Visiting Lisbon’s Jeronimos Monastery

Lisbon has a really special place in my heart. The narrow streets, the river, the food and coffee, the tiles and the hospitality really left me with an overwhelming feeling to return immediately just after I left. What I love most about the city is its old-style charm and the amazing monuments left behind by the past. Jerónimos Monastery is one of those monuments. Situated in the area of Bélem, a short tram ride from the city, this UNESCO world heritage sight is a must visit when you’re in Lisbon.

How to get to Jerónimos Monastery

As mentioned in my post Visiting Lisbon’s Bélem District, getting to Bélem from Lisbon’s city center is really easy. Take tram 15 from Cais do Sodre station or tram 15 or 27 from Figuera Square. You can also use bus lines 728, 28, 729, 751, or catch a direct train from Cais do Sodre. The train station is a little bit further away from the Monastery, so if you don’t want to walk far, rather use the tram or the bus. The popular Red tourist bus also has a drop-off right in front of Jerónimos Monastery.

If you are in Lisbon for a few days, I’d recommend buying the Lisboa Card. You can use it on all of the trams and buses, and entry to Jerónimos Monastery. The 24h pass only costs 20 euro. Buy your card here.

Best time to visit Jerónimos Monastery

Jerónimos Monastery is closed on Mondays, but open every other day of the week. Because of its popularity, there is always a bunch of tourists visiting. The best time to visit Jerónimos Monastery is later in the afternoons or during off-season months like January and February. We visited in late September very early in the morning, so the queue was not so long.

The church of Santa Maria has free entrance and to enter the cloister will cost you about 10 euro (included with the Lisboa card).

Make sure stand in the correct queue. There is actually two lines, one for the church and one for the monastery – you might end up queuing for the church when you wanted to enter the monastery first and then have to queue again. It is a bit chaotic, with people skipping the line, or pretending they were in the wrong line and just push in front of you. Another reason to visit in off-peak time.

No queues, er..because we came on a Monday when it was closed. Returned the next day.
History of Jerónimos Monastery

It is said that Vasco da Gama spent the night in prayer on the spot where the Monastery is built the night before he took off on his great adventure to India, in the then much smaller Santa Maria church. It was the duty of the monks to look after the sailors the night before they departed on their journeys. The Monastery was built by order of King Manuel I to commemorate the return of Vasco da Gama from India. The construction started in 1501 and took 100 years to complete, making Jerónimos Monastery around 500 years old. The Monastery is constructed in the Manueline style Gothic architecture with loads of ornamental arches and spires inspired by the ocean and Portugal’s maritime past.

The monks that stayed here was from the Order of Jerome and it is here that they developed the secret recipe to the famous Pasteis de Belem, which is just across the street. Jerónimos Monastery is a celebration of Portugal’s Age of Discoveries and was declared an UNESCO Wold Heritage site in 1983.

Things to do in Lisbon – Visit Jeronimos Monastery

Things to see

Enjoy the beautiful facade from the outside. It is truly beautiful to behold and take in all the details.

Explore the Chapel. The roof of the chapel is fascinating with huge columns stretching from the floor into glorious spines of the arches that holds it together.

Look for the tombs of famous historical figures. You will find the tomb of Vasco da Gama here and some other famous Portuguese figures like the poet Luis de Camões, Fernando Pessoa and King Manuel I.

Admire the beautiful architecture of the cloister. The inside of the cloister honestly took by breath away. I spent a while admiring the beautiful arches surrounding the green courtyard and taking in the small details of the area. The small spires on top kept reminding me of upside-down ice cream cones.

Day trip to Belem Monasterio Jeronimos

Stroll through the gardens. Once you exit, and before moving on to discover the rest of Bélem, take a stroll through the beautiful palace gardens right across the street. There’s a great big fountain in the middle that will spritz some cool water your way on a hot day.

Things to do in Belem Imperio Square

Take gazillion photos of arches – Possibly one of my favorite hobbies. Okay I’m sure you already get the idea. Arches, arches and more arches.

A visit to Jerónimos Monastery is a must when in Lisbon. You can follow-up your visit with a delicious Pasteis de Belem and a strong Portuguese coffee afterwards.

Want to know what else you can see in Bélem? Look no further, it’s all in my Visiting Lisbon’s Bélem District post. Or have a look at 10 Things to do in Lisbon on your first trip.

Accommodation in Lisbon: We stayed at this charming guest house close to Cais do Sodre station.

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