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Lisbon is a very rich city in Portugal with historical and cultural attractions. Some of the significant attractions in the city are located in Santa Maria de Belém, which is a civil parish (Freguesia in Portuguese) in Lisbon, also known as just Belém. Located about 6 kilometers to the west of Lisbon’s downtown, Belém is the Portuguese translation of the Palestinian city of Bethlehem. The neighborhood’s founders copied the name from the Palestinian city to have a religious blessing from the city in which Jesus was born.
A real touring in Lisbon must include visiting the monuments in Belém. The attractions include Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery), Torre de Belém (Tower of Belém), Museu De Marinha (Maritime Museum), Museu da Electricidade (Electricity Museum), Museu da Presidência da República (Presidential Museum), and Museu Berardo. Museu De Marinha is a museum for the Portuguese navigation history of different times since the 15th century up to present day.
Museu Berardo is a museum of modern and contemporary art located within the Centro Cultural de Belém (Belém Cultural Center) premise. The Belém Cultural Center is the largest cultural center in Portugal; it accommodates cultural and artistic events around the year such as exhibitions, conferences, operas and ballets. Museu da Electricidade is a museum presenting the energy-development history in Portugal and promoting renewable energy to the visitors. The Museu da Presidência da República compound was the residence of the Portuguese royal family before establishing the republic; after that it became the official President of the Portuguese republic. In 2006 the government decided to convert the building to a national Monument.
Jerónimos Monastery is one of the main monuments in Lisbon. Any tourist in the city must see it; the capital of Portugal is very rich in historical and cultural attractions. The Monastery was a church built in the 15th century by the order of Prince Henry the Navigator (Infante D. Henriqu) to enlarge a small chapel, which served sea travelers. After that, King Manuel I of Portugal ordered the building of the large monastery after taking the permission from The Holy See. The Holy See is the head of the Catholic Church in the world, based in Rome.
The construction of the monastery was complete 100 years after the first order. It was designed in the Manueline-style architecture, a Portuguese architectural style representing the influence by the eastern Indian temple design. This was discovered during voyages of two famous Portuguese explorers, Vasco da Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral, to the east.
In 1983 Jerónimos Monastery and the Belém Tower became UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s worthwhile to visit inside the Monastery, which is opened for all visitors, not only for prayers. The Tower of Belém was built in the same era as the monastery, with the same architecture style. It would be a great idea to go inside the tower than just looking to it from outside as well: you will have a great view of the Tejo River and Belém neighborhood.
Other than historical and cultural attractions, Belém has some beautiful gardens such as Jardim do Ultramar (The Garden of Ultramar) which is a tropical botanical garden with lakes, water birds and peafowls. Jardim Vasco de Gama (Vasco da Gama Garden) which is a 4.2 hectare garden close to the Jerónimos Monastery.
Belém is well connected to other parts of Lisbon through public buses and a tram network, and well served with taxis, hotels and restaurants of different budgets. The big secret to save money in Lisbon is that most of the monuments are free on Sunday mornings.
Image Courtesy : Debarshi Ray