Guide to Visiting Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon in 2023
Welcome to the iconic Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon, one of the most visited historical landmarks in Portugal. This magnificent structure is a testament to the country’s rich cultural heritage and an architectural masterpiece that has stood tall for centuries.
Whether you’re a history buff, an art lover or simply looking for a serene escape from bustling city life, this monastery of Jeronimos offers something for everyone. In this article, I’ll provide you with all the information you need to make your visit to Jeronimos Monastery, or Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, unforgettable – from its fascinating history and architecture to practical tips on how to plan your trip. So sit back, relax and get ready to immerse yourself in the beauty and wonder of this stunning attraction.
Table of Contents
Is Jerónimos Monastery Lisbon Worth Visiting
Without a doubt, yes! This stunning monastery holds immense historical and cultural significance making it a designated UNESCO World Heritage site, and boasts breathtaking architecture that will leave you mesmerized.
As you step inside this dedicated Seven Wonders of Portugal, you’ll be greeted by a vast open space filled with natural sunlight streaming through the windows. The elaborate stone pillars and arches give it a grandeur that is truly awe-inspiring.
If you’re looking for an unforgettable experience steeped in culture and history during your trip to Lisbon – look no further than Jeronimos Monastery!
A Brief History of Jerónimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jeronimos)
Early Beginnings (1496)
By 1496, Portugal was deep within its Age of Discovery. Vasco da Gama returned from a successful voyage in which he discovered a direct ocean route from Portugal to India, which opened up the famed Indian Spice Route.
It was then that King Manuel I requested permission from the pope to build a grand monastery in Belém, steps from the Tagus River, as a gesture of thanks to the Virgin Mary who he believed had guided the voyagers safely. Permission was granted, and construction of the Jeronimos Monastery began shortly thereafter.
The construction of this monastery took over 100 years to build. However, a building of such grandeur would come at a high cost, and Portugal was not considered a wealthy country. So how did they receive the necessary funds? King Manuel I introduced a 5% “pepper” tax on commerce from Asia and Africa, but that wasn’t enough. Treasures from voyages to Asia, Africa, and South America were bartered for cash to allow for the construction to continue.
King Manuel I invited the religious order of Saint Jerome, or Hieronymite monks, to occupy the monastery. They were expected to pray for the existing and future kings, as well as offer spiritual counsel to sailors leaving from and returning to Belém. The monks did this over four centuries until 1833 when the religious orders ended and the monastery was abandoned.
The Architecture of the Monastery of Jeronimos
The Style of Architecture
The Jerónimos Monastery is widely regarded as one of the best examples of Manueline-style architecture. This unique Portuguese style combines Gothic, Moorish, and Renaissance together. It’s lavishly ornate, weaving in complex sculptural themes. Carved in limestone are nautical elements as a nod to the Age of Discoveries.
The 16th-century monastery is a shrine for explorers, full of maritime motifs like a rope wrapped around the columns and innumerable aquatic monsters, all recalling the period when Portugal ruled the oceans.
The building’s façade is of nearby limestone and extends for more than 300 m (or 985 feet). The main entrance to the monastery is massive. Standing at 32 m (or 105 feet) high and 12 m (or 40 feet) wide.
An overwhelming sense of tranquillity overcomes you as you see the double-tier cloisters. The large square of 55 m x 55 m (or 180 feet x 180 feet) features wide arches and windows with tracery resting on delicate mullions. Visit in the early morning or late afternoon to catch the light spilling through the broad arcades.
What to See at Jeronimos Monastery
The Cloisters is a beautiful example of Manueline architecture, characterized by ornate stonework and intricate details. The Cloisters provide a peaceful oasis with its tranquil garden and serene atmosphere. Take a stroll through the arches and enjoy the intricate details of the stone carvings.
The Chapter House is a striking example of Gothic architecture, with its soaring vaulted ceilings. The room was used by the monks for meetings and administrative purposes, but today you can appreciate the stunning architecture and enjoy the peaceful ambiance.
