Belem: Lisbon’s riverside attractions

We took a tram out to Belem, which is an area along the coast a little west of Lisbon, to see the famous tower. However, we got lucky because there were actually a bunch of things on our to-see list that were located there without us even realizing it!

We walked along the riverfront (in the scalding sun) and came across the Discoveries Monument, a white, stone monument to Portuguese explorers. It’s very characteristic, with historical figures lining each side, walking towards the water.

Discoveries Monument

Then we saw Belem Tower, which is absolutely beautiful. It’s a relatively small, white, beautifully sculpted tower, right off the shore – just far enough to be surrounded by water. The white stones surrounded by blue water, basking in glowing sunlight is so picturesque.

Me & the Belem Tower (ok, the water doesn't look that blue here, but trust me, it's beautiful)

The grave of the unknown soldier ended up being near the tower, too, so we stopped by. It was surprisingly modern in design,  and stood over a little pond whose water reflected off the glass on the monument. It’s the first time I’ve seen such a modern monument commemorating the grave of the unknown soldier in Europe.

Grave of the Unknown Soldier

At this point, we decided to sit and eat at a restaurant along the river. The view was beautiful and the atmosphere very relaxing, but the restaurant was seriously understaffed so we spent nearly two hours there for lunch! Most of my dining experiences in Europe have proven that there’s a different standard (more relaxed, much less rushed) of service in restaurants there, but this was a little too much.

After finally escaping the never-ending lunch, we dropped into the Berardo Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art – since it was free! Some cool exhibits we saw:

  • Os Gemeos: “Pra quem moralá, o céu é lá” a.k.a “A little boat inside a huge ocean.” These two brothers from Brazil paint and create installations that are described partially as graffiti. A couple of their installations literally took up the entire wall and were composed of paintings, doors and other objects collaged together on the wall.
  • “Algumas Obras a Ler” a.k.a. “Some Works to Read.” The intro to this exhibit on the written word claimed that the pieces would choose you, and this one chose me: John Stezaker‘s “A newspaper photograph and magazine photograph reconstruct one another.” The piece featured two photographs: one of a woman who had hung herself outside a building, and one of a tall, skinny blonde girl next to a sports car. Then, the artist featured various texts below each one as a commentary on society and as different ways to frame the photos. My favorite quote from one of the texts (under the hanged woman):

“Experience takes place before a curtain which conceals, and, if the world is the appearance of something behind the curtain of immediate experience, then, it is we ourselves who are behind the curtain.”

So, all in all, a pretty decent modern art museum experience considering my history with modern art.

Right next to the museum is the Jerónimos Monastery. It was a massive structure. Very long, with the bulk of it being fairly clean and simple, and then the chapel part being very ornate, its arches filled with sculptures. I think one of the most visual memories I have of Lisbon is all these white stone monuments next to that big, blue river in Belem.

Jeronimos Monastery

Then, we saw a Starbuck’s! Hello, coffee frappucino.

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