Tuesday 5 June 2012

Lisbon Belém Running Route

Click here for route map 
Length 8 km (5 miles), terrain flat

Lisbon Running Routes:
Best Lisbon Running Routes: Overview
Park of Nations (Oriente)
Ancient Alfama  
Elegant Lisbon Downtown  
Belem World Cultural Site  
Cool Bairro Alto

For other running routes, see the Route List

One of my favorite Lisbon neighborhoods is Belém. It's home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Hey, how many of your running routes can claim that?) as well as the presidential palace, a tropical botanical garden, monuments, forts, and has a great, flat running trail right next to the Tejo River.

NOTE: see the Destinations Tips page for tips about spending your free time in this great town!
Most of the Tejo riverfront is fairly industrial, lined with loud streets, railway lines, warehouses and factories. But the city has reclaimed some fairly long stretches of riverside land in recent years, converting it into parks with marinas, cafés and museums. And the Tejo around Belém makes up one of the best stretches of nice riverfront. It has become one of the city's most popular running trails, full of runners, bikers and sight-seers.
The Tejo riverfront, with Belém lighthouse and Torre de Belém in distance
Belém was once a separate town, west of Lisbon, a royal district where the first Portuguese explorers sailed off to find a sea route around Africa. And the treasures that were brought back from around the world were used to build the two UNESCO sites: the Torre de Belém, and Jeronimo monastery.

Today Belém is just one of Lisbon's western suburbs. Getting there will be your logistical problem for this run: it's located a few kilometers west of the downtown, the Baixa. I would recommend taking the 15E tram line. You can get on at Rossio square, or at Praça do Comércio or at the Cais do Sodré train station right at the river. Riding the tram is a must-do thing anyway in Lisbon, with those ancient wooden cars screeching down the tracks. It costs about €3 a trip.
One of the older Lisbon trams: gotta take a ride!
Ride the tram westwards (towards Algés) until it passes under the giant suspension bridge over the Tejo, the Ponte 25 Abril. Get out at the second stop after the bridge, at Junqueira, a stop after the big tram depot and the Carris (public transport) Museum.

After exiting the tram, turn south (left from the tram) and run down Travessa de Guarda past the Congress Center. After a block, it runs into the wall of Avenida da India, a loud highway divided by a train line. It's impossible to cross at ground level. But no problem, just take the metal pedestrian bridge to the promised land -- the Tejo River -- on the other side.
Ponte 25 Abril
And suddenly, you're in a nice riverside park along the water, with a great view of the suspension bridge and the gigantic Jesus statue behind it. Now just turn right to head westwards among the many other runners, bikers and fishermen out there. The river is really wide here, more like a bay than a river.

After the Belem ferry station, you have to turn inland to run around a small marina harbor before turning back to the riverside.

Now, you suddenly notice that you've arrived in Belém: you can see the exquisite stonework of Jeronimo monastery across the busy road, to the right, behind a beautiful park. We'll get over there later, don't worry.

But now, to the left, you'll come to the impressive Discoverers' monument at the water's edge.

The Portuguese Discoverers
Keep running westwards past the monument and you'll see Belém's other UNESCO site down the river, the Torre (tower) de Belém. This beautiful little fort was built to protect Lisbon from naval attacks, but it looks way too decorative to be used in actual warfare, and is thankfully still standing, intact.

Before reaching the tower, you have to run around another marina basin, then go by the yacht club. There is a wider park around the tower, and an aviation monument marking the first Southern Atlantic flight in 1922, which took off from here and ended in Brasil.
Aviation monument
When the gateway into the tower is open, it's definitely worth taking a quick look inside. Sometimes, during high-tide and strong winds, you have to dodge the crashing waves to cross the walkway dry.
The Torre de Belém
Just past the tower, there's another, more functional old fort, now a museum with a memorial to the soldiers who died in Portugal's many colonial wars.
The fort and war memorial
You could continue running westwards along the river for a short ways, but this route will turn around here, and head back to the aviation monument, where you turn left through the park to the Avenida da India again.

Take the pedestrian bridge to the north side of the road and keep running north the two blocks to Rua Bartolomeu Dias, with its tram tracks. 

Turn right here, running eastwards, and pass the modern Centro Cultural de Belém, which has some free art exhibits.
Cultural Center
On the left side, you are approaching the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos monastery. At its west end, you can run into the courtyard towards the planetarium, surrounded by the Maritime Museum, with lots of old anchors, traