Belem Tower or Torre de Belem is one of Lisbon’s most iconic sights. This former military fortification once protected the Portuguese capital from those attempting to enter the Tagus River. In modern times, Belem Tower classifies as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and popular tourist attraction. Considering Lisbon’s growing reputation among travellers, wait times can become extremely long and frustrating. Continue reading my Belem Tower blog post to find out how to beat the crowds!
There are a couple ways to prevent long wait times. The best method is to visit mid-afternoon when most tour groups have moved on for the day. Secondly, combo tickets can be purchased from the Jeronimos Monastery. While you’ll have to wait in one long lineup, it’s better than waiting in two ridiculous queues. Conversely, you can also buy the combo ticket at Belem Tower which will save you from waiting at the Jeronimos Monastery.
Exploring the Tower
Upon entering Belem Tower, you can explore the Lower Battery which housed cannons, gunpowder and military equipment. During the 19th century, this area was converted to a prison and dungeon. Many people skip this part, however, I think it’s worth exploring the Lower Battery and only takes a few minutes to wander through.
Climb a small staircase to enter the Upper Battery. There are a couple things to note about this section. The Portuguese coat of arms is viable on this side of the tower. The insignia has been used since the middle ages and is also featured on the nation’s flag. In addition, there is an ornate statue of Virgin Mary and Child, which represents a symbol of protection for Portuguese sailors.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait in another line to visit the Tower Terrace (top floor). The spiral staircase can only accommodate one direction of travel at any given time. For this reason, a traffic light system was implemented to ensure visitor safety. Generally speaking, the wait times aren’t too long and is closely monitored by staff.
Views from the Top
These pictures give a little sample of the views to be experienced from Belem Tower’s highest point. My favourite scene is eastward, which features the 25 de Abril Bridge and Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument.
The western front does not feature awe-inspiring views. Except for the orange rooftops and Museu do Combatente, the view is quite basic. The military museum is not worth visiting unless you have a great interest in Portuguese combat history. In my opinion, the overall tackiness and lack of English signage create a forgettable experience. Your time is better spent exploring Belem’s other museums or galleries.
Your journey through Belem Tower is almost complete. Wait for the light to turn green before proceeding down the spiral staircase. There’s a good chance that you’ll spend more time queuing than exploring the tower. However, Torre de Belem is one of Lisbon’s iconic sights and shouldn’t be missed despite its one drawback. You haven’t truly experienced the city until you’ve stepped inside this magnificent structure.
Thanks for reading my Belem Tower blog post. Be sure to check out the Lisbon Travel Guide and GO Lisbon for more info!