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Discover the Jerónimos Monastery
A quick overview
What to see? A Monastery built in the Manueline style, a World Heritage monument, and Vasco da Gama’s tomb. You will also discover the tombs of Fernando Pessoa and Luis de Camões.
Costs? Tickets cost € 10,00 or free with the Lisboa Card.
Where? In Santa Maria de Belém, in Lisbon, Portugal.
Worth it? The Jerónimos Monastery is one of the most famous sights in Lisbon! It’s stunning and well worth a visit, but it can get jam-packed in the high season.
How to get to the Jerónimos Monastery
A visit to the Jerónimos Monastery, or Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, and the tomb of Vasco da Gama is on the wish list for many travellers who visit Lisbon. You will find the monastery in the parish of Santa Maria de Belém, and the official name is Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Belém. You can reach Belém easily by public transport. From Cais de Sodré, you can take the train towards Cascais and exit the train in Belém. It’s the quickest way, and the journey takes less than 10 minutes.
The bus and tram stop near Mosteiro Jerónimos. The tram takes about 30 minutes from Lisbon city centre. You can take Tram 15 to Belém or bus 727, 28, 729, 714 and 751. You can even arrive by boat if you come from the southern shores of the Tagus! Read more about the Lisbon public transport here or check out the Lisboa Card. The famous Lisbon Card allows you to travel on all public transport for 24, 48, or 72 hours. And you get free entrance to the Jerónimos Monastery Lisbon!
A magnificent structure commissioned by King Manuel I
Construction of the Jerónimos Monastery started in 1501, close to the shore of the Tagus River. A hermitage was previously dedicated to Santa Maria de Belém, which the Jerónimos Monastery replaced. King Manuel I commissioned the building of Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. One of King Manuel I’s motives for building the Jeronimos Monastery is that it is believed to do with his desire to have a pantheon for the Avis-Beja dynasty. He was the first monarch of this dynasty, and in 1496, he petitioned the Holy See for permission to build.
During your visit to the 16th-century monument, you’ll discover multiple areas within the monastery. There is the cloister, famous for its intricate stone carvings. This area begins at the upper cloister and the upper choir. You can then visit the lower level, including the Chapter House and refectory. You can visit the main church from the Chapter House and marvel at the richly decorated south portal and stained glass windows. Unfortunately, you cannot see the cloisters’ west wing and former dormitories, but from the outside, you can imagine how vast the building is.
Portuguese Gothic Manueline architecture
The Jerónimos Monastery is one of the best examples of Manueline religious architecture. Architect Diogo de Boitaca drew the plans and worked on the refectory and the sacristy. The elaborate sculptural details were sculpted into gold-coloured limestone from a nearby quarry in Ajuda. Architect Juan de Castillo worked at the monastery around 1517, and when King Manuel I died in 1521, the construction ended.
Nicolau Chanterene, Diogo de Torralva, Domingos Parente da Silva, architect Rafael Silva e Castro e Castro, and Jerónimo de Ruão all left their mark on the building. Construction of the monastery resumed in 1550. This was when the main chapel and the choir were added. The Manuealine style is known for its complex sculptural themes, including maritime symbols and other sea motifs, such as sea monsters and coral carved in limestone.
After 100 years, the construction was completed, and nowadays, it is a national monument and a famous UNESCO World Heritage Site. After crossing a small park across the road from the monastery, you can visit the famous Belem Tower, another example of Manueline architecture.
The monks of Saint Jerome
The Monastery of the Hieronymites was donated to the monks of Saint Hieronymus, and the Order of Saint Jerome monks inhabited the monastery in the 16th century. King Manuel I also built it in memory of Prince Henry the Navigator to commemorate the voyage to India by Vasco Da Gama and give thanks to the Virgin Mary for the success. As you can see, the monastery is symbolically linked to the Age of Discoveries and the Portuguese colonial times. So, it is no surprise that the tomb of Vasco da Gama can be found here. The tomb is the most impressive symbol of Portugal’s power and wealth at that time at the monastery!
