Visit one of Portugal's Seven Wonders and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon
Portugal

Visit the Must-See Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon

Visit the Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon and you’ll see why this top attraction is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This massive monastery, that stretches across several blocks, is known for its cultural and architectural significance. Also, it is one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. So, you can’t visit Lisbon without visiting the Jerónimos Monastery. Here is everything you need to know to plan your visit. 

The History of Jerónimos Monastery

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 Jerónimos Monastery began shortly thereafter.

Visit one of Portugal's Seven Wonders and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon

The construction of the 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. Apparently 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 St. 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

The Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon Portugal is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal

The Jerónimos Monastery is widely regarded as one of the best examples of Manueline architecture. This unique Portuguese style combines Gothic, Moorish and Renaissance together. It is lavishly ornate, weaving in complex sculptural themes. Carved in limestone are nautical elements as a nod to the Age of Discoveries.

The lavishly beautiful Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon. One of the Seven Wonders of Portugal

The building has a façade of nearby limestone and extends for more than three hundred metres (or 985 feet). The main (side) entrance to the monastery is massive. Standing at 32 metres (or 105 feet) high and 12 metres (or 40 feet) wide. 

The Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon Portugal is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal

The monastery is a shrine for explorers, full of maritime motifs like rope wrapped around the columns and innumerable aquatic monsters, all recalling the period when Portugal ruled the oceans. 

The lavishly beautiful Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon. One of the Seven Wonders of Portugal

An overwhelming sense of tranquility overcomes you as you see the double-tier cloisters. The large square of 55 metres x 55 metres (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.  

The Church of Santa Maria

The Church of Santa Maria within the Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon Portugal

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.

The Belém Tower

Visit the Belem Tower in Lisbon, Portugal an UNESCO World Heritage site

The Belém Tower built between 1514 and 1520 is also an 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 customs building. 

The interior has 16 windows on the ground floor, each with their own cannon. There are five floors, each named for the purpose they served. From bottom to top they are: The Governor’s Hall, The Kings’ Hall, the Audience Hall, the Chapel and Roof terrace.

Combine your tour of the monastery with visiting the tower due to their close proximity to each other. 

The Pastéis de Nata Recipe

Lisbon's favourite pastry - pastéis de belém or nata

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. 

Admission Information

Entrance fee:

Jerónimos Monastery is €10 + Belém Tower is 12 and Belém Tower + The National Archaeological Museum is 16 (discounts for children, students and seniors).

Tip: save money by purchasing the bundle pricing and the Church of Santa Maria is free.

Click here for the most up to date information. 

Hours of operation:

October – April: 10am to 5:30pm
May – September: 10am to 6:30pm
Mondays and major holidays: closed

Visit the lavishly beautiful Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon. One of the Seven Wonders of Portugal and an UNESCO World Heritage site.

How to Get There

The fastest way to get to the Belém Tower and Jéronimos Monastery is to use public transportation. Both of these top attractions sit outside the city centre of Lisbon in the Belem neighbourhood. From the city centre of Lisbon it is about 5 kilometers and takes  approximately 31 to 37 minutes to get there. 

Tram – Take line 15 

Buses – Take 727, 28, 729, 714 or 751 

As a holidaymaker…

When a landmark holds two distinct status – UNESCO and Seven Wonders of Portugal – you know it must be a must-see attraction. If you love history and architecture, you’ll definitely want to add this to your intinery. 

Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon. One of the Seven Wonders in Portugal. #Lisbon
Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon. One of the Seven Wonders in Portugal. #Lisbon

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20 Comments

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Reminiscing about a trip is just as fun as planning one. Glad it brought you back some happy memories.

  • Emma Todd

    It’s hard to wrap your head around the amount of time and work that has gone into the architectural details. I can see how it took an easy 100 years to build! I enjoyed reading the history of how Portugal raised the funds for the building. Thanks for sharing!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      It is really remarkable you’re right. The size and scale is hard to capture in photos, so it is a wonder. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      It definitely is Gus, and it’s free to go inside, while the other two sites are not.

  • Riana Ang-Canning

    What a gorgeous monastery! I love that style of ornate architecture – it reminds me of the Alcazar in Seville. And with pasteis de nata nearby? Sign me up! Definitely adding this to my Lisbon itinerary for a future trip.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      I definitely can see the similarities between both countries architecture. So glad you might add this to your future itinerary when visiting Lisbon.

  • Linda (LD Holland)

    We saw Jerónimos Monastery when we went to Belem for tarts! It was stunning to view from the outside. After seeing your pics, I am doubly sorry we did not get to go inside the church of Santa Mariea. Good to know there is bundle pricing for the attractions in this area. We will definitely be back in Lisbon one day.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Yes, at least check out the church for free. But we really thought it was worth visiting the monastery it self. It’s such a peaceful place, and beautiful too.

  • Maggie

    This was one of my favorite places in Lisbon!! The architecture is just extraordinary – a great guide to a can’t miss stop!

  • sandy n vyjay

    The Jeronimos Monastery looks stunning in its grandeur. It is fascinating to read about its history. The massive scales and the exquisite artwork look mindboggling, no wonder it took 100 years to complete. It was interesting to note the connection with the spice route and the pepper tax to fund the construction. This is one place we would love to visit when we are in Portugal.

  • CHELSEA MESSINA

    WOW! The Church of Santa Maria is absolutely gorgeous !! The churches in Europe are incredible and nothing like our churches here in the US. Yes ours are pretty – but nothing like this.

  • Emma

    The carvings are exquisite, what an absolutely stunning building. I haven’t been to Portugal yet but I see so many good things about Lisbon I think I’ll have to look into it soon. Also that pastry looks delicious

  • Umiko

    The monastery looks impressive and I especially wowed by the church of Santa Ana. It’s so pretty! I would like to try the Pasteis de Nata, too. It looks delicious!

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