Ultimate Guide: Things To Know Before You Visit Belem Tower, Lisbon
Belem Tower (“Torre de Belem” in Portuguese) is located in Lisbon, Portugal and it’s one of the most famous tourist attractions in Portugal. If you’re planning a trip there soon, you’re in luck! My ultimate guide will tell you everything you need to know about this historic site – how to get there and when to visit Belem Tower, how much it costs, things to keep in mind and things to avoid. And more!
One thing to keep in mind: because it’s such a popular landmark, Torre de Belem is visited by thousands of people, so the queues to enter can be VERY LONG and the process of buying your ticket can be a bit tedious. No worries though – just follow my tips below for a smoother experience. You can thank me later for it!
First of all, is Belem Tower worth visiting?
Yes, yes and yes. After all, Belem Tower is not the most iconic attraction in Lisbon for nothing, right?! The tower is 500 years old, it’s located on the northern banks of the Tagus River and it’s standing proof of Portugal’s glorious Age of Discovery. The tower was built in Manueline architecture (with hints of other architectural styles such as Italian, Islamic, Moorish and North African) and it’s truly stunning – both on the outside and on the inside.
The Belem Tower has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983 and it was inaugurated in 1521. Inside, there’s a spiral staircase to be explored, a rooftop terrace for incredible views and lots of intricate architectural details and beautiful rooms to admire. In short, Torre de Belem is a real gem worth exploring by anyone visiting Lisbon!
Now that I’ve convinced you to check it out, let’s find out all the important things to know before visiting Belem Tower:
Everything you need to know before you visit Belem Tower in Lisbon
A brief history of Torre de Belém
Let’s start at the beginning. The construction of the tower began under the initiative of Francisco de Arruda (a military architect and sculptor) and it lasted from 1514 until 1520. The main goal was to create an imposing structure that would guard the mouth of the Tagus River, which was the main gateway to Lisbon. You can still see the cannons on the lower level today, which were placed there for this exact purpose – defence.
The tower was first known as “Castelo de São Vicente de Belém” (Castle of Saint Vincent of Bethlehem). The purpose of the tower switched to be a state prison in 1589. This lasted about 250 years. Then Belem Tower became a customs port, then a telegraph station, then a lighthouse.
Belem Tower became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and it stands as proof of Portugal’s maritime powers and its Age of Discoveries. A full restoration and conservation took place in 1998, bringing Torre de Belem to the state you can see it in right now. Last but not least, the tower was classified as one of the “Seven Wonders of Portugal” in 2007.
Where is Portugal’s Belem Tower?
Belém Tower is located in the Belém district, around 9 km from Lisbon city centre.
ADDRESS: Avenida da Brasília, Belem, Lisbon, Portugal 1400-038
COORDINATES: 38.691854, -9.216083
Here’s a map that will show you its exact location:
How to get to Belém Tower
Although Belém Tower is not located in the heart of the city, it’s very easily accessible. To get there, you can take:
- TRAM no. 15 or 15E or 127 – these depart from Praça da Figueira and connect central Lisbon to the Belem district. You need to head in the direction of Algés Jardim and get off at Mosteiro dos Jerónimos or Largo da Princesa. Travel time is 30 minutes.
- TRAIN – take the Cascáis Line departing from Cais do Sodré station. After 3 stops, get off at Belem station. Travel time is 7 minutes.
- TAXI – the cost is around 15€ from the city centre
- YELLOW HOP-ON HOP-OFF BUS – the route taking you to Belem is called “Tagus Tour” and it departs from Praça da Figueira. Check the routes and get your pass here.
NOTE: If you’re going by car, please keep in mind that there is limited street parking nearby.
Belem Tower opening hours
October-April opening hours: 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM. The last entry is at 5 PM
May-September opening hours: 10:00 AM to 6:30 PM. The last entry is at 6 PM.
Closed on: Mondays, 1st of January, 1st of May, Christmas Day and Easter Sunday.
Best time to go to Belem Tower
The tower opens at 10:00 AM, but I recommend getting there at least 1 hour earlier in order to explore the outside of the building and take some pictures (that’s when the sun is in front of the tower, not behind it, so you can take the BEST photos). The tourist crowds will arrive late in the morning (usually 30 mins before opening time) and they last until the afternoon. So, I recommend visiting as early as possible or at the end of the day, a bit before the last entry – maybe you’ll catch the sunset too!
How long should you reserve for the visit: 45 minutes will be enough. No need to reserve an entire day for it!