The Hieronymites had the spiritual job of praying for the king’s soul and assisting navigators who left the Tagus shore before heading out on their world exploration. The profits made in the spice trade with the East, the so-called Vintena da Pimenta (a ‘Spice Tax), were used to pay for the monastery. The monks stayed until 1833 when the Jeronimos Monastery was abandoned. Next to the monastery, you can visit the Maritime Museum (Museu de Marinha) and the National Archaeological Museum (Museu Nacional de Arqueologia).
Rich decorations inside the Jerónimos Monastery
The former Jerónimos Monastery is a fantastic example of the Portuguese late Gothic Manueline style, and the building is covered with ornaments and decorations. João de Castilho led the construction in the 16th century, between 1517 and 1521, and he was responsible for many of the beautiful stonework we see today. You’ll spot natural elements, maritime symbols, and religious and royal symbols within the Hieronymites monastery.
Along with the Tower of Belém and the monument Padrão dos Descobrimentos, the monastery has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983. During the earthquake in 1755, the Jerónimos Monastery wasn’t heavily damaged, but the building has had several restorations throughout the centuries.
The tombs inside Jerónimos Monastery
Within the monastery, there are several significant graves to discover. The Jerónimos Monastery is the final resting place of explorer Vasco da Gama and Luís de Camões, the famous Portuguese poet and writer Fernando Pessoa. Vasco da Gama’s tomb is located at the entrance of the main church, as well as the tomb of poet Luis de Camões. Vasco da Gama was in charge of the world exploration at sea, a history you can learn more about in the nearby Maritime Museum. Camões wrote The Lusiads in 1572, which became one of the most essential books in Portuguese literature. Pessoa is one of the greatest poets in modern Portugal and one of the most famous Portuguese writers.
After the restoration of Portuguese Independence in 1640, Mosteiro dos Jerónimos became a burial place for the Portuguese royal family. In 1855, some of these royal tombs were relocated to the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora. You can visit the final resting place of the Portuguese royal family in the Royal Pantheon of the House of Bragança.
Pastéis de Belém and the Jerónimos Monastery Lisbon
The Jerónimos monks were also responsible for the fantastic tasting and famous custard tarts! Therefore, the real Pastéis de Belém originates in the Jerónimos Monastery. When the monks lived at the Jerónimos Monastery, they starched clothes with egg whites. Because of the high quantities used, they had a lot of yolks left. These leftovers were then used to make pastries.
During the Liberal Revolution of 1820, many convents and churches had to close their doors, including the Jerónimos Monastery. For that reason, the monks started selling the famous Pastéis de Belém at a nearby sugar refinery. This way, they could earn money and bring in the necessary revenue.
The ancient secret recipe is still used today, and as a result, you might notice a taste different from other pastries you’ve tried before.
Fun fact: outside Belém, the pastries are sold as pastéis de nata. And pastéis is the plural of pastel, a singular cake.
Opening hours of the Jerónimos Monastery
The Jerónimos Monastery is closed on Monday but open all other days between 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM. You can buy tickets at the monastery until 5:00 PM; the last entry is at 5:30 PM. The sanctuary is closed on January 1st and religious holidays like Easter Sunday and Christmas.
There is no strict dress code to visit the Jerónimos Monastery, but as with any church or monastery, you might want to cover up a little. Therefore, please cover your shoulders and be mindful of your outfit.
Tickets to the Jerónimos Monastery
You can visit the church for free, but if you’re going to see the monastery and the cloisters, you’ll need a ticket. The ticket price for the Jerónimos Monastery is € 12,00 per person, and entrance is free with the Lisboa Card. Children aged 0-12 can also enter for free. You can also buy a combo ticket to visit the National Archaeology Museum.
With the Lisboa Card, you can also use the public transport system for free. On top of that, you’ll have access to many more monuments and sights, such as Torre de Belém, the Santa Justa Lift and 35 other places of interest.
