On the banks of the Tagus, six kilometers from the center of Lisbon, stands a monument dedicated to the famous Age of Discovery, in the 16th century, which made many Portuguese explorers famous and declared a World Heritage Site: the Torre de Belém.
And it is possibly one of the best places to see in Lisbon and one of its symbols.
Brief history of the Tower of Belem
This famous tower was built as a fortress to guard the entrance to the port through the Tagus River and even within the same building we can see the cannons today.
Over time, this defensive building was used as a tax collection center and even as a prison.
The architect Francisco de Arruda was commissioned to build the Torre de Belem under the reign of Manuel I.
In the style of the building we can see that the architect had influences from when he traveled to Morocco, since the decoration clearly shows the Arab influence that can be seen in the arches and domes of the tower.
What to see inside the Torre de Belem
The monument is divided into two parts: the tower itself and the bastion. Through a footbridge over the river we will access the tower through the bastion.
The tower has five floors, from the bottom floor to the top we will find the Governor’s Room, the Kings’ Room and the Audience Room.
On the fourth floor we will see a chapel and on the fifth we will be able to see the terrace of the tower.
On the ground floor we will witness sixteen windows with the defensive cannons and we will also be able to visit the moats and holes through which the prisoners were thrown.
You can climb to the top of the monument thanks to a simple spiral staircase. The interior is austere, but we will find sculptures of Saint Vincent, the patron saint of Lisbon. But in its simplicity lies the history of so many centuries that weigh on the walls of the tower and bastion.
How is the exterior of the Torre de Belem
The main beauty of the Torre de Belem lies not only in the five centuries that keep a history within its walls, but also in the external aesthetics of the tower.
Carved in stone, with galleries and watchtowers that defend the river.
The battlements are in the shape of shields and have some naturalistic elements that allude to the new colonies of Portugal at the time of sea voyages.
As a curiosity, there is a rhinoceros gargoyle on the west façade. We have to take into account that the first rhinoceros to set foot in Portugal dates back to 1513. Also, before entering the building we can see a model of the same tower.
You can find more information on the official website of the Torre de Belem.