The Confessionals is a unique feature, designed to provide a private space for monks to confess their sins to a priest. The small, set of 12 rooms with enclosed spaces are adorned with beautifully carved woodwork and provide an interesting glimpse into the spiritual practices of the past.
Tomb of Fernando Pessoa
The Tomb of Fernando Pessoa is a must-see for literary enthusiasts visiting Jeronimos Monastery. Pessoa was one of Portugal’s most celebrated poets and writers, and his tomb is a fitting tribute to his legacy. The tomb is simple but elegant, and visitors can pay their respects to the great writer.
Tomb of Alexandre Herculano
The Tomb of Alexandre Herculano is another notable site within Jeronimos Monastery. Herculano was a prominent historian and writer, and his tomb is located in the monastery’s beautiful Gothic chapel. The tomb is ornately decorated and provides a fitting final resting place for one of Portugal’s most celebrated intellectuals.
The Refectory at Jeronimos Monastery was the dining hall for the monks and is another impressive example of Manueline architecture. The room is adorned with intricate carvings and has a stunning vaulted ceiling. You can imagine what it was like to dine in this grand space centuries ago.
The High Choir at Jeronimos Monastery is a striking feature that should not be missed. The choir is located above the entrance to the monastery and was used by the monks for chanting and singing during religious services. The intricately carved stalls are beautiful examples of Manueline art and provide a unique glimpse into the spiritual practices of the past.
The Church of Santa Maria
Part of the monastery includes the church of Santa Maria. Nothing less than spectacular, the continuation of Manueline architecture is seen in the interior of this church. One of the church’s most admired historical artifacts is the tombs of Vasco da Gama and Luís de Camões. Their highly ornate tombs bear all the symbolism of Manueline architecture – carved ropes, spheres, and other seafaring motifs.
Visiting Jeronimos Monastery – Entry Fee, Hours and How to Get There
Jeronimos Monastery entrance fee
Jeronimos Monastery Church: free
Cloister of Portugal Monastery:
- Adult: € 10 (Save money and buy the bundle and save money + Belém Tower, € 12 and Belém Tower + The National Archaeological Museum € 16)
- Youth/Senior (65+): € 10
- Child (less than 12 years old): free
- First Sunday of every month: free
- Free with 24, 48, or 72-hour Lisboa Card, check prices and book your tickets
- Note for travellers – be prepared for long lines, especially during the shoulder and peak travel season. If you want to save time, you’ll want to pre-book your tickets.
Grab your Skip-the-Line Jerónimos Monastery Entrance Ticket
Jerónimos Monastery opening hours
October – April: 10 am to 5:30 pm
May – September: 10 am to 6:30 pm
Mondays and major holidays: closed
How to get there
The best way to get to the Jéronimos Monastery is to use public transportation as it actually sits just outside the city centre of Lisbon in the Belem neighbourhood.
Lisbon to Belem is about 5 km and takes approximately 30 minutes to get there.
- Tram: Take line 15E
- Buses: Take 727, 28, 729, 714 or 751
- Train: Cascais line
Combine your visit to Jeronimos Monastery with some of these nearby top attractions in Lisbon.
National Archaeology Museum
Since 1893, a small section of the west wing of the Jeronimos Monastery has housed the largest archaeological collection in Portugal. It houses artifacts from the Paleolithic period to the Middle Ages. Today, the National Archaeology Museum offers two permanent exhibitions, one which is dedicated to archaeological finds in Portugal and Portugal’s heritage, the other a collection of Egyptian antiquities.
The Maritime Museum features Lisbon’s and Portugal’s pioneering roles in the exploration of the oceans. Enthusiasts will marvel over the model ships from the Age of Discovery, old maps showing the world as it was then known, and the plane that made the first crossing of the South Atlantic in 1922 piloted by Portuguese aviators Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral. Next door is the National Archaeology Museum, and next to that is the entrance to the Jerónimos Monastery. Admission to the Maritime Museum is €6.50 or it’s included in your Lisboa Card.
