The momentous occasion of the discoveries is celebrated in the Monument to the Discoveries, erected in 1960 on the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator, the instigator of the Portuguese adventures into the unknown. This towering, white monument is shaped like one of the famous caravels and points out to sea, its giant stone-carved crew prominent characters from Portuguese history such as the poet Camões, the navigators Vasco da Gama and Magalhães, kings Alfonso V and Manuel I, and at its prow Henry the Navigator himself.
Torre de Belém (Tower of Belém). This ornate and distinctively shaped tower was originally designed in 1514 as a formidable fortress and key to the defence of the estuary mouth. As the bank has pushed out towards it over the years it has become less of an island defence but its unique beauty has earned it UNESCO world heritage status and the reputation for being one of the beguiling examples of military architecture the world over. The stonework of the exterior is the major attraction with ornate balconies, Manueline rope shapes, animals and shields. Each corner boasts a sentry post with evident Moorish style and from the inside panoramic views of the river and much of the city can be gained.
photo: Jose Manuel
On a more modern tip, the striking Cultural Centre of Belém (CCB), built for Portugal’s presidency of the EU in 1992, hosts many cultural events and shows including international art exhibitions, world famous music and theatre and congresses. It has an impressive permanent exhibition of design, an extensive bookshop, various culturally inspired boutiques and the restaurant terrace looks out over the river.
photo: Jose Manuel
Also in this Belém are some lovely green areas and tailored gardens enjoyed by strollers, teenagers, children and visitors alike as well as lush tropical gardens and Lisbon’s Electricity Museum, which is housed in an old redbrick power station architecturally distinct from most other buildings in the city. The Ajuda Palace offers another fine example of the splendour of the 18th century in Portugal and the Coach Museum nearby has the world’s finest collection of royal horse-drawn carriages