May, 13 June and 25 December.

Admission to Belém Tower costs €9.25 and free for children 12 years old and below. Entry is free with the Lisboa Card.

For more information, you can visit the tower’s website.

Museum of Contemporary Art

Of all the museums in Belém, I think the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC/CCB) is the most impressive of them all. Although I’ve included it in this one-day itinerary, you could spend hours here.

If you particularly like modern art, you might want to consider coming back and seeing it properly.

Berardo Collection Museum, Belem, Lisbon, Portugal

There are more than 900 works on display that stretch from the 20th century until today. The main exhibition does an excellent job of taking you on a chronological journey through modern art, showing how one movement evolved into another.

You’ll be able to see works from artists such as Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon, Piet Mondrian and Marcel Duchamp.

Berardo Collection Museum, Belem, Lisbon, Portugal

There are also large temporary exhibitions spaces that usually have something interesting included with the admission price.

The Museum of Contemporary Art is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 – 18:30.

Regular admission is €12 and a concession ticket is €7.

There is a 20% discount with the Lisboa Card, making it €9.60 for an adult.

You can see more information on the museum’s website.

Jerónimos Monastery

Jerónimos Monastery, along with Belém Tower, make up Lisbon’s only World Heritage Site. This is one of the most important sites in the city and I wouldn’t recommend missing it, even if the line looks quite long.

(The line is to get the ticket, even if you have the Lisboa Card. But if you got the combined ticket earlier at Belém Tower, or you buy the skip-the-line ticket in advance, you’ll be able to jump to the front.)

Jerónimos Monastery, Lisbon, Portugal

Jerónimos Monastery was built in 1501 and was intended to be a place of spiritual protection for the sailors and explorers whose ships left here during the Portuguese Age of Discovery. They would pray here just before they set off on their journeys.

The main two-level cloister of the monastery is what you can see these days and the architecture is stunning. Take note of all the small details in the designs sculpted into the stonework. There is a mixture of nautical, religious and royal symbols.

Jerónimos Monastery, Lisbon, Portugal

Attached to the monastery is the enormous Church of Santa – which you can actually go inside for free. There’s lots to see inside the church but make sure you don’t miss the tomb of Vasco da Gama.

From October – April, Jerónimos Monastery is open from 10:00 – 17:30, with the last admission at 17:00.

From May – September, it’s open from 10:00 – 18:30, with the last admission at 18:00.

It’s closed on Mondays and on 1 January, Easter Sunday, 1 May, 13 June and 25 December.

Admission to Jerónimos Monastery costs €12 for an adult and €6 for a concession. Entry is free with the Lisboa Card. You can avoid waiting in the long queue by buying a skip-the-line ticket in advance.

For more information, you can visit the monastery’s website.


Pastéis de Belém

You have probably heard of the famous Portuguese tart – or pastel de nata – and maybe you’ve even tried one in Lisbon already. You really can’t come to Belém without trying one of the tarts from the Pastéis de Belém bakery.

Pastéis de Belém, Belem, Lisbon, Portugal

It is said to be the original place where the pastel de nata was created and a lot of people will tell you that it is still the best one you’ll find.

Although the original recipe is used, it is now so full of tourists that they are made in bulk.

There’s often a long line on the street waiting to go in and buy the tarts. You can usually save time by going to the other entrance for the table service instead.

Pastéis de Belém, Belem, Lisbon, Portugal

This is also a good area to get lunch if you’re getting hungry. So, if you’re ready for a break, grab a bite to eat, a coffee, or a pastel de nata, and then you’ll be ready to continue with the Belém itinerary.

Ajuda Palace

The next stop I would recommend is the beautiful Ajuda Palace. It’s not usually high on the list of things to see in Lisbon but I actually think it is really underrated and worth a visit.

It is about a 25-minute walk from the main street of Belém. If you would prefer to use public transport, you can catch the local bus 727 or 729 (free with the Lisboa Card).

Ajuda Palace, Belem, Lisbon, Portugal

Construction started on Ajuda Palace in 1795, with the intention of making it a large and opulent royal residence. However, the project hit all sorts of hurdles (including the period when the Royal Family had to flee to Brazil in 1807 because of a French invasion).

Ajuda Palace, Belem, Lisbon, Portugal

It wasn’t until 1861 that Ajuda Palace officially became the residence of the Portuguese Royal Family. Even that didn’t last very long – with Portugal becoming a republic in 1910, the building was closed until it opened again decades later as a museum.

Ajuda Palace, Belem, Lisbon, Portugal

Still, it’s a beautiful palace with richly-decorated rooms, full of furniture, artwork and other royal items. Of particular note is the enormous throne room and connected areas for banquets and other official functions.

Ajuda Palace is open from 10:00 – 18:00. It is closed on Wednesdays.

Regular admission costs €8 and concession is €4. Entry is free with the Lisboa Card.

For more information, you can visit the palace’s website.

National Museum of Coaches

Heading back into the centre of Belém, I would suggest you might be interested in the National Museum of Coaches. It may seem like an odd place to visit but the collection inside is actually quite spectacular.

