The Belém neighborhood has some of the city’s most famous attractions and the tram trip there (line 15 west from downtown) follows the coast for lovely ocean vistas. The Jerónimos Monastery is one of the oldest buildings in the city and was constructed to celebrate Vasco da Gama’s successful voyage to India – da Gama is buried in the monastery today. The Torre de Belém (Tower of Belém) was built around the same time to defend the port and the valuable shipping trade.
One of the most recognisable symbols of the city is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) a 50-meter tall concrete slab, shaped into the prow of a boat on which stand Portugal’s most famous explorers. A world map drawn into the ground of the adjacent square shows the routes those explorers took. The Presidential Palace (formerly the Royal Palace) is famous for its lovely gardens lining the bright blue river that passes through it and for a monumental statue of Afonso de Albuquerque, a 16th-Century ruler of Portuguese India.