Exploring Belem: Portugal's Age of Discovery

We had such a beautiful weather on our day trip to Belem, the sky was so blue. After visiting the Monastery of St. Jeronimos, lunch at some random restaurant on the street and having the best custard tart in Lisbon at a quiet park, we went to see the famous Age of Exploration monuments which are just a walking distance from Pasteis de Belem. Belem's tourist attractions are so close to each other and because the weather during the time of our visit was really nice, walking outside was just delightful.

I know what you're thinking after seeing the photo above. The bridge looks a lot like the Golden Gate in San Francisco but this is Lisbon's very own 25 de Abril Bridge. It was originally named Salazar Bridge (Ponte Salazar), which is after the nation's dictator Prime Minister Salazar. It was changed after the Portuguese Carnation Revolution in April 25, 1974. This suspension bridge across the Tagus River is actually longer than the Golden Gate Bridge with an overall length of 2278 meters.

And here is Lisbon's iconic symbol! The Discoveries Monument is located at the northern bank of the Tagus River. It is 171 ft tall sculpture that was built in 1960 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Prince Henry the Navigator’s death. It was shaped like a ship getting ready to sail on the ocean. There were 33 sculptures of people figures such as navigators and the royal members who played a crucial role in Portugal’s Age of Discoveries.

The sculptures that are lined both sides ( western and eastern profile) of the huge monument are really impressive. The Prince Henry the Navigator is at the helm, he played a significant role in many of the Portuguese important voyages financing them. The only female sculpture is Queen Philippa of Lancaster who was Prince Henry’s mother. She was actively involved in political and world affairs even though it was considered indecent! Girl Power! :D

The base and the pavement in front of the monument was a large decorated mosaic encompassing a world map and charts the routes taken by the Portuguese explorers such as Ferdinand Magellan and Vasco de Gama. I'm so amazed on how Portuguese people decorated their floors! These tiled floors surely took a lot of work and time to finish. You can buy a ticket to go inside the monument. You can use the elevator to reach the top where there is an observation deck to enjoy some panoramic views of Belem. We din't go in because we already planned of visiting Belem's Tower which apparently gives a better view of the municipality.

It was really nice to explore this area. A wonderful place to relax on a sunny day by the water. You can have a seat near the monument and enjoy the view of the bridge and Tagus which is the longest river on the Iberian Peninsula. The Discovery monument is a must see because it's a really impressive piece of art, a reminder of the Portuguese history of explorations centuries ago. Up next on the blog is the Belem Tower!

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