Belém and the Age of Portuguese Empire

Portugal’s imperial neighborhood.

Lisbon’s neighborhood of Belém features some of Portugal’s most famous monuments. But many of these monuments were funded by, participated in, or were built to commemorate the Portuguese Empire.

The Portuguese Empire was the first of the modern European colonial empires, and a visit to Belém is the perfect opportunity to unpack the complex histories and modern impacts of the Portuguese colonial project.

Please Note: This tour features frank discussions of the Portuguese Empire; the damage it did around the world, and the complex business of commemorating European Empires.

Tour highlights.

  • Travel to Belém on one of Lisbon’s famous electric trolleys.
  • Visit the Monument to the Discoveries, a modern celebration of the Portuguese “Age of Discovery.”
  • Sample one of Belém’s specialty pastries, the pastel de Belém, the original Portuguese cream tart.
  • Tour the world-famous Jerónimos Monastery, which houses the tomb of Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama.
  • Visit the Tower of Belém, the gateway to Lisbon from which Portuguese explorers and colonizers departed.
  • Tour the National Museum of Ethnography, to learn more about the real cost of the Portuguese Empire.


  • A private fully-guided tour by a professional historian.
  • Travel to and from Belém from the Lisbon city center on public transportation.
  • Entry tickets for all sites.
  • A morning snack of pastel de nata and coffee.
  • Lunch at a traditional Portuguese restaurant.
  • Afternoon refreshments of wine, sangria, or soft drinks.



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