At Belém, where the Tagus (Tejo in Portuguese) meets the sea, the Portuguese caravels that charted the areas unknown to the Western world set out: Vasco da Gama to India, Ferdinand Magellan to circumnavigate the globe, and Bartolomeu Dias to round the Cape of Good Hope.
Belém emerged from the Restelo, the point of land from which the ships set sail across the so-called Sea of Darkness. The district flourished as riches, especially spices, poured into Portugal. Great monuments, including the Tower of Belém and Jerónimos Monastery, were built and embellished in the Manueline style.
In time, the royal family established a summer palace here. Much of the district's character emerged when wealthy Lisboans began moving out of the city center and building town houses here. For many years, Belém was a separate municipality. Eventually it was incorporated into Lisbon as a parish. Nowadays it's a magnet for visitors to its many museums. For most visitors, the primary sight is the Torre de Belém.
To reach the attractions here, board tram no. 15 leaving from Praça do Comércio in the center of Lisbon (trip time: 15 min.). Bus no. 28 or 43 departs from Praça da Figueira, again taking 15 minutes. You can also take a suburban train leaving from Estação Cais do Sodré, taking only 10 minutes. All these fares are 1.40€. If you selected the tram or bus, get off at the stop marked Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, which is the next station after the stop called Belém. Once at the train station, walk (with care) across the tracks and then cross the street turning to the left. Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is to the right, reached after a walk through public gardens. Padrão dos Descobrimentos fronts the water. It lies across the highway to your left (take the underpass).