Monument to the Discoveries

Monument to the Discoveries celebrates Portugal's Age of Exploration. Towering by the Tagus, it honors pioneers who charted unknown waters.

by Melissa "Work those glutes" Boyd
Statues of The Monument to the Discoveries set against a blue sky with clouds.

As I approached the banks of the Tagus River in Lisbon, the towering figure of the Monument to the Discoveries, or as the locals call it, “Padrão dos Descobrimentos,” stood majestically against the backdrop of the azure sky. This monument, which pays homage to Portugal’s Age of Exploration, is not just a testament to the nation’s rich maritime history but also a symbol of human endeavor and the spirit of discovery.

Historical Insights

The Monument to the Discoveries, standing tall and proud on the banks of the Tagus River, was inaugurated in 1960, marking a significant milestone in Portugal’s history. This was not just any date but the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator. Known as “Infante Dom Henrique” in Portuguese, Prince Henry was a visionary who ignited the spark of curiosity and exploration in the hearts of many Portuguese sailors. Under his patronage, the once uncharted waters became pathways to new lands, cultures, and opportunities.

As I stood there, looking up at the monument, the sheer grandeur and detail of the 33 figures carved into the stone left me in awe. Each figure, meticulously sculpted, represents a significant individual from Portugal’s Age of Discovery. Leading the procession is Prince Henry himself, holding a caravel in his hands, symbolizing the ships that would venture into the unknown.

Following him are renowned explorers like Vasco da Gama, who found the sea route to India, and Ferdinand Magellan, credited with the first circumnavigation of the Earth. There are cartographers, like Pedro Reinel and his son Jorge Reinel, who charted these new territories, ensuring that future generations could follow in the explorers’ footsteps.

But it wasn’t just about discovery. The monument also honors missionaries like Saint Francis Xavier, who spread Christianity to the East, and literary figures like Camões, who penned the epic “Os Lusíadas,” celebrating these voyages.

Kings, such as King Manuel I and King Afonso V, are also depicted, showcasing their support and endorsement of these perilous yet promising voyages. Their inclusion signifies the crucial role the monarchy played in backing and funding these expeditions.

The monument serves as a visual timeline, capturing the essence of an era when Portugal was at the forefront of global exploration. It was a time of courage, innovation, and an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Each figure, with its unique contributions, weaves a rich tapestry of stories that shaped the course of history and positioned Portugal as a global maritime power.

The Monument to the Discoveries showcasing sculpted figures on its side with a clear blue sky backdrop.
The Monument to the Discoveries stands tall against the azure skies of Lisbon.

Visitor Information

Hours of Operation: The monument is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., with the last admission at 6:30 p.m. However, during the winter months (November to February), it closes an hour earlier.

Admission Fees: There’s a nominal fee to enter the monument, with discounts available for students, seniors, and families. Children under 12 enter for free.

Transportation Options to Monument to the Discoveries

How to Get There

The monument is easily accessible by various modes of transportation:
Tram: The famous tram 15E stops near the monument.
Bus: Several bus lines, including 727, 28, 729, 714, and 751, will get you there.
Train: The Belém train station is a short walk away.
By Foot: If you’re in the Belém area, it’s a pleasant walk along the riverfront.

Optimizing Your Visit

  • Climb to the Top: One of the highlights of my visit was the opportunity to ascend to the top of the monument. From here, you get a panoramic view of the Tagus River, the Belém Tower, and the Jerónimos Monastery. The elevator takes you part of the way but be prepared for a few flights of stairs to reach the very top. Trust me; the view is worth every step!
  • Visit Early or Late: To avoid the midday crowds and the scorching sun, consider visiting early in the morning or late in the afternoon. The soft lighting during these times also offers a magical touch to your photographs.
  • Interactive Museum: Inside the monument, there’s an interactive museum that provides deeper insights into the Age of Discovery. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the history and stories of the explorers.
  • Wear Comfortable Shoes: The area around the monument is paved with traditional Portuguese cobblestones, which can be uneven. Comfortable walking shoes will make your exploration much more enjoyable.
  • Local Eateries: After your visit, indulge in some traditional Portuguese pastries at the nearby cafés. The famous ‘Pastéis de Belém‘ is a must-try!
Aerial view of the historic Belem Tower overlooking the coastline, surrounded by modern infrastructure and bustling activity.
Belem Tower standing tall: A symbol of history amidst the ever-evolving cityscape.

Last Minute Tips

  • Guided Tours: Consider joining a guided tour. Knowledgeable guides can offer insights and anecdotes that you might miss on your own.
  • Stay Hydrated: Lisbon can get quite warm, especially in the summer. Carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated during your visit.
  • Combine with Nearby Attractions: The Belém area is rich in historical sites. Plan your day to include the nearby Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery.

As I walked away from the Monument to the Discoveries, I felt a deep connection to the explorers of the past and a renewed sense of wonder for the world around me. This monument is not just a tribute to Portugal’s glorious past but also an inspiration for all of us to discover, learn, and grow. If you find yourself in Lisbon, make sure to set sail on this historical journey – it’s an experience you won’t want to miss!

*Disclosure: Hey there! Just a heads-up: some links on this page are affiliate links for products and services I genuinely love and recommend. If you decide to make a purchase or subscribe through them, I’ll earn a small commission for my coffee fund ☕. Don’t worry. I’ll be using that energy to create even more awesome content for you. Thanks a million for your support! – Melissa

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Hi! We’re Melissa, Michael, and Samantha. We’re a nomadic family from the United States, currently living and building our new lives in Lisbon, Portugal. Follow us on our adventures as we explore this beautiful city and all it has to offer.