Discover a symbol of the Portuguese overseas expansion (15th-16th century), the Monument to the Discoveries and the view of Belém and the Tagus from its viewpoint.
The Monument to the Discoveries (Padrão dos Descobrimentos in Portuguese) is located in Belém, in the western part of Lisbon, next to the Tagus River.
In the shape of a stylized caravel, with three large sails billowing in the wind, this monument is larger than it appears at first glance. In addition, it has a superb viewpoint at the top and a compass rose on the yard in front.
On both sides of the Monument you can also see statues of historical figures linked to the Portuguese overseas expansion (15th and 16th centuries), the culture and religiosity of the time and the royal family.
Do you want to know more about the Monument to the Discoveries? So come visit it with us!
Monument to the Discoveries – Interesting Facts
Did you know that the current Monument to the Discoveries is not the original version?
In 1940, the Monument to the Discoveries was built for the Portuguese World Exhibition, however it contained perishable materials (for example: plaster, burlap and wood).
Its authors were the Portuguese architect Cottinelli Telmo and sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida.
Later, in 1960, for the commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the death of Infante D. Henrique (Prince Henry), the original monument was reconstructed.
Thus, the current Monument to the Discoveries was built in concrete and clad in rose-tinted Leiria stone masonry. The sculptures, on the other hand, were made in Sintra limestone masonry.
Very close to the Monument to the Discoveries there is a huge water mirror, with a restaurant in the middle. It is interesting how this mirror adds even more beauty to the place. Don’t you think?
Monument to the Discoveries exterior
The concept of the monument is such that, the view from the Tagus River, suggests that the vessel is setting out to sea, with Infante D. Henrique in its prow.
On the east and west sides of the monument, three curved triangular structures can be seen, as if they were sails on a caravel, giving the illusion of being moved by the wind.
Above the “sails” are 2 Portuguese coats of arms, with 5 shields. These, in turn, are surrounded by a band of 12 castles, with stylized fleurs-de-lis in the center.
Viewed from the north you can see the entrance to the monument, above which a surprisingly huge sword of the Order of Aviz is depicted on the façade. This is the oldest Portuguese order, linked since the beginning of the Portuguese overseas expansion.
On each side of the monument there is a metal armillary sphere on the top of a stone platform.
Figures on the Monument to the Discoveries
The Monument has statues of 33 important people in the history of the Portuguese overseas expansion, namely navigators, cartographers, colonizers, chroniclers, artists and other characters.
With the exception of the figurehead, which is 9 meters tall, all the other statues are also 7 meters tall.
MAIN CHARACTER of the Monument to the Discoveries
On the prow of the caravel, holding a boat in his right hand and a map in his left hand, is Prince Henry the Navigator.
This navigator was one of the sons of King D. João I and Queen D. Philippa of Lancaster.
Prince Henry, who lived from 1394 to 1460, was undeniably a central figure of the Portuguese overseas expansion.
He was responsible for the discoveries of the archipelagos of Madeira, the Azores and Cape Verde.
As well as the passage of Cape Bojador, which marked the “beginning of the discoveries” on the west coast of Africa.
However, if you want to know more about this historical character and you are in the Algarve, don’t miss a visit to the Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 15 km from Sagres.
Monument to the Discoveries – FIGURES on the west side
On the west side of the monument and from the river you will find: (the numbers identify the statues)
- Prince Henry;
- Prince Fernando kneeling (brother of Prince Henry);
- João Gonçalves Zarco (navigator and one of the first settlers of Madeira);
- Gil Eanes with a nautical instrument (navigator who first passed Cape Bojador);
- Pêro de Alenquer (pilot who accompanied Vasco da Gama);
- Pedro Nunes holding an armillary sphere (mathematician)
- Pêro Escobar with a flag (pilot and discoverer of Sao Tome and Principe);
- Jácome de Maiorca with a nautical instrument (cartographer);
- Pêro da Covilhã (navigator);
- Eanes de Zurara with a parchment of the Chronicle of King D. João I (chronicler);
- Nuno Gonçalves with a palette and brush (painter);
- Luis de Camões holding a parchment with an excerpt from Book VII of the epic poem Lusíadas (poeta);
- Frei Henrique de Coimbra (franciscan missionary in Brazil);
- Frei Gonçalo de Carvalho (dominican missionary in India)
- Fernão Mendes Pinto with a staff (writer and explorer);
- Dona Filipa de Lencastre kneeling (Queen and Mother of Princes Henry, Fernando e Pedro);
- Prince D. Pedro kneeling (brother of Prince Henry).
Monument to the Discoveries – FIGURES on the east side
On the east side of the monument and from the river you will find: (the numbers identify the statues)
- Prince Henry;
- Dom Afonso V kneeling (King of Portugal);
- Vasco da Gama (navigator who discovered the sea route to India);
- Afonso Baldaia (navigator and one of the first settlers of the Azores);
- Pedro Álvares Cabral common nautical instrument (navigator who discovered Brazil);
- Fernão de Magalhães holding a nautical ring (navigator who first circumnavigated the earth);
- Nicolau Coelho holding a flag (navigator who accompanied Vasco da Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral);
- Gaspar Corte-Real (navigator who discovered the Greenland);
- Martim Afonso de Sousa with the Portuguese flag (navigator and 1st governor of Brazil);
- João de Barros with a parchment and a quill (writer and historian);
- Estevão da Gama wielding a shield and a sword (captain and son of Vasco da Gama);
- Bartolomeu Dias holding a padrão (pillar) (navigator who first sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa);
- Diogo Cão (navigator who first reached the Congo River);
- António de Abreu (navigator who first reached the Moluccas, Timor and eventually Australia);
- Afonso de Albuquerque showing the sword (governor and 2nd viceroy of India);
- São Francisco Xavier (jesuit missionary in Asia);
- Cristóvão da Gama (captain and son of Vasco da Gama).
Monument to the Discoveries – interior
First, we go up a flight of stairs to the center of the monument and arrive at an elevated platform. From here you can already get a view of the area surrounding the monument. Afterwards, cross a portal that leads to its interior.
Inside the Monument there are several spaces, namely an Auditorium, an Exhibition Room, various dependencies and access to the viewpoint at the top. The last temporary exhibition we saw there was about photography.
Viewpoint of the Monument to the Discoveries
It also well worth visiting the top of Monument to the Discoveries, where at 56 meters high there is an incredible viewpoint.
From above, the terrace of the viewpoint, it is possible to enjoy an excellent view over the Tagus River, gardens and the monumentality of Belém, with the Jerónimos Monastery, the CCB (Centro Cultural de Belém – excellent museum) and many others.
Compass Rose (Monument to the Discoveries)
In the square in front of the Monument we find a huge Compass Rose, which gives us an idea of what the Portuguese traveled in the world.
This Compass Rose has, first of all, 50 meters in diameter! It was offered to Portugal by South Africa in 1960, on the occasion of the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry, while it was designed by the Portuguese architect Luis Cristino da Silva.
The Compass Rose is made of black and red lioz limestone and is surrounded by Portuguese cobblestone pavement, with an open sea waves motif. It has also represented the four main cardinal points and their intermediate points.
In the center of the Compass Rose there is a planisphere 14 meters wide, with other compass roses and elements related to sea, such as caravels and sea creatures (fish, mermaids and others).
We have already visited this space several times, but we are always fascinated by the Compass Rose. We always want to put our little feet on top of the Compass Rose!
By doing it, we gain a better sense of the distances between the different areas of the Earth! It is above all our passion for travelling speaking louder …
Monument to the Discoveries – Tickets and Schedules
More information about the monument, schedules and ticket prices, we recommend the official website.
Location: Avenida de Brasília – Belém- Lisbon
More information: https://padraodosdescobrimentos.pt/en/
How to Get to Belém
Belém is located in the west of Lisbon, next to the entrance to the Tagus River. It is easily accessible by car or public transport. In case you need to rent a car, search for a good deal at Discover Cars. This car rental platform will help you finding the right price, in a quick and simple manner. Click here to access.
accessible on foot
If you are in Praça do Império: In the direction of the river there is a tunnel, which you can cross (underneath the railway line) and access the Monument to the Discoveries.
parking in Belem
Public Car Park: outdoor nearby and covered at CCB.
Tram to Belem
BUSES to belem
Buses 714, 727, 728, 729 e 751 => Bus Stop Belém (Carris: Routes)
TRAIN TO belem
Cais do Sodré Train Station => Belém Train Station (CP: Train Times)
What to do in Belem
Visit the iconic Monastery of Jerónimos
The Monastery of Jerónimos is a remarkable piece of Portuguese architecture from the 15th century, located next to the Tagus River. Since 1983 it has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The monument was built in order to keep alive the memory of the Portuguese Discoveries. It served as a monastery for the monks of the Order of São Jerónimo (to which it owes its name), as well as a pantheon for Portuguese royalty, heroes and poets.
Location: Praça do Império – Belém – Lisbon
Visit the Centro Cultural de Belém and the berardo collection museum
The Centro Cultural de Belém (CCB) complex comprises a center with auditoriums for shows, a module with multipurpose rooms and conference center. The CCB has been presenting an international quality cultural program.
It has also housed the Berardo Collection Museum, of modern and contemporary art. This is the most visited museum in Portugal and one of the best art museums in Europe.
Location: Praça do Império – Belém – Lisbon
other monuments, museums and Gardens in Belém
Belém is undeniably one of the most popular places for tourists. Among the most visited monuments and museums are: Tower of Belém, MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology), National Coach Museum – old Royal Riding School, National Archaeology Museum, Popular Art Museum, Navy Museum, Presidential Museum and Navy Planetarium.
Among the green spaces in Belém, we highlight the Jardim Botânico Tropical (a Tropical Botanical Garden), the Jardim da Praça do Império and the Jardim da Torre de Belém.
In addition, here you can taste the delicious Pastéis de Belém (an iconic custard tart).
Tours with Local Guide
Do you want to go on a tour with a local guide? Find the available tours, through our partner Get Your Guide. Click here to learn more.
Lisbon has an extensive and quality accommodation offer for all budgets. See here the best option for you.
Pin this post to enjoy the Monument to the Discoveries, in Lisbon, to the fullest and whenever you want!
Other tips to Visit Lisbon
- Lisbon: Ultimate Travel Guide and Itineraries
- TOP 10 Lisbon Attractions: Best places and activities
- Top 5 Cool Shopping Ideas in Lisbon
More Destinations Near Lisbon
- 6 Best Day Trips around Lisbon: explore more of Portugal
- Mafra Palace: Historic site near Lisbon!
- Visiting Jardim do Cerco, in Mafra? Tips to see this garden
- Self-guided walking tour in Palmela, near Lisbon
|To learn more about other LikedPlaces, go to our Destinations in Portugal page.
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