Tickets for Belém Tower in Lisbon
Here is the complete list of Belem Tower ticket types:
- Adults: 6€ for Torre de Belem only, 12€ for the tower + Jerónimos Monastery, 16€ for the tower + Jerónimos + Ajuda Palace
- Children younger than 12 years old: free
- Seniors over 65 years old: 50% discount
- Students + Youth Card: 50% discount
- Families (2 adults + 2 children or more under 18): 50% discount
- Free entry if you have the Lisboa Card (more details below)
- Free entrance for Portuguese residents on Sundays before 2:00 PM
WHERE CAN YOU BUY YOUR TICKETS:
- on-site when you arrive at the tower
- at Jeronimos Monastery
- online – I recommend purchasing your ticket here. Pssst: these tickets have free cancellation compared to the ones on the official website, which is great if you’re unsure about the date of your visit.
NOTE #1: You’ll have to wait in line to enter regardless if you buy your tickets online or if you have the Lisboa Card. Only after you enter the site does the line split in two – one for the people who need to buy a ticket from the ticket counter and one for the online tickets.
NOTE #2: Yes, the lines can get quite long, that’s why I recommend arriving 30 minutes before the opening time if you’re not keen to wait around (especially in Summer!).
Should I buy a Lisboa Card for Torre de Belém?
The Lisboa Card is the official city travel card for Lisbon and it offers you:
- Free entry to 26 museums and tourist sites including Torre de Belem,
- Unlimited free travel – tram, metro, bus, elevators and funiculars;
- Free train to Sintra and Cascais – if you’re up for some day trips;
- A guidebook for Lisbon
- Discounts on various attractions, shopping, nightlife and tours.
In short, it’s a transportation + sightseeing pass that costs 20€ for 24 hours, 34€ for 48 hours and 42€ for 72 hours. You can buy it online here.
GOOD FOR: Travellers planning to explore lots of attractions around Lisbon.
NOTE: To use it, you must exchange your online Lisboa Pass for the actual card (it looks like a credit card) at any Ask Me Lisboa office around the city.
Best organised tours of Torre de Belém
If you want to visit the Belém Tower in Lisbon with a local, knowledgeable guide that will tell you lots of precious information about this 16th-century site, then I recommend booking a guided Belem Tower tour! Combined tours are also a good option if you’re short on time and want to see some other things on the same day. Here are my hand-picked recommendations so you won’t need to search anymore!
- Belem Neighbourhood Walking Tour – admission ticket to the Monastery included, but not to the tower; you’ll have to pay for it separately;
- Private 4-Hour Tour of Belém District – if you don’t want to be in a big group. Entrance not included, you’ll only visit the exterior;
- Private 4-Hour Tour of Lisbon – entrance fees not included, must be purchased separately;
- Bike Tours Lisbon – Center of Lisbon to Belém – entrance fees not included;
- Sailing Boat Tour in Lisbon – if you want to see the tower from a different perspective.
What can you see at Lisbon’s Belem Tower?
Even though many tourists choose to only see the exterior of Torre de Belem, I recommend exploring the inside as well, at least for the pretty views at the top! Or if you’re a history lover. But this is, of course, a personal choice. In order to help you out, I’ll list what you can see on both the exterior and the interior of Belem Tower down below:
- the beautiful ivory limestone used for the construction of the tower
- the lower bastion with its cannon openings
- the upper bastion with beautiful watchtowers constructed in a Moorish architecture
- the intricate carvings and filigree on the external walls, including the rhinoceros gargoyle
- the mix of architecture styles – Manueline, Moorish, Islamic, Italian
- the river – the spot where Vasco da Gama began his discovery voyage to India
- bonus: if you arrive early in the morning, you’ll be able to take some stunning pictures of the tower in the sun
- all 4 floors connected by the narrow spiral staircase
- Lower Battery – with its 17 cannons
- The Governor’s Chamber
- The King’s Chamber – make sure to check out the views from the Renaissance-style balcony
- Audience Chamber and the Chapel
- Tower Terrace – the highlight of the tower, with superb views of the river, 25th April suspension bridge and the statue of Christ the Redeemer
- Upper Battery
- the unique rhinoceros gargoyle on the western façade – yes, it depicts a rhinoceros, which is quite uncommon for Europe!
NOTE: The only way to access the floors is by using the narrow spiral staircase. If you have limited mobility or you feel claustrophobic, I would not really recommend visiting inside the tower. The stairway can get quite crowded too.
