Built on the northern bank of the Tagus in 1514, the Tower of Belém is one of the architectural jewels of Lisbon. Presently, the tower serves as a cultural reference point and proud symbol of Portugal, with plenty of historic artifacts and structures for visitors to explore.
Much to see outside
Upon approaching the castle, visitors can begin exploring the tower's majestic exterior. The steps leading up to the castle entrance provide visitors with the best view of the bartizan or turret in the northwest corner.
The lower battery
Commence your self-guided tour of the tower by investigating the lower battery, also known as the bulwark. In medieval times the tower and bulwark made it possible for castle guards to launch 17 strategically facing long-distance cannons toward river-mouth approaches.
The governor's chamber
A perilously steep and narrow spiral staircase leads to the tower's first level and into the governor's chamber. Nine successive governors lived and worked in these spartan quarters. Today, the chamber is filled with furnishings representative of tenants past.
The king's chamber
As visitors continue to make their ascension through the castle, the staircase continues to spiral upward to the second level where the king's chamber can be explored. This is the most interesting room in the tower. It's visually stunning, filled with artifacts to peruse, and leads onto an elegant Renaissance-style balcony, inspired by Italian architecture. Here you can gaze down onto the tower's lower terrace and take in the sweeping river panorama.
The audience chamber and the chapel
The audience chamber and the chapel are found on the tower's third and fourth levels, respectively. The chapel has been converted into a small auditorium where a short video presentation about the castle's history can be viewed.
The claustrophobic climb to the top of Torre de Belém will be handsomely rewarded with a sweeping panoramic view of the Tagus River and the area's waterfront. Within clear sight you'll quickly notice a direct view of the Padrão dos Descobrimentos. Also, in the distance, you'll have a clear view of the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge.
After you've soaked up the river views, make your way back downstairs to conclude your tour of the upper battery. Your final walk through will offer a view of the royal coat of arms of Manuel I and an exquisite Gothic statue of the Virgin Mary and Child, Our Lady of Safe Homecoming.