1 Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, Lisbon
Belém is synonymous with Portugal’s golden Age of Discovery. It’s from the shores of this Lisbon suburb that intrepid navigators set sail in the 15th and 16th centuries on long and perilous voyages to chart unknown waters and map new territories. One such mariner, Vasco da Gama, discovered the sea route to India in 1498 and to honor his achievement, King Manuel I commissioned a monument that became a lasting symbol of the country’s astonishing era of conquest and expansion. Today, the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is one of the country’s most cherished and revered buildings, and a “must see’ on every tourist’s agenda.
The church and monastery embody the spirit of the age, and feature some of the finest examples of Manueline architecture found anywhere in Portugal; the beautifully embellished decoration found on the South Portal is breathtaking.
2. Oceanário de Lisboa, Lisbon
Oceanario de Lisboa is brilliantly conceived to highlight the world’s diverse ocean habitats. This is one of Europe’s best and largest oceanariums, containing a vast array of fish and marine animals. Four separate sea- and landscapes recreate the ecosystems of the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Antarctic oceans. A huge central tank, visible from different levels, teems with shark, ray, and many other finned wonders and denizens of the deep. The transparent plexiglass design is such that smaller tropical species housed in separate aquaria set around the main tank appear to be swimming with their larger cousins.
Complementing this amazing spectacle are the open-air landscapes where penguins, sea otters, and other cute and cuddly birds and mammals co-exist in carefree harmony.
3. Torre de Belém, Lisbon
One of Portugal’s best-loved historic monuments and a Lisbon icon, the Torre de Belém stands as a symbol of the Age of Discovery and the voyages of exploration undertaken in the 15th and 16th centuries.Completed in 1521 as a fortress to defend the approaches to the River Tagus, the tower is regarded as a masterpiece of military architecture. Designed in the Manueline style by Francisco de Arruda, the façade is a confection of beautifully carved stone, typified by maritime motifs such as twisted rope and the armillary sphere.
An impressive Renaissance loggia heightens the decoration. The tower’s cultural significance is such that UNESCO has listed it as a World Heritage Site.
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