Where to stay near Belém Tower, Lisbon
RELATED READ: In case you want to read more about the unique neighbourhood of Belem and Lisbon’s other top districts, I recommend checking out my dedicated article Where To Stay in Lisbon, Portugal – 7 Best Areas and Gorgeous Hotels
Belém district is a great area to stay if you’re looking for a laid-back experience away from the city crowds. I also recommend it to families with children. And if you find a hotel close to the tower, that’s even better! In order to make things easier for you, I’ve selected my top pick accommodations in Belem below:
BIG SPLURGE. Altis Belem Hotel & Spa – 500m away, views of the tower
BOUTIQUE HOTEL. Palacio do Governador – 400m away
MID-RANGE. Hotel Jeronimos 8 – 2 km away
BUDGET. Casa Amarela Belem – 1 km away
HOSTEL. Lar dois coracões – 1.6 km away
APARTMENT. Belém River Apartment II – 600m away
What to do near Lisbon’s Belém Tower
Because the tower is not that close to the city centre, it would make all the sense in the world to explore some other cool attractions nearby while you’re there. Here’s what you can see near Torre de Belém:
- Jerónimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos) – a 15-minute walk away from the tower. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a super religious site. I recommend buying the combined ticket at the entrance to both the tower and the monastery for 12€.
- Pastéis de Belém – located only 1.3 km away from the tower, this bakery is said to be the “birthplace” of pastel de nata tart, Portugal’s iconic dessert. There’s quite a hype around it but I must admit, it’s the best one in the city! 100% recommended!
- MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology) – 2 km away. It is right on the waterfront and it’s hosted in an old power station. Make sure you don’t miss the viewing area (free access) for some amazing views.
- CCB (Centro Cultural de Belém) – located only 10 minutes away, this is the place to go if you’re a fan of performance art and photography. It also hosts the Museu Coleção Berardo, which is Portugal’s main contemporary art museum.
- Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries in Lisbon) – 1 km away (10 minutes). This is a nice monument right on the waterfront carved with statues depicting the Age of Discoveries.
- Museu Nacional dos Coches (Coach Museum) – 1.5 km away. It’s a great place where you can see intricately carved ceremonial carriages and royal coaches;
- Palácio Nacional da Ajuda – 2.8 km away. This is a very beautiful national palace full of superb rooms and precious items.
BONUS: My best tips for visiting Lisbon’s Belem Tower
At least 30 minutes before the opening time to avoid the crowds, ideally 1 hour if you want to take some pictures of the exterior.
DON'T MISS THE LAST ENTRANCE TIME
Remember that the last entry is 30 minutes before the closing time.
CHECK THE UPDATED INFORMATION.
I recommend checking the official website here in order to check the updated prices and opening times. They might change, especially during these weird times!
KEEP IN MIND THE STAIRS.
The only way of accessing the different levels of the tower and the terrace is by going up and down the one-way narrow spiral staircase. There are 110 steps in total and it can get quite crowded. Not recommended for people with claustrophobia.
If you don’t have a lot of time on your hands in Lisbon, you can always just admire the exterior of the building - it’s still impressive! Don’t be sad if you don’t get to see the interior too, maybe next time! 🙂
BONUS #2: Fun facts about Torre de Belém
Let’s end this ultimate guide with some fun Belem Tower facts to get you all hyped up for your upcoming trip to Lisbon!
- Both the Belem Tower and Jeronimos Monastery nearby are UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1983;
- The tower has 4 different floors and it’s 30m high;
- It was built by King D. Manuel I and designed by Francisco de Arruda;
- The original name of the tower was the Castle of St. Vincent or St. Vincent Tower and it’s still used nowadays, especially among locals;
- The ivory stone used for building the tower is called “lioz”
- The architecture style used for the construction is called the “Manueline” style and it’s the way Portuguese interpreted the Gothic style;
- Belém Tower was constructed to protect Lisbon, but it was mostly used as a state prison;
- The most impressive part is the southern façade, which is facing the river. This can only be seen by people arriving at the harbor by boat;
This is my complete guide to visiting Belem Tower, one of the best tourist sites in Lisbon and the rest of Portugal! In the article above I have told you everything you need to know before your trip – opening times, entrance fees, whether you should book a guided tour, what to discover in the surrounding area, how to get to Belem Tower from Lisbon and more. You won’t need to search anywhere else!
In case you need some helpful information and advice for planning your upcoming trip to Lisbon, I recommend clicking here to find all my related articles about this beautiful city.