The queue to enter the Jerónimos Monastery
The Jeronimos Monastery and the Vasco da Gama and Pessoa tombs are some of Lisbon’s most visited sites! Therefore, the queue to buy a ticket can be long, so booking in advance will save you from standing in the ticketing line and ensuring entrance to the Monastery. Please note, on busy days, there are two lines: one for the main chapel and one for the Monastery.
You’ll find ticket machines towards the lefthand side of the Monastery’s main entrance, which is not always clearly signposted. The machines are also not the most straightforward, and getting your ticket online or using the Lisboa Card is highly recommended. This way, you can walk to the main entrance and skip another (long) queue.
Tip: There is little cover from the sun (or rain!) in the queue. Bring plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, an umbrella and a hat.
What else do to in Belém
Of course, you can’t miss visiting the famous pastry shop to taste an original Pastéis de Belém! Aside from this culinary highlight, they have many other tasty options, and it’s well worth trying a few sweet or hearty snacks. Behind Pastéis de Belém is a beautiful garden you can visit. The Tropical Botanic Garden Belém is a little oasis of peace compared to the busy streets of Belém. You can also enjoy a welcoming break in a small park before the monastery. Or enjoy a dinner in one of the many traditional restaurants in the neighbourhood.
Along the Tagus, you can visit the Torre de Belém and the monument Padrão dos Descobrimentos. If you like to visit a museum, then the Popular Art Museum and Museu Coleção Berardo are highly recommended. The MAAT, or Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia, the National Museum of Archaeology, and the National Coach Museum are also within walking distance. After a day of sightseeing, you can end your visit to Belém with an unforgettable sunset cruise on the river Tagus. Check this guide so as not to miss anything in Belém!
Where to stay in Belém?
With so many sights in Belém, it might be an idea to spend the night here. Furthermore, Belém is a much-loved area, and central Lisbon and the beaches are within reach. The area around the monastery and the Tower of Belém get busy in summer, but the rest of Belém is pretty residential and fantastic for those who enjoy a quiet stay in the city. Some great hotels nearby are the Altis Belem Hotel & Spa, Geronimo Guest House Belém and Ver Belém Suites. You can even sleep on a boat! Check the map below and find your perfect accommodation!
Yes, but the queue to get in might be long. The Monastery has a stunning interior, and you can visit Vasco da Gama's tomb.
The Jerónimos Monastery is built in the famous Manueline style and holds the tombs of Vasco da Gama, Luís de Camões, and Fernando Pessoa. The renowned pastel de nata also originates here.
Tickets to the Jeronimos Monastery are available from € 12 per person.
Yes, the Lisboa Card includes a visit to the Jerónimos Monastery, and you can use public transport for free to get there.
You will need around one to two hours to see the Monastery and the church. You might queue for two hours to get tickets, and buying tickets online will be best.
The Jerónimos Monastery, a former monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome, is a must-see during your time in Lisbon. The Hieronymites Monastery has a stunning interior, which includes the tomb of Vasco da Gama, and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983. King Manuel I commissioned the structure in the 16th century, and the Jerónimos Monastery replaced a former hermitage dedicated to Santa Maria de Belém. King Manuel built it to commemorate Vasco Da Gama’s voyage, and it is the most impressive symbol of Portugal’s wealth and power during the Age of Discovery. The monks were to pray for the king’s soul and guide the explorers. If you want to learn more about Portuguese history, the Jeronimos Monastery is the place to be.
Booking your ticket online is recommended as it can get busy. The Jerónimos Monastery is in the top 10 of the most visited highlights in Lisbon! So, if you want to avoid crowds, come early in the day, later in the day, or during the week. You can visit both the church and the cloisters, and afterwards, you can enjoy a Pastel de Belém in the nearby bakery. Don’t forget to see some of the other sights in Belém, or visit one of the renowned museums. Tip: if you’re in Alcobaça, visit the monastery here instead. There are fewer crowds, and the church is an impressive symbol!