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All About Belem Tower

Designed by architect Francisco de Arruda and constructed on the northern bank of the Tagus River between 1514 and 1520, Belém Tower is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Originally built as a city defense, it is now more commonly called the Tower...

Also Known As

The Tower of St. Vincent

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During the reign of King John II, there used to be a line of defence in place in the exact location where the tower is at. Later, his successor, King Manuel I believed that building a permanent tower would be more viable than having a ship on the water. This is how the construction of the Belem Tower commenced. The ship has multiple canons and this structure was replaced with a stone fortification

A fascinating Belem Tower fact is that it was constructed on a small outcrop of the Tagus River. Due to an earthquake that took place in 1755, the location of the Belem Tower shifted. The course of the river gradually moved due to the destruction and the small island got closer to the land, thus merging the two over time and making it all the more impressive. Today, the iconic structure just appea

In the year 1514, plans were in place to construct a tower, and the famous military architect Francisco de Arruda would lead the job. He was an experienced architect as he had built a lot of fortresses in North Africa earlier and was the right fit for the work. He was referred to as the ‘Master of the works of the Belem stronghold’ by the King himself and had managed to finish the tower in about 5

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Why Visit Belem Tower?

Belem Tower is a must-visit destination for anyone visiting Lisbon. This iconic tower has stood guard over the Tagus River for over five centuries and played a pivotal role in Portugal's maritime history. Its unique Manueline architecture, which is characterized by intricate carvings and maritime motifs, makes it one of the most impressive monuments in Portugal. The tower's fascinating history is brought to life by the many exhibits and artifacts on display inside, which tell the story of Portugal's explorers and their voyages of discovery.

Beyond its historical and architectural significance, the Belem Tower is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which recognizes its cultural value to the world. With approximately 1.5 million visitors annually, the Belem Tower is a top-rated destination for tourists and history buffs alike.

History of Belem Tower In A Nutshell

In the early 16th century, Portugal was a dominant maritime power with a vast empire that stretched from Africa to South America. In 1515, King Manuel I of Portugal ordered the construction of the Belem Tower, also known as the Tower of St. Vincent, at the mouth of the Tagus River in Lisbon to serve as a fortress to protect the city and its port. The tower was designed by Francisco de Arruda, a Portuguese architect who combined Gothic, Moorish and Renaissance elements to create the unique Manueline style. The construction of the tower took nearly a decade to complete.

Over the centuries, the Belem Tower served as a customs house, a prison, and even a telegraph station. In the late 19th century, the tower was restored and became a national monument. In 1983, the Belem Tower was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its historical significance and its outstanding example of Manueline architecture.

Today, the Belem Tower is a popular tourist attraction that draws millions of visitors every year. It stands as a symbol of Portugal's rich maritime history and its contributions to world exploration and discovery.

Who Built Belem Tower?

Belem Tower was built by the Portuguese architect Francisco de Arruda in the early 16th century. Arruda was commissioned by King Manuel I to design and construct the tower as part of a larger defensive system for the city of Lisbon.

Architecture & Design of Belem Tower

Architecture & Design of Belem Tower

The Belem Tower is a remarkable example of Manueline architecture, a distinctive style that emerged in Portugal during the Age of Discovery. The tower's intricate design features elements of Gothic, Renaissance, and Moorish architecture, creating a unique blend of styles. Its facade is adorned with ornate carvings of ropes, armillary spheres and other maritime motifs, reflecting Portugal's rich history as a seafaring nation.

The tower's four levels each have different features, showcasing the tower's original function as a fortress and later as a prison. The tower's crowning feature is its terrace, offering breathtaking views of the Tagus River and the surrounding area. Its design and location make the Belem Tower an architectural masterpiece and an essential destination for visitors to Lisbon.

What To Do At Belem Tower?

Belem Tower offers visitors a unique blend of history, architecture, and breathtaking views of the Tagus River. Here are some of the top activities to do when visiting this iconic attraction.

Climb to the Top

Climb to the Top

Visitors can climb to the top of the Belem Tower to enjoy stunning panoramic views of the Tagus River and the surrounding area.

