With its maritime history, attractive riverside location and slew of good museums, Belém (pronounced Ber-layng) is rightly one of Lisbon’s most popular suburbs. It was from here that Vasco da Gama set off for India in 1497, and the vast Mosteiro dos Jerónimos was built here to honour his safe return. Along with the monastery and the landmark Torre de Belém, the suburb boasts a group of small museums, most of them set up under the Salazar regime during the Expo in 1940 – though the best of the lot, the Berrardo Collection, is a more recent addition. Just to the north of Belém is Ajuda, famed for its palace and ancient botanical gardens. When planning your trip, bear in mind that quite a few of the sights at Belém are closed on Mondays, and many are free on Sunday mornings.
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