Visit the Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon and you’ll see why this top attraction is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This massive monastery, which stretches across several blocks, is known for its cultural and architectural significance. It’s also one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. So, you can’t visit Lisbon without visiting the Jeronimos Monastery (or Mosteiro dos Jerónimos). Here is everything you need to know to plan your visit to the must-see Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon. (Updated November 2022)

History of Jerónimos Monastery

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.

Visit one of Portugal's Seven Wonders and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon
CONSTRUCTION (1496-1596)

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 Jeronimos Monastery

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

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

The Size

The building’s façade is of nearby limestone and extends for more than three hundred metres (or 985 feet). The main 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

An overwhelming sense of tranquillity 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 lavishly beautiful Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon. One of the Seven Wonders of Portugal

Jerónimos Monastery Facts

Here are some interesting facts about this must-see monastery:

  • Jerónimos Monastery is not its real name! The monastery replaced an existing church on the same site; one that was dedicated to Santa Maria de Belem. The actual name of this new monument is Mosteiro da Santa Maria de Belem, but it bares the nickname “O Jerónimos”, which explains where the name of Jeronimos Monastery came from.
  • Monks invented the Pastel de Nata! In the 16th century, the monks living at the monastery would use vast amounts of egg whites to starch their clothing. The remaining yolks were created into a creamy custard and the popular Portuguese tart was born. 
  • The Great Earthquake of 1755 left little damage!  The Jeronimos Monastery was one of few buildings in Lisbon that withstood the immense shake of the Great Earthquake of 1755.

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.

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

Visit Jeronimos Monastery

Jerónimos Monastery entrance fee

Use your Lisboa Card to get in for free or it’s €10 + Belém Tower is 12 and Belém Tower + The National Archaeological Museum is 16. Click here for the most current information. 

Traveller’s Tip: save money on your tickets by purchasing the bundle pricing and the Church of Santa Maria is free.

Jerónimos Monastery hours

October – April: 10 am to 5:30 pm
May – September: 10 am to 6:30 pm
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 Jéronimos Monastery is to use public transportation as it actually sits outside the city centre of Lisbon in the Belem neighbourhood. From the city centre of Lisbon, it’s about 5 km and takes approximately 30 to 40 minutes to get there. 

Tram – Take line 15 

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

Nearby Attractions

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. 

Traveller’s Tip: If you’re planning to visit the Jerónimos Monastery, avoid standing in the long queues formed outside by heading straight into National Archaeology Museum. Buy a combined ticket for €12.00 and that gets you into both attractions.

Maritime Museum

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.

Lisbon's favourite pastry - pastéis de belém or nata

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 they served. From bottom to top they are The Governor’s Hall, The Kings’ Hall, the Audience Hall, the Chapel, and the Roof terrace. 

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

Traveller’s tip: be sure to plan our visit and combine your Jeronimos Monastery tickets with the Belem Tower as it is considered one of the top landmarks to visit in Lisbon. 

As a holidaymaker…

When a landmark holds two distinct statuses – 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 Lisbon itinerary. 

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36 Comments

  1. The Jeronimos Monastery is one of my favourite places in Lisbon. I could just spend hours in the cloister enjoying the beautiful architecture there. Visiting the tomb of Vasco da Gama was also a very memorable experience for me. You took great pictures of the Belem tower!

  2. This brings back memories of our visit to Lisbon. It is such a beautiful church to spend some time. We had a refreshing time there as well and loved the experience.

  3. Such a beautiful church! During my travels, I always make it a point to visit church to witness their beautiful architecture. It never fails me to impress!

  4. I appreciate it that this place is a must-see not just because it’s an architectural masterpiece but also because of its historical significance. I feel like visiting this incredible site will give me like a mini masterclass on architecture and history. For sure, it’s a jaw-dropping experience for anyone who visits!

  5. For some reason, I did not visit Jerónimos Monastery when I was in Lisbon. I wish I had known about this monastery before. It’s such a beautiful monastery with so much history. I am definitely visiting it for my next time to Lisbon.

  6. The Jerónimos Monastery looks breathtaking. The historical wide monument is so huge that gives me an old charming, rustic feeling which I cant express. Your pictures are too good to create an instant urge to visit this place. Loved the information > I wish to visit Lisbon soon and cherish this one.

  7. Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon looks stunning! I love that unique architecture, the pastel colors and your images bring out the beauty of the monastery. I have not visited Portugal yet but will this monastery to my list. That ‘Pastéis de Belém’ sure looks yummy! 🙂

  8. 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!

  9. 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

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

    1. The Jeronimos monastery is so exquisite and lavishly built, the columns, the facades and the arches depict the prolific examples of manuelune architecture.
      It’s a place to cherish for sure! Loved the vivid description.Thank you for sharing!

  12. 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.

    1. 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.

  13. 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.

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

  14. 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!

    1. 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.

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

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