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Belém is a monument to Portugal's seafaring past.  From this site Portugal's greatest explorers such as Prince Henry the Navigator, Batholomeu Dias, and Vaso da Gama set out to discover the world. 

This district in the suburbs west of downtown Lisbon houses a UNESCO World Heritage site featuring the Tower of Belém and the Monastery of the Hieronymites.  To get there you simply hop the train for the short ride to the Belém train station.
 

 

 
   

The Torre de Belém, or Belém Tower, is a fortified tower built in the early 16th Century to commemorate Vasco da Gama's expedition around Africa to India.  The tower, 35 meters high, features four stories and a terrace offering views of the banks of the Tagus.

The Monastery of the Hieronymites, was built in the 16th Century and took 50 years to complete.  The monastery is an example of Manueline architecture and features ornate facades and grandiose interiors.

Next to these two World Heritage masterpieces lies the Monument to the Discoveries, or the Padrão dos Descobrimentos.  This 52 meter high monument was designed in the shape of a ship's bow.  It was built for the Portuguese World Fair in 1940, and commemorates the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator.  Henry is featured prominently at the front of the monument, looking out over the river. 

Torre de Belém extending out into the Tagus Prince Henry is at the forefront of the statues on the Monument to the Discoveries
Looking west along the banks of the Tagus Glancing across the Tagus to the Monument to Christ statue
Ornate facade of the Monastery of the Hieronymites.  The back of the Monument to the Discoveries forms a sword
Torre de Belém Long front of the Monastery of the Hieronymites
Statuettes adorning the Monastery of the Hieronymites Sarcophagus in the monastery
Spacious interior of the monastery High vaulted ceilings in the Monastery of the Hieronymites

After you've had your fill of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, stop by the line of cafes across from the train station.  Portugal, like many European cities, is proud of its cafe tradition.  These cafes feature a uniquely Portuguese treat -- pasteis de nata, or custard cream tarts with a slightly burnt crust on top and sprinkled with cinnamon.  These sweet bite-sized morsels are a Portuguese institution, akin to American apple pie or German apfel-strudel. 

If there's one cafe to go to in Portugal, it is the Antiga Confeitaria de
Belém.  This is the place that invented the pasteis de nata, and usually sells 10,000 tarts a day.  Enjoy these pastries in the cavernous rooms featuring 17th century tiles, but be warned -- it's always difficult to find an empty table, so you have to be fast at spotting people leaving.

Belém Train Station
Monument to the Discoveries
Belém Tower
Monosteiro dos Jeronimos (Monastery of the Hieronymites)
Tropical Garden
Belém Palace


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