After taking our breakfast at the hostel, we caught the bus to Belém district, where we spent the second day of our weekend.
Taking advantage of the free entrance in several museums and monuments on Sundays morning, we visited the “Museu Nacional dos Coches” (National Coach Museum), the “Mosteiro dos Jerónimos” (Hieronymites Monastery) and the “Torre de Belém” (Belém Tower).
The “Museu Nacional dos Coches” was our first destination. I must confess I wasn’t expecting it to be so magnificent. The museum’s collection is impressive, as well as the building itself, a former Royal Riding School. I understand now why this museum is one of the most visited museums in Portugal. We had the opportunity to see the landau where King Carlos I of Portugal was assassinated, together with his son, the Prince Royal Luis Filipe, in 1908. It’s also possible to see the bullet holes in it.
Next to the “Museu Nacional dos Coches“, with its distinctive pink color, we find the “Palácio Nacional de Belém” (Belém National Palace), which is the official residence of the President of the Portuguese Republic. On the third Sunday of each month, at eleven o’clock, we can assist at the Changing of the Guard, performed by the Guard of Honor. Unfortunately we went there on the first Sunday…
We get a better view of the Belém Palace in the “Praça Afonso de Albuquerque” (Afonso de Albuquerque Square). This square has a monument with a statue of Afonso de Albuquerque, the second governor of Portuguese India.
We continued our walk towards the “Mosteiro dos Jerónimos“, the most impressive symbol of Portugal’s wealth during the Age of Discovery.
We visited the commemorative exposition of the 500th anniversary of the Monastery in the old library of the Monastery. It is entitled “Um Lugar no Tempo” (A Place in the Time) and it presents the most relevant historic events occurred in the last 500 years all over the world, special the ones related with the Belem Tower and the Jerónimos Monastery. I found it very interesting.
When we left the Monastery there was a very big queue of people to visit the Monastery and the “Igreja Sta. Maria de Belém” (St. Mary of Belém Church). As we also wanted to visit the Belém Tower and it was getting late, we didn’t go inside the Church. Fortunately I had the opportunity to visit this Church a few months later and I must say that it is very beautiful.
To enter the Belém Tower we also found a long queue, but not as long as the one at the Monastery. When we finally went inside, we explored it and appreciated the view it offers over the “Tejo” river and over its riverbanks.
Next to the Belém Tower there’s the “Jardim da Torre de Belém” (Belém Tower Garden), built in 1940 as part of the Portuguese World Exposition, an event to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Independence of Portugal. We saw many people walking, cycling and resting there. We also saw a group of persons practicing Tai Chi. It’s a very relaxing and enjoyable garden. Highlight for the commemorative monument of the first Air Crossing of the Atlantic South (from Lisboa to Rio de Janeiro), performed in 1922 by the Portuguese aviators Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral.
As we were feeling hungry, we looked for a restaurant to have lunch. After comparing the menus, we chose the Restaurant “One Belém”, located in the “Avenida Brasília”. It was a very pleasant lunch. We were the only ones in the restaurant, other people arrived there only when we were almost leaving, we had a fantastic view over the “Tejo”, and the meals were delicious. I asked for “bacalhau com broa”, a mixture of cod fish and courgette with flour bread on its top, accompanied with some potatoes. JB opted for “picanha fatiada”, top-sirloin accompanied with rice, black beans and cassava flour. We finished our lunch with a hot tea.
After lunch, the weather completely changed. The grey clouds gave place to a blue sky spotted with some white clouds.
We rambled around the “Padrão dos Descobrimentos” (Monument to the Discoveries), the “Praça do Império” (Empire Square) and the “Centro Cultural de Belém (CCB)” (Belém Cultural Centre), where we visited the “Jardim das Oliveiras” (Olive Trees Garden), a perfect place for relaxing.
The Monument to the Discoveries was first ephemerally built in 1940 as part of the Portuguese World Exposition. It was design by the architect José Ângelo Cottinelli Telmo and built by the sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida. In 1960, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of “Infante Henrique o Navegador” ( Prince Henry the Navigator), the great impeller of the Portuguese Discoveries, the Monument to the Discoveries was definitely made in stone, on the “Praça do Império” (Imperial Square).
It represents the prow of a ship with the figure of Henry the Navigator on its edge and, along the ramp, 32 other figures represent people from the Portuguese Age of Discovery, such as monarchs, navigators, artists and scientists.
The pavement in front of the monument is decorated with a mosaic that was offered by the South African government. It represents a 50 meter diameter compass rose that includes a mappa mundi showing the Portuguese routes during the Age of Discovery.
Also design by Cottinelli Telmo for the Portuguese World Exposition, the “Praça do Império” (Empire Square) is located between the Jerónimos Monastery, the Monument of the Discoveries and the Belem Cultural Center. This square, covered by a beautiful garden, is the largest square in the Iberian Peninsula. Its central feature is the “Fonte Luminosa” (Luminous Fountain), which sprays water in over 70 different patterns complemented by different lights.
The Belém Cultural Center, design by the Italian architect Vittorio Gregotti and by the Portuguese architect Manuel Salgado, was built in 1992 and is the largest building with cultural facilities in Portugal. It was built to accommodate the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union, as well as to provide spaces for conferences, exhibitions and artistic venues.
Of course we couldn’t leave Belém without trying the famous “Pastéis the Belém”. It’s believed that these Portuguese egg tart pastry was created before the 18th century at the Jerónimos Monastery. As a result of the liberal revolution of 1820 and the consequent shutting down of all convents and monasteries, the “Pastéis de Belém” became known outside the
We bought a full box of “Pastéis de Belém” and we caught the bus no. 28 to the “Parque das Nações”, where we enjoyed the pastries while we were admiring the view.
Once again, we walked along the “Parque das Nações”. While we were taking some pictures, the battery of my camera just died.
Later, we went to the “Centro Comercial Vasco da Gama” (Shopping Center Vasco da Gama), located between two twin towers that look like giant sailboats, where we had dinner in a restaurant named “Capri”.
And it was time to catch the train at the “Gare do Oriente” (Lisbon Orient Station) to go home. Orient Station was design by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and it was built in 1998 for the Expo 98 world’s fair. It has a modern design with a roof of glass and steel made to look like rows of trees. It just doesn’t look so beautiful when it’s raining and the wind is blowing.
You can see the general course of our trip here.