Upon seeing Belem Tower for the first time its astonishing to witness how well preserved it is. The tower is an impressive vision and sits on the Lisbon shores in all its well-preserved glory, not far from Alfama. Belem Tower was originally built back in 1515-1521 as a fortress to protect the entrance to Lisbon’s harbor. It had been a starting point for many discovery voyages in hopes of finding new trade routes and for many sailors it was the last sight they saw of their homeland for a long time.
It’s evident that the real artistry of Belem Tower lies in the adornment of the exterior. Ropes are carved out of stone, balconies are of openwork and the watchtowers are designed in distinct Moorish style. Below the terrace lies a Gothic styled interior which at one time stored arms and was also used as a prison. Things to do here include climbing up the tower, which is the most alluring part of Belem Tower, and visiting the private quarter which offers a magnificent panorama of the surrounding shore.
Torre de Belem, as the tower is also known, was designed by an architect by the name of Francisco de Arruda. Before the tower he worked on Portugese style architecture in areas of Morocco. Arcaded windows and ethereal Venetian-style mezzanines faced the river as well as an image of Our Lady of Safe Voyage which was designed to be there as a symbol of protection for sailors off on long journeys.
Since the mid-1500"s Torre de Belem has remained one of the most significant examples of military architecture ever built. Torre de Belem has a sonorous and distinguished shape and its light coloring is contrasted by the sky and the blue waters of the River Tagus during the day. By night it is a lit-up vision of beauty.
Though thousands of people flock to Belem Lisbon every year to admire its beautiful design, it was not looked upon as fondly by the people living during the time it was constructed. It was viewed as a fierce and frightening defensive bastion towering in front of the river estuary. At the time Belem Lisbon was exactly as King Manuel I had intended it to be, as a protective measure for he and his people.
Belem Portugal was erected on top of a basalt island found on the banks of the Tagus River and right across from the beach at Restelo. On each corner of the citadel lie sentry posts which are crowned by melon-shaped domes that exemplifies the style used in supports in Morocco. The most adorned part of Belem Portugal is definitely the south-facing side. All along the south side run the mezzanines that have intricately carved limestone incorporated into them. Above that are the shield of the army spheres and of King Manuel I.
If planning on visiting Belem Portugal the hours of operation at the tower are Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00am to 5:00pm from October to April. From May through to September the hours are 10:00am to 6:30pm. For transportation needs Belem can easily be reached from the center of Lisbon via a short ride by tram, bus or train. There are a few museums in the area worth a look as well such as the Gulbenkian Museum. Or opt for a visit to the tower just before lunch and enjoy a drawn out repast in Belem afterward.