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See the Protector of Individuality and Universality in Portugal, The Belem Tower
The step you arrived at the Belem Tower, then you will realize of how beautiful the tower is. The tower was constructed on a hexagonal floor plan and offers different views when you see it from across the river and from the riverside. This four-story building was created with a shape of a ship's bow jutting to the water. However, what makes the tower amazing is the decoration lies in the structure. The walls of the tower were decorated with embrasures, shields with the Cross of the Order of the Christ, carved stone armillary spheres and nautical rope that symbolized Portugal's seafaring prowess, and many more. There is also a beautiful arcaded Renaissance loggia that cannot be seen from the shore. Meanwhile, on the left side of the tower is the rhinoceros statue, animal that was given to Manuel I from the Sultan of Cambay.
When you walk in via the drawbridge and the main entrance, you will be entering the lower battery of the tower, also known as bulwark, while on the right of the entrance hall is a steep staircase leading to the bulwark terrace. In the bulwark, the floor slopes downward from the center outwards to secure the position of 17 cannons that are the artillery of the tower. The slopes also functioned to let the water that enters the tower run-off. In the center you will also see a small open patio with Gothic arches served to dispel the smoke from the cannons. Under the nave of the bulwark, there are magazines originally built as storage rooms. However, the magazines were then used as dungeons and prison until the 19th century. On the bulwark terrace, you will see six projected turrets, while in the center a parapet surrounds the open space from the patio. On the southern side of the parapet is an image of Our Lady of Safe Homecoming or the Virgin of the Grapes.
The Belem Tower was completed with the Governor's room that is located in the first level of the tower. The room was used as the duty office for the Governors of Belem from 1517 to 1834, while the official residence was located on an onshore place not far from the tower that is used as a hotel nowadays. In this room, you will find an octagonal opening of the tank used to collect and store rainwater. At the northeast and northwest sides of the room there are accesses to the turrets. From the northwest turrets, a small stone rhinoceros' head is visible below the roped belt of the tower.
The top of Belem Tower is definitely worth the walk through a small tunnel. From the top, you can see the wide-open panorama of the Tagus River, as well as Belem and its monuments. Turn northwards and you will find the Chapel of St. Jerome amongst the trees at the top of Avenida da Torre de Belem that was built in 1514 and belongs to the Hieronymite monks. On the right are the Belem Cultural Centre and the Hieronymites Monastery, and on the other side are ruins of the St. Sebastian's Tower.
How to Get Tickets?
Tickets can be bought on site or on travel agents. The tickets are not available online and it is recommended to buy the tickets in a travel agent to skip the long line and get a discount as the ticket price is one of the most expensive compared to other tourist sites. Other options are to purchase the Lisboa card that will give you free pass or by signing up for Belem Walking Tour in Lisbon.
How To Get Around?
The best choice is to get around by foot as the tower is not so big, and there are many tourist attractions located not far from Belem Tower.
What Should I Wear?
There is no recommended dresscode for visiting Belem Tower. But, be noted that the weather can be windy because of the location that is on the riverbank.
Best Time to Visit
It is better to visit Belem Tower as early as possible because the tower can be very crowded, even during winter. Be noted that the tower is also closed on Monday. However, if you have the free pass and able to skip the line, it is recommended to visit the tower in the afternoon as it is a famous spot to watch sunset.
Will I Need a Guide?
Though the area is not that big, it is better to explore with a guide that can explain to you the story and the rooms inside the tower.
How To Get There?
To visit Belem Tower using public transportations, you can use train from Cais do Sodre to Cascais and stop at Belem Station or use tram 15.