Belem is a very pretty town about 6km west of Lisbon.
We only had half a day available for our visit so we went to three attractions: the Tower of Belem, the Monument to the Discoveries and the Tropical Garden. If we’d had longer I’d have loved to visit the Jeronimos Monastery and Berardo Museum.
Monument to the Discoveries: I was particularly looking forward to this visit because even though it was only erected in 1960 this landmark is for me iconic of Lisbon’s past. The outside (clearly visible without paying for admission) is decorated with sculptures of important Portuguese figures including explorers, crusaders, scientists and writers. We paid to ascend to the top to look at the view, which we enjoyed but be warned that the lift only takes you part of the way and you’ll have to walk up a couple of flights of steps to reach the viewing platform. The platform itself is also very narrow and if there’s a group up there it becomes crowded and you’ll have to wait your turn to look at the views. There’s a particularly good view of the Monastery, however, see photo attached.
Tower of Belem: an attractive fortress built in the early 16th century in the Portuguese “Manueline style” with attractive, decorated stone work. This tower is definitely NOT suitable for those with access issues, you need to be able to walk up or down steps to access all of it. I made it up to the main level, which was pretty and with some decent views, but decided my knees weren’t up to the steep spiral staircase which takes you to the top of the tower. I really liked the decorated stonework but there was little information about the tower’s history inside the building.
On balance I’d say unless you’re very keen it’s worth paying for entry to EITHER the Tower of Belem or the Monument of the Discoveries to get your fix of good views but not both (unless you get a Lisbon card which I think includes admission to both anyway).
Tropical garden (“Jardim do Ultramar”): on balance I liked this garden better than the Botanical Gardens in Lisbon, which I also visited. Lots of bamboo, tropical trees and wildfowl. I particularly liked the rather neglected but still picturesque Japanese garden with its pavillion, bridges and winding paths. Most of the garden could probably be visited by wheelchair users although there are a few steep paths and the Japanese garden has steps so most of it wouldn’t be suitable.
Belem can be reached by bus, train or tram from Lisbon. We took a tram on our way out and a bus on our way back, both were very crowded with standing room only and we were uncomfortably crushed (beware pickpockets!). If I went again I’d try to set out early before the rush started, or take a taxi which seem to be very reasonably priced around Lisbon.