National Museum of Coaches, Belem, Lisbon, Portugal

The museum has a new building (opened in 2015) that uses the entire top level to display the coaches, most of which were used by the Portuguese Royal Family over the years. There are dozens of coaches and related items on display, covering a time period between the 16th and 19th centuries.

National Museum of Coaches, Belem, Lisbon, Portugal

One of the most important items is a late 16th century travelling coach used by King Philip II of Portugal to travel from Spain. There’s also a beautiful baroque-style 18th century coach given by Pope Clement XI to King John V.

The National Museum of Coaches is open from 10:00 – 18:00. It is closed on Mondays.

Regular admission costs €8 and a concession is €5. Entry is free with the Lisboa card.

For more information, you can visit the museum’s website.


Lisbon has quite a few good art museums and if you visited the Berardo Collection Museum earlier in the day then you have already seen one of the best. But visiting MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology) is about the experience as much as the collection.

MAAT, Belem, Lisbon, Portugal

The museum is spread across two buildings. The older one is the Tejo Power Station (known as Central), built in the first half of the 20th century and now repurposed into the gallery. You can still see the old equipment that’s been left behind, though.

MAAT, Belem, Lisbon, Portugal

Next to it, is the new building, an architectural piece of art in its own right. It was opened in 2016 and the design means you can walk over the top of the roof, which then turns into a grassy hill.

MAAT, Belem, Lisbon, Portugal

Both buildings host a series of temporary exhibitions with innovative contemporary art – videos, light displays, sculptures… anything, really.

Depending on what is on offer, the ticket for both buildings may not be great value but you can assess that for yourself. It’s certainly worth considering it.

MAAT is open from 10:00 – 19:00. It is closed on Tuesdays.

For a regular ticket, it costs €11 for both Central Tejo and MAAT.

Concession tickets for both buildings is €8.

For more information, you can visit the museum’s website.

I have put MAAT at the end of the itinerary for a day in Belém for two reasons. Firstly, it is open the latest so you can still visit it if you are running a bit late. But it also puts you in the best position to continue on from here.

The waterfront the Tagus River here has been landscaped beautifully and later afternoon/early evening is a wonderful time to take a stroll back towards the city.

If you’ve got a bit of energy, you can go up to the April 25 Bridge viewpoint with the Experience Pilar 7 attraction. You can also head to the nearby LX Factory for a drink or a bite to eat.

As I mentioned earlier, it’ll be much easier if you take a tour of Belem and you’ll learn a lot more about this fascinating area.

I would recommend this electric bike tour that will show you many of the best things in Belém. Or there are some other really good options here:

And I’ve also got some tips for great accommodation in Lisbon, if you’re looking for somewhere to stay:


I’ve got a detailed story about where to stay in Lisbon (including some great spots in Belém) you can read, or have a look at some of these highlights in the city centre:


If you’re looking for a budget option, the Lost Inn Lisbon is right in the heart of the city.


For cheap private accommodation, there are some lovely guesthouses like City Lofts Lisbon.


If you’re interested in something with a bit more style, I would recommend the Lx Boutique Hotel.


And for some real luxury, have a look at the incredible Memmo Príncipe Real.

6 thoughts on “Things to do in Belém”

  1. Hi Michael! Loved your post! You drew a wonderful picture of major attractions of this astounding traveler’s paradise. Lisbon is indeed one of the major economic centers on the European continent. The city has earned the recognition as an alpha-level global city because of its flourishing financial, commercial, media, entertainment, tourism, arts & education sectors.
    The information shared by you is really helpful to time my trip well. The only task left for me now is to apply online Portugal Visa UK. Excited! See you soon Lisbon.

  2. Hi Michael,
    Thanks for a very helpful post (and others as well). Very detailed and informative I do have a question, though. Do you think it’ll be possible to visit Belem (Monument of Discoveries, Tower (only one of those to actually climb) and Monastery ), then make our way to LX Factory to explore for a bit, and then get on the train to Cascais? All of this considering we’ll be visiting in June 🙂 Another option is to start at LX Factory and work our way towards Cascais.

  3. Great post, Michael! Your description of the major attractions in Lisbon really paints a vivid picture of this fantastic travel destination. Lisbon is a leading economic center in Europe, known for its thriving financial, commercial, media, entertainment, tourism, arts, and education industries. Your information is very useful for planning my trip. The only thing left for me to do now is to apply for a saudi visa from the UK. I am excited and looking forward to my visit to Lisbon!

  4. Michael, your post was fantastic, it provided a great overview of the main attractions in Lisbon. As a major economic hub in Europe, the city has gained recognition as a global leader in many industries, including finance, commerce, media, entertainment, tourism, arts, and education. Your information will be very useful in planning my trip. Now, the only remaining step for me is to submit an application for a Dubai Visa from the UK, I am excited and can’t wait to visit Lisbon soon!

  5. A lot of the pricing information is outdated. As of January 17, 2024 the Berado Art collection was 9 euro with the Lisbon card discount and the MAAT is not free with the card.


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