Tower of Belém is one of the most iconic monuments of Lisbon. Its eloquent architecture is a design under the influence of Manueline style. You must not miss the carvings on the exterior architecture of the tower. You can examine this building via a boat tour or on the landside.
1The History of Torre de Belém
The Tower of Belém was built under the supervision of sculptor and architect Francisco de Arruda. This tower was initially built as a fortress to defend the city but it was defeated in 1580 by the Spanish navy, which led to Spanish rule over Portugal for the following 60 years. After its fall, it became a prison for the political prisoners. The prisoners were particularly unfortunate as the lower floor had a flooding problem and was constantly underwater.
Nearly 200 years after the Spanish conquest, Napoleon came to Lisbon and destroyed the upper parts of the tower to create a new (wooden) defensive mechanism. In 1865, the Tower of Belém was started to use as a lighthouse.
Fun fact: The Tower of Belém and Mosteiro dos Jerónimos were constructed almost simultaneously. The surplus offcuts from Mosteiro dos Jerónimos was used in the construction of Torre de Belém.
2Rhino statue on Tower of Belém
The small statue of a rhinoceros on the west side of the tower stands there as a representation of a curious historical event in Lisbon. Making geographical discoveries meant encountering wild animals that had not been seen before anywhere in Europe. People’s curiosity towards these animals got to such a point that they tried to make an elephant and a rhino have a combat to see which one was stronger. However, the elephant fled immediately and the rhino finds its place to the Tower of Belém.
3How to get to Tower of Belém
You can take the tram E15 to reach the Belém district. Single ticket costs €3.00, so when you plan to buy a return ticket, a 24-hour public transport ticket is a much better option as it costs €6.40 and includes many transport options. You can get off as soon as you pass Jerenimos Monastery.
4Visiting Tower of Belém
Visiting the Tower of Belém might test your patience as it takes some time to get inside the tower. Entrance fee is €6.00 and children up to 14 years old can enter for free.
Visiting hours: 10:00 – 18.30 (summer)
10:00 – 17.30 (winter)
PS: If you want to save some money and time, you can make a visit to the Tower of Belém only to enjoy its exterior architecture and carvings, which is the real attraction of the tower.