The pretty white houses that line the seven hills of the city contrast with the blue backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean, just as the modern activities of the inhabitants contrast with the rich history preserved in the Belém waterfront.
This area lies six kilometres from the bustling city centre on the banks of the Tagus River, and is filled with some of Portugal’s best known historical sites. One such site is Belém Tower which is one of the 7 wonders of Portugal and a Unesco World Heritage site. The impressive late gothic tower was built on an island not far from the banks of the river, but now resides on the banks due to the Tagus’ change of direction after the earthquake in 1755. The tower was built as part of a series of defensive fortifications used to protect Lisbon against pirates and enemies.
When walking in Portugal it is important to keep an eye out for the distinctive architecture of the Portugese Manueline style. The Belém tower is a wonderful example of this style with its elaborate rib vaulting, crosses of the Order of Christ, the armillary spheres and the twisted rope decorations common with the nautical Manueline style.
The site has a long history of repelling attacks which can be heard about when visiting the tower. Climbing the beautiful set of spiral stairs will see you at the observation platform on the second floor of the tower. From here you will have a great view over the river and out to sea. A look round the four floors of the tower with all its decorative architecture and canon housings is well worth it, and a perfect relief date when walking in Portugal.