Suggested visit duration:
1 Hour or less
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Sights & Landmarks
Belém Tower, or Torre de Belém, is an iconic fortification of Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. It is a character of multiple Portuguese cards and generally contributes a lot to the view of Lisbon. Moreover, in 1983, it was officially claimed to be UNESCO World Heritage site, as well as Jerónimos Monastery, which is located nearby.
Every season of the year, there are a lot of tourists, lining up in queues before its facade and it is certainly not for nothing. Belém Tower has a long history, since it was built in the 16th century. Under the command of King John II, it was originally constructed out of necessity to strengthen Lisbon's protecting positions from the sea side. So, the tower found its place on an island in the Tagus river, closely to the shore.
Built from shiny white lioz limestone, the four-storey fortress got the official name of Castelo de São Vicente de Belém (The Castle of Saint Vincent of Bethlehem). The tower has long been associated with the great discoveries, as it was the last thing the sailors saw on their way into the open sea and the first thing that welcomed them home. It's exterior is of particular interest for tourists because it's a prime example of the Portuguese Reneissance, specifically of Manueline style. However, due to the fact that its author, architect Francisco de Arruda was previously engaged with fortresses in Morocco, Tower of Belém ended up having other style influences. It can be clearly seen in the watchtowers which have Moorish elements to them. Also it is fascinating, how the Age of Discoveries was reflected in the architecture of the tower - it has a figure of the rhinoceros carved in one of its walls. This peculiar gargoyle is the commemoration of the first ever rhinoceros that stepped on European lands!
Another remarkable feature is the Gothic statue of Nossa Senhora do Bom Sucesso in the middle of the decorated tent. The interior, however, is more ascetic as opposed to the exterior. Inside, the tower is divided into four levels: the first floor is the Governor's Chamber, the second one is the King's Hall, the thirs is the Audience Hall, and the last, fourth floor is the open terrace. There isn't very much left of the Governor's Chamber, but the King's Hall provides a nice Reneissance roofed balcony and can also boast impeccable acoustics. In the Audience Hall, visitors can watch a video, presenting the history of the Belém Tower.
Finally, the open terrace on the top of the building offers marvelous view on the waterfront and the river, along with the statue of Christ the Redeemer on another bank. If you are interested in architecture of Portuguese Reneissance or just want to experience the sight of one of the iconic building of Lisbon - be sure to check Belém Tower out!
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