Bristol vs the world

A travel (and sometimes fashion) blog about exploring Bristol and the rest of the world, one post at a time.

Tag: belem

Belem, Lisbon

Today’s post focuses on Belem, an area located about 6km west of the city centre – an excellent excuse to hop on one of the gorgeous little trams for a ride. You need to get route 15, and I recommend picking it up from either the Praca Comércio or Praca Figueira – we first attempted to get on at Cais Sodre but it was completely full by that point!

Belem is most famous for its Jeronimos monastery and for having, allegedly, the best Pasteis de Nata in the city at Pasteis de Bélem. But there is much more to this beautiful – and quite calming – area of Lisbon. It’s definitely worth at least a half day of your time, and ideally a day. Just make sure that day’s not a Monday!

Jeronimos Monastery
Most people venture to Belem to visit the impressive monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its magnificence commands your attention, the building quite striking in both size and details in the Gothic architecture. It’s undeniably one of the most impressive buildings I’ve seen, religious or otherwise.

The tombs of many important Portuguese figures can be seen her, arguably most famously Vasco Da Gama, one of the most successful Portuguese explorers in the Age of Discoveries. In fact, the monastery is built on the site where he and his crew spent their last night in Portugal before leaving on their voyage to India.

Some parts of the monastery can be seen for free, but unlimited access will cost you €6. It’s open from 10 – 5, hours extending until 6 in summer. Closed Mondays.

Torre de Belem
Dating from the 16th Century, the tower, like the monastery, is a UNESCO world heritage site. It was intended built both to be a defence system for and ‘ceremonial gateway’ to Lisbon. Today it serves as a monument to Portugal’s Age of Discoveries.

You can enjoy the building’s outside for free (which is what we did), but if you want to explore it more thoroughly it will cost you €4 (unless you have a Lisbon Card – then it’s free!). It’s open from 10am – 5pm, or until 6.30 in summer. Closed Mondays.

Museo Berardo
Discussed in more detail here, the Museo Berardo is a must-visit modern art museum. And it’s free!

Discoveries Monument
Built to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator, the monument is situated on the edge of the Tagus river. It took us a while to work out what it was depicting, but it turns out those featured are notable Portuguese figures: poets, explorers, cartographers and more. We’d probably have found this out quicker if we’d known there was an exhibition space inside the monument! (There’s also a lift that offers visitors views over Lisbon.)

I particularly liked the floor mosaic infront of the monument that depicted the world and routes Portuguese explorers once took. Though so does everyone else, meaning getting a decent photo op isn’t so easy!

The exhibition space below the monument is open 10-6. No prizes for guessing the day it’s closed! (Mondays…)

The Docks
Walking to Belem Tower, you will pass some pretty docks. Perfect if you like boat porn, or just want to stop for a drink.

Pasteis de Belem
Based on those we tried during our time in Lisbon, this place really does do the best Pasteis de Nata in the city. You can read more about it here. A must-visit in Belem.

Other Attractions
Belem is home to a whole host of other museums and gardens, from the Coaches museum – a collection of royal coaches – to tropical gardens. You can find a whole list on the excellent Go Lisbon website.

Priceless Lisbon

Museu Colecca Berardo, Bélem. Photo Credit: Wikitravel

Lisbon is a great city for those travelling on a budget. Food and drink is affordable and much of the experience of the city is in discovering its many miradouros, listening to the strains of fado in the backstreets of the Alfama and getting lost in the the Bairro Alto.

And, even better, many of the cultural sites that would come at a price in many other European cities are free. Here are my three favourite priceless cultural discoveries during our time in Lisbon. This said, with only three days to explore we couldn’t cover even a tiny percentage of what was on offer, so I know I’ll have missed some great sites here. If you have any recommendations, please leave them in the comments. (NB. I will be covering the majority of Belém attractions such as the monastry in a separate post. Promise!)

Wine bottle tree, Museu Colecca Berardo. Photo Credit: Fat Pig in the Market 

Museu Coleccao Berardo, Belém
Open 7 days a week, 10am – 7pm (last entrance: 6.30pm)

This modern art museum is home to the collection of billionaire José Berardo. It features both permanent and temporary exhibits by new contemporary artists and renowned names such as Warhol, Picasso and Hockney. My favourite exhibit was Mappa Mundi, a temporary collection featuring artworks inspired by geographical maps, from collages to more political pieces.

There’s plenty here to keep contemporary art lovers entertained for hours. However even if you think that’s not your thing, it’s still worth paying the museum a visit if you’re in the area. After all, it being free of charge you can’t really go wrong. And it’s got really good air conditioning.

MUDE Museum, Lisbon. Photo Credit: Archdaily

Mude: Lisbon Design & Fashion Museum
Free of charge
Open Tuesdays – Sundays, 10am – 6pm (8pm in summer)

If our B&B host hadn’t recommended it, we would have walked straight past the Fashion & Design Museum. It’s not that it’s hard to find – with a huge sign outside of its central location it’s arguably harder to miss – but we just wouldn’t have considered paying it a visit. In fact, even then the only reason we did go in was because we were walking past and had some time to spare.

Actually, the Museum is worth planning into your trip, if only to catch a glimpse of the warehouse-style building in which it is housed, complete with exposed plaster and concrete. Its contents are pretty interesting too. Arranged by decades, they take you on a journey through the history of fashion and design by designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Yves St Laurent and Phillipe Starck. The decades are accompanied by a brief overview of history during the period, contextualising the designs of the time. , 50’s, 60’s and 70’s music plays softly in the background, growing louder as you approach those decades.

Fascinating and informative and full of lovely pieces to lust over, this museum is definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re into vintage looks or design and fashion in general.

Roman Ruins, Lisbon. Photo Credit: Polewn

Núcleo Arquelógico da Rua dos Correeiros
Rua dos Correeiros, no 9, Baixa
Very limited hours, visit the website for more details

I’ll be honestI can only really half recommend this attraction. We did go in to the museum section, featuring a number of artefacts. But, unless you’re an archaeologist or ancient historian, this small space is unlikely to hold your attention for long, although the woman working there when we visited was extremely knowledgeable and definitely worth talking to.

However, what I really want to recommend is the Roman site – a critoportico – which lies under this space, offering an insight in Lisbon life before an earthquake destroyed much of the city in 1755. The bank offers occasional tours of this area, some of which are conducted in English. We left it to late to enquire about when the next tour would be (unfortunately we had to be on a bus to the airport at the same time), so I can’t recommend it first-hand. However it’s definitely something I’ll make an effort to to try and arrange if I ever find myself back in Lisbon. Learn from my mistakes and investigate early on in your trip if you’re interested.