Belem Tower

Belem Tower | Lisbon's Iconic Landmark and Maritime Masterpiece

Witness the architectural grandeur of Belem Tower, a 500-year-old UNESCO World Heritage site in Lisbon, Portugal. Opened to the public in 1521, it is located on the northern banks of River Tagus. It is an important symbol of Portugal’s Age of Discovery and is a splendid example of Manueline architecture. It was built during the reign of King Manuel I to strengthen the defence system of the city. It was designed by Francisco de Arruda, the Portuguese architect who was also referred to as the ‘Master of the works of the Belem stronghold’. The impressive tower can be seen for free from the outside but you have to purchase a ticket to see its majestic architecture from the inside. 

Inside the tower, you can see many important sections like the Governor’s Hall, the King’s Hall and the Audience Hall. After climbing a beautiful staircase, you can go to the rooftop terrace which has many intricate carvings. Shutterbugs adore the panoramic views of the river from the open terrace of Belem Tower. It is also called the Tower of Saint Vincent and brings in many visitors who are interested in the history and architecture of Portugal. 

History of Belem Tower

With the aim of protecting Lisbon from incoming raids, Belem Tower was built to act as the city’s defence in River Taiga in the 16th century. It was constructed between 1514 and 1520 during the reign of King Manuel I of Portugal. Over the following years, the tower also served as a state prison, a customs port, a telegraph station and a lighthouse. Also known as the Tower of St. Vincent, it symbolises the Portuguese Age of Discovery. 

It was designed by architect Francisco de Arruda and is considered as one of the best examples of Manuelino-style architecture. It was built on a small outcrop of the Tagus River, however, because of an an earthquake in 1755, its location shifted. It gradually got closer to the mainland due to the changing of the course of the river and merged with it over time. Today, the iconic structure has earned the fame of a UNESCO World Heritage site in Portugal. 

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Architecture & Design of Belem Tower

Belem Tower was designed by architect Francisco de Arruda. While visiting Belem Tower, you can admire the excellence of Manueline architecture, a remarkable style that developed in Portugal in the 16th century. This tower was built during the Age of Discovery and boasts a stunning blend of Gothic, Renaissance and Moorish architecture. Art lovers are mesmerised by the intricate design on its facade. You can beautiful carvings of rope and armillary spheres. The use of maritime motifs symbolises Portugal’s excellence in seafaring during that period. 

Inside the tower, you can explore four levels. On the ground floor, there used to be an artillery and later it was converted into a prison. You can see the Governer’s Chamber and Audience Chamber on the next floor. In the King’s Hall, you are promised to be impressed by a beautiful balcony which showcases Renaissance-style design. From the rooftop, you can see the lighthouses and a splendid view of River Tagus. 

Belem Tower Highlights

Manueline Architecture

Belem Tower was constructed between 1514 and 1520 and designed in the Manueline architecture. This style originated in the 16th century which transitioned from the Late Gothic style to the Renaissance style. The architecture boasts many maritime motifs and symbolises the excellent navigational discoveries which were made by prominent Portuguese explorers like Pedro Alvares Cabral and Vasco da Gama. 

Also Read: Inside Belem Tower

Gorgeous Facade

This famous tower in Lisbon is famous for its picturesque maritime motifs. On the river-front facade towards the south direction, you can see twisted ropes marking friezes and armillary spheres which symbolise the association of this tower with navigation. You can also see motifs depicting Dom Manuel who was a pioneer in the oceanic explorations undertaken by Portugal in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Renaissance Facade

You can see many elements of Renaissance-style architecture on the bastion of Belem Tower. It depicts the transitional time in the history of Portuguese architecture. This bastion is shaped hexagonally and includes a terrace and a lower level with a five-storey tall rectangular tower. Other elements of the Renaissance facade can be seen from the beautiful balcony in the King’s chamber. From this balcony, you can witness the majestic views of River Tagus and the lower terrace of Belem Tower. 

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War Relics

Belem Tower in Lisbon, a symbol of Portugal's maritime heritage, showcases war relics like cannons and fortified battlements. Built in the 16th century to defend the city, it features strategic defense mechanisms typical of the era. These relics offer a glimpse into the tower's historical military significance and its role in protecting Lisbon's harbor.

Governer’s Room

Also called the Sala do Governador, this place used to be the office of the Governor of the Tower. Serving as the on-site royal representative with administrative, judicial, and military authority, the Governor was one of the most important people at Belem Tower. Here, you can see the narrow tunnels on both ends of this floor which are connected to the watchtowers. 


Inside Belem Tower, you can see a small and intricately designed space which is called the Chapel. It boasts gorgeous stained glass windows which attract all art lovers. You can also pay your respects to the statue of Our Lady of Safe Homecoming. 

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Nature & Biodiversity at Belem Tower

At Belem Tower, you can see a splendid display of the preservation of local nature and biodiversity. In addition to serving as a symbol of the Portuguese history of seafaring and explorations, it has come to be known as a delight for nature lovers. Perched along the banks of River Tagus, it is home to a variety of marine and terrestrial habitats. 

You can see many beautiful birds like seagulls and cormorants delightfully taking flight in the serene surroundings of Belem Tower. Many marine creatures like small fishes and crabs are also spotted near the tower. If you are in the mood to relax in the pristine ambience, you can enjoy a casual stroll in the surrounding park of the tower. At the park, you can catch a break from the hubbub of the city and admire a vast array of plants and trees. 

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Why is Belem Tower famous?

Belem Tower is a famous UNESCO world heritage site in Lisbon, Portugal. It was built in the 16th century and symbolises Portugal's history of exploration and maritime power. When you visit Belem Tower, you can admire the beautiful Manueline architecture. You can also admire a splendid view of River Tagus from the rooftop terrace of Belem Tower. 

Who designed Belem Tower?

Belem Tower was designed by architect Francisco de Arruda. He was a Portuguese architect and sculptor who also worked on the fortifications of Tangier and the Palace of Sintra. Belem Tower was built between 1514 and 1520 during the reign of King Manuel I of Portugal. You can see one of the best examples of Manueline architecture at Belem Tower. 

When was Belem Tower built?

Belem Tower was built between 1514 and 1520 during the reign of King Manuel I of Portugal. It was originally constructed to serve as a line of defence for the city of Lisbon against the incoming raids along River Tagus. Later, it also served as a prison and a customs house. It is a famed UNESCO World Heritage site and attracts many visitors to admire the brilliance of Manueline architecture. 

How can I get to Belem Tower?

You can get to Belem Tower in the following ways: 

By tram: You need to take Tram 15 from Praça do Comércio to Praça Afonso de Albuquerque and then take a short walk to Belem Tower. 

By Train: You can take one of the regional trains from Rossio Station in Lisbon to Belém Station. From here, you can walk to Belem Tower. 

Alternatively, you can also take the Hop-on-hop-off bus tours or take a hired car/self-drive to Belem Tower. 

How many entrances does Belem Tower have?

There is only one entrance to Belem Tower from which all the visitors can enter. This entrance is located on the river-facing side of the tower. 


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