Explore the Exhibits

Explore the Exhibits

The tower has several exhibits that showcase Portugal's rich maritime history, including displays of navigational instruments, maps, and artifacts.

Visit the Chapel

Visit the Chapel

The tower's chapel is a small, but ornate space that contains beautiful stained glass windows and a statue of Our Lady of Safe Homecoming.

Admire the Architecture

Admire the Architecture

The Belem Tower is a masterpiece of Manueline architecture, with intricate carvings and sculptures that combine Gothic, Renaissance, and Moorish elements.

Take a Stroll

Take a Stroll

The surrounding park and waterfront offer a lovely setting for a leisurely stroll, with plenty of benches and green spaces to relax and enjoy the view.

sunset

Watch the Sunset

The Belem Tower is an excellent spot to watch the sun go down over the Tagus River, with the tower's silhouette creating a striking image against the colorful sky. Many visitors choose to visit the tower in the late afternoon to enjoy the views and take in the sunset.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

UNESCO World Heritage Site

In 1983, the Belem Tower was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its historical significance and unique architectural style. As a symbol of Portugal's Age of Discovery, the tower has played a crucial role in the country's maritime history. It served as a fortress to protect Lisbon from invasion, and as a departure point for voyages of exploration. The tower's Manueline architecture, which blends Gothic, Renaissance, and Moorish elements, is one of the most outstanding examples of this unique style. The tower's intricate design features maritime motifs such as ropes, anchors, and sea monsters, which reflect Portugal's seafaring history. Today, the Belem Tower remains a popular tourist attraction and a testament to Portugal's rich cultural heritage.

Nature & Biodiversity at Belem Tower

The Belem Tower not only stands as a symbol of Portuguese maritime history and architecture, but also plays a role in preserving local biodiversity. Located at the edge of the Tagus River estuary, the tower is surrounded by a diverse array of marine and terrestrial habitats. Visitors can spot a variety of bird species such as seagulls and cormorants, as well as marine creatures like crabs and small fish. The tower's surrounding park area is also home to a range of plants and trees, providing a natural oasis within the bustling city. The Belem Tower serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving biodiversity and the natural world for future generations to enjoy.

Frequently Asked Questions About Belem Tower in Lisbon

What is Belem Tower?

Belem Tower, also known as the Tower of St. Vincent, is a fortified tower located on the banks of the Tagus River in Belem, Lisbon, Portugal. It was constructed in the early 16th century to protect the city of Lisbon and to mark the start of Portuguese voyages of discovery.

Why is Belem Tower famous?

Belem Tower is famous for its unique Manueline architecture, a Portuguese late Gothic style that combines maritime elements with traditional motifs. It is also an important symbol of Portugal's history of exploration and maritime power, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

What can I do at Belem Tower?

Visitors can climb to the top of the tower for panoramic views of the river and surrounding area, and explore its many chambers and exhibits that showcase Portugal's rich maritime history. There is also a park area surrounding the tower, where visitors can enjoy a picnic or take a stroll.

Who designed Belem Tower?

Visitors can climb to the top of the tower for panoramic views of the river and surrounding area and explore its many chambers and exhibits that showcase Portugal's rich maritime history. There is also a park area surrounding the tower, where visitors can enjoy a picnic or take a stroll.

When was Belem Tower built?

Belem Tower was built between 1514 and 1520 during the reign of King Manuel I of Portugal.

Where is Belem Tower located?

Belem Tower is located in the Belem neighborhood of Lisbon, Portugal, at the edge of the Tagus River estuary.

How can I get to Belem Tower?

Belem Tower is easily accessible by public transportation, including bus, tram, and train. There is also a nearby ferry station for visitors coming from the other side of the river.

What are Belem Tower timings?

Belem Tower is open to visitors every day from 10:00am to 6:00pm (October to April) and from 10:00am to 7:00pm (May to September).

How many entrances does Belem Tower have?

Belem Tower has only one entrance for visitors, which is located on the river-facing side of the tower.