Pasteis de Nata Bake Shop
In 1830, the first sale of Portugal’s favourite pastry was made. Adjacent to the monastery sat a sugar cane refinery and a small general store. A monk offered the sweet pastries, which they have been making for at least a century before, for sale in the shop. These delicious custard pastries quickly became known as ‘Pastéis de Belém’. The monks agreed to pass on the secret recipe and it has remained unchanged to the present day. You can’t pass by the adjacent bakery shop when you visit Jeronimos Monastery.
Berardo Collection Museum
Next to the Jeronimos Monastery, the Berardo Collection Museum is a top attraction of the Belém Cultural Center. The modern and contemporary artwork on display belongs to José Manuel Rodrigues Berardo, a billionaire entrepreneur, and philanthropist. The art at this museum ranges from Minimalism to Surrealism and includes pieces by Roy Lichtenstein, Pablo Picasso, and Francis Bacon.
The Belem Tower
The Belém Tower built between 1514 and 1520 is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Sitting on the bank of the Tagus River, this tower was used to defend the city. It was later turned into a lighthouse and then a customs building.
The interior has 16 windows on the ground floor, each with its own cannon. There are five floors, each named for the purpose it served. From bottom to top they are The Governor’s Hall, The Kings’ Hall, the Audience Hall, the Chapel, and the Roof terrace.
Grab your Skip-the-Line Belem Tower Entry Ticket
Why is Jerónimos Monastery famous?
The Jerónimos Monastery is famous for its stunning Manueline-style architecture and its historical significance as a burial site for Portuguese kings.
How long do you need at Jerónimos Monastery?
To fully appreciate the Jerónimos Monastery, plan to spend 1 to 1.5 hours exploring its Gothic splendour, history, tranquil cloisters and the Church of Santa Maria.
Is Jerónimos Monastery free?
No, the Jeronimos Monastery is not free. However, if you have a 24, 48, or 72-hour Lisboa Card the entry fee to this Portugal monastery is included.
Portugal Travel Resources
The city of Lisbon has so much to see and do, so if you are looking for more inspiration, you might be interested in this 4 Day Lisbon itinerary. Popular day trips from Lisbon include a visit to the magical Pena Palace, or maybe even spending a day in Coimbra. Maybe you’re thinking is Coimbra worth visiting – you can decide for yourself!
Beyond Lisbon, maybe you’re spending more time in Portugal. If you are, you’re in luck, check out these other areas in Portugal.
- Reasons to visit the Alentejo region with spending a day in Evora
- Want to visit Porto? Wondering if Porto is worth visiting? If yes, use this 3 Day Porto itinerary where you can take a day trip to Douro Valley Wine Tour
- If you’re headed to the incredible Algarve, you’ll want to know the top Algarve beaches to visit, and also a visit to Tavira – the hidden gem of Algarve.
Be sure to check out my Europe Travel page where it’s your one-stop shop for all travel planning resources you might need – from accommodations, flights, train travel and more.
If you LOVE EUROPEAN TRAVEL or planning a TRIP TO EUROPE, subscribe to my website! I will share my love of Europe with you, along with travel planning tips and inspiration. Join, and let’s be travel friends!
As a holidaymaker
Visiting the Jeronimos Monastery is an experience you won’t want to miss when in Lisbon. Hopefully, with this guide, you can successfully navigate your way through the monastery’s many attractions, take in its fascinating exhibits, and enjoy a peaceful moment of reflection in its serene cloisters.
Whether you’re a history buff or simply looking for a beautiful place to visit during your trip, the Jeronimos Monastery offers something truly special that will leave a lasting impression on all who see it. So why wait? Plan your visit today and discover one of Lisbon’s true gems!