The Torre de Belém is one of the most famous sights of Lisbon and a very popular photo motif. The tower has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983 and is located in the Belém district, next to the Monument to the Discoveries.
Watchtower and customs station
In 1521 the tower was completed, according to a design by the architect Francisco de Arruda. This meant that the construction, commissioned by the Portuguese King Manuel I, took six years to complete. The landmark functioned as a lighthouse and watchtower. Its function was to control and protect the entrance to the port of Lisbon, as well as to welcome merchant ships.
At that time there was a second tower on the opposite bank of the river called Sao Sebastião, which was destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. After the occupation of Lisbon by the Spanish in 1580, the tower was used as a prison and later as a customs station until the 19th century.
Landmark of Lisbon
The Torre de Belém is a 35 meter high magnificent building in Manueline style and can be reached via a small bridge. The tower once stood in the middle of the estuary, but due to fillings it is only a few meters away from the mainland.
The tower is richly decorated with fine ornaments, royal coat of arms symbols and the first rhinoceros image in Europe. At each upper corner, the tower has defensive turrets in the form of round domes with vistas. The south side has a small porch and on the front wall is an 18th century sculpture depicting the Virgin and Child Jesus.
The sight consists of four floors to explore. On the first floor is the Governor’s Room, on the next floor is the King’s Room, on the third floor is an audience chamber and finally on the top floor is a small chapel. On the roof of the tower there is a viewing platform from which one has a wonderful panoramic view of the Tagus, the bridge Ponte de 25 Abril and the Monument of the Discoveries.