Day in Belem by Mark Sukhija

The Torre de Belem in Belem, Lisbon, PortugalToday, we took a trip out to Belém to see the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos and the Torre de Belém, both of which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Aware that we were short on time, we jumped into a cab from our hotel to the Torre de Belém (pictured right) on the shores of Lisbon's natural harbour. As we had arrived on a Sunday and entered before 14:00, we were allowed to enter the tower for free. During our visited we were able to visit the upper and lower batteries, the chapel (which had impressive sculpted vaulting), the Kings room and the Governors room. Perhaps most impressively, though, was the visit to the terrace which affords excellent views both accross the harbour and, the other way, towards the Mosteiro.

Padrao dos Descobrimentos, Belem, Lisbon, SwitzerlandUpon leaving the Torre de Belém, we took the gentle stoll to the Padrao dos Descobrimentos - a huge monument to those Portugese who participated in the Age of Discoveries. Amongst those who are featured on the monument include:

  • Henry the Navigator (sponsor of the Age of Discovery)
  • Vasco da Gama (discoverer of the sea route to India)
  • Pedro Álvares Cabral (discoverer of Brazil)
  • Ferdinand Magellan (first to circumnavigate the globe)
  • Diogo Cão (first to arrive to the Congo river)
  • Bartolomeu Dias (first to cross the Cape of Good Hope)
  • Afonso de Albuquerque (second viceroy of Portuguese India)
  • Lu�s de Camões (renaissance poet who celebrated the navigations in the epic Lusiads)
  • King Manuel I (ruler on the Age of Discovery)
  • Pedro Nunes (16th century mathematician)
  • Nuno Gonçalves (15th century painter)

Before heading into the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, we stopped in the Pastéïs de Belém for some excellent coffee and pastries. The Pastéïs de Belém is a surprisingly large place - in that it's only a small place from the outside but has several large rooms behind. I recomend the Custard tartlets which are produced and consumed in huge numbers and are, therefore, suitably fresh.

Groin vaulting in the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, Belem, Lisbon, PortugalThe Mosteiro dos Jeronimos was ordered to be built by Manuel I in memory of Vasco da Gama;s discover of a sea route to India. Manuel I and many of his descendants are entombed in the monastry now. Work on the Gothic design began in 1502 by Diogo de Boitaco. Following the death of Diogo de Boitaco, construction was continued by João de Castilho with a more Renaissance style - which is apparent towards the alter - and later by Diogo de Toralava and Jérome de Rouen (Jerónimo de Ruão.) On entry to the Monastry (through the façade dominated after designs by João de Castilho), walk in a straight line from the centre of the door towards the alter and enjoy the visual effect as the Cathedral opens up in front you. The exterior is heavily decorated and very ornate and intricate. It's worth stopping for a little while to examine the carvings. On the interior, the pillars are highly carved and intricate. But to me, one of the most fascinating aspects of the interior of the Church is the groin vaulting of the ceiling.

Carving in the Cloister of the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, Belem, Lisbon, PortugalThe cloister of the Monastry was a great place to visit. The stonework is highly detailed and reveals much of the work that must have gone into the construction of both the Cloister and the Monastry.

Having enough time, we took the number 15 tram back to town - buying our ticket on board from one of the machines. We jumped off the tram in Baixa and gently wandered in the direction of our hotel grabbing a quick bite to eat before setting off for Zürich.

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Further reading

Day in Lisbon - Travelogue from a weekend in Lisbon during December 2007

Weekend in Lisbon - Plan for a weekend in Lisbon December 2008

Lisbon - Se Catedral de Lisboa - Historical notes on the Cathedral of Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon - Castelo de São Jorge - Brief historical notes on the Castelo de São Jorge, Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon - Igreja de Santa Engrácia - Panteão Nacional - Historical information on Igreja de Santa Engrácia - Panteão Nacional, Lisbon, Portugal

Spain - recommended hotels - Personally recommended hotels in and around Spain

Spain - The English Route (Camino Ingles) to Santiago - A highly provisional plan to travel the English Route of the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage in Galicia, Spain

Spain - Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage resources - Online resources an information about the pilgramage route of The Way of St James ending in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain

France - Travel information on and about France

Salisbury Cathedral - a brief history - A short history of the iconic Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire, England

About Mark Sukhija

Mark Sukhija is a travel and wine blogger, photographer, tourism researcher, hat-touting, white-shirt-wearing, New Zealand fantatic and eclipse chaser. Aside from at least annual visits to New Zealand, Mark has seen eclipses in South Australia (2002), Libya (2006), China (2009) and Queensland (2012). After twelve years in Switzerland, Mark moved back to London in 2012. You can follow Mark on Twitter or Facebook