Plan on spending a half-day, from 10:00 am 3:00 pm if you want to see them all, but not on a Monday when monuments shut tight. And don’t leave Lisbon without the Belém tour with its spectacular sights from Portugal’s Golden Age of Discovery.
To reach Belém you can take the modern tram 15 (beware of pickpockets) from Praça da Figueira or Praça do Comércio that takes about 30 minutes. Or better still, to go quickly, take a taxi or Uber and start at the new National Coach Museum, the first stop on the tram, then move from east to west on by foot to the Jerónimos Monastery (with prepurchased ticket in hand!). Be aware the monuments can be absolutely mobbed by cruise ship day-trippers in the mornings. Before or after you tour the Monastery, stop for a coffee and snack break at the Antigua Confeitaria de Belém, mentioned under pastry shops below.
National Coach Museum (Museum Nacional dos Coches)
This museum’s collection of royal horse-drawn carriages is the finest in Europe: 700 carriages, all presented in chronological order, from the 15th-century on, plus saddlery, uniforms and children’s carriages fill the museum’s new white concrete building adjacent to its former home in the Royal Riding School, the Antigo Picadeiro Real.
The bulk of this fine collection fills the main branch, while the Royal Riding School branch has only a half-dozen carriages but is worth a visit for its 18th-century elaborately painted ceiling by Giacomo Azzolini and the special exhibit on the history of firefighting (may be temporary). Each branch has its own admission fee, or one can purchase an 10€ joint ticket. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Admission to the Coach Museum only is 8€, free the first Sunday of the month.
Tel: (+351) 210 732 319 / 210 492 400
The giant white limestone church and monastery build by King Manuel in elegant Manueline style in the 15th century. Inside the church you’ll find the tombs of Vasco da Gama and poet Luís de Camões. After visiting the church (free for all), purchase your ticket to enter the magnificent cloisters, the most elegant in all of Europe. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:30 pm, May-September, and closes one hour earlier the rest of the year. Admission is free to see the church and 10€ to the stunningly beautiful cloisters. Free to Portuguese nationals until 2:00 pm on Sundays so it is always crowded then.
One can and certainly should purchase tickets online to avoid the queues that stretch for hours (inside there are only two ticket sellers working at any given time). Purchase your tickets onlin at: Patrimonio Cultural. Choose Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, press, “continue” and choose normal or 65+ tickets. You must print this ticket (multiple entrances are put on one ticket), as tickets on your cell phone are not valid.
If you do not pre-purchase a ticket online, you can save a very, very long wait in the Jerónimos queue by walking down to the main entrance of the adjacent National Archeological Museum (Museu Nacional de Arquelogia) housed in a wing of the monastery and purchase a 12€ joint “Jerónimos” ticket at its desk for this museum, open Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, plus, you can enter the Monastery from within the archaeological museum, a huge time saver.
The Maritime Museum is housed in the west wing of the Jerónimos Monastery, this vast museum gives new meaning to the word “cavernous”. Its vast rooms display the model ships, real vessels, the King and Queen’s private ship cabins and navigational tools of Portugal’s Age of Discovery and beyond to today’s fishing industry. Walk outside to reach a large warehouse housing actual boats from rabelos that historically plied the River Douro to ceremonial royal barges. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, May-September, and until 5:00 pm October-April. Admission is 6,50€, seniors receive a 50% discount, free to all on the first Sunday of every month.
Tel: (+351) 210 977 388
The giant riverside Monument to the Discoveries, in the shape of a huge caravel ship in full sail, honors the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator. The sidewalk mosaic at the foot of the monument depicts a huge compass containing a map of the world. Take the elevator to the top for unparalleled views of the city. Open daily from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm, March-September and until 6:00 pm October-February. Closed on Mondays in March and from October to February. Tickets are 5€, seniors 65+ receive a 50% discount.
Tel: (+351) 213 031 950
This beautiful white tower, the symbol of Portugal, sitting beyond the Monument to the Discoveries, was built between 1515-1520 to protect Lisbon’s harbor from English and Dutch pirates and was the last building that sailors saw as they left on their sea voyages. It’s the architectural jewel of the Manueline period. There are 120 steps to the top and the climb up a steep spiral staircase can be extremely tedious and the lines to enter long. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:30 pm, May-September and until 5:30 pm, October-April. Admission is 6€, seniors receive a 50% discount. Free to Portuguese nationals on Sunday until 2:00 pm so expect crowds.
One can purchase an online ticketn at Patrimonio Cultural to avoid the long wait. Choose Torre de Belém, press, “continue” and choose normal or senior tickets. You must print this ticket (multiple entrances are on the same ticket), as tickets on your cell phone are not valid.
Or if you plan to visit the National Arqueological Museum in a wing of the Jerónimos Monastery first, there at museum’s ticket counter one can still purchase a “Discoveries” (Descobertas) ticket for the Jerónimos Monastery and the Belém Tower for 12€ (it’s no longer available online).
The Portuguese Riding School is considered one of the top four elite classical riding academies in the world. Its Henrique Calado Riding Ring is located at Calçada da Ajuda, and like its Spanish cousin in Jerez de la Frontera, Andalucía, it presents a “horse ballet”, or costumed demonstration of dressage, with its beautiful Lusitanian horses accompanied by classical music, beginning at 11:30 am and lasting 45 minutes. There is seating for 300 spectators only. These shows are not given on a weekly fixed date but instead one needs to check the online calendar for the schedule and to purchase the tickets. Adult tickets to the show cost 15€ and 22€ for box (VIP) seats. .
This modern art collection at Museu Coleção Berardo, amassed by wealthy Madeira resident, Joe Bernardo, is housed in the pinkish marble contemporary Centro Cultural de Belém at Praça do Império, across the wide avenue from the Jerónimos Monastery (take the underpass at the south end of the square). You’ll find works of Picasso, Mondrian, Miró, Bacon, Warhol (his Judy Garland), Rothko, Hockney and Pollock, among others. Open daily from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm. Only closes on Christmas Day. Admission is 5€, with a 50% discount for seniors over 65, and free on Saturdays.
In the Belém quarter, at Rua de Belém, 84-92, (across the street from the McDonalds) on the way to the Jerónimos Monastery. The home of the Pastéis de Belém, a warm custard tart topped with sugar and cinnamon, has been a much-loved Lisbon institution since 1837. The recipe for its pastéis de nata is a well- guarded secret. In fact, the owner is only one of four people in the world who knows the original recipe.
Always very crowded but go inside and you’ll find lots of beautifully tile decorated dining rooms with wait service. In the very last room you’ll find a line and an attendant seating the crowds, but go to another dining room and wait patiently for a party to leave their table. These treats come with two shakers, one for dusting the tarts with sugar, then with cinnamon. You’ll see a long line outside the door, but that is for take out. They sell 10,000 of these little treats each weekday and 20,000 on weekends. Opens daily at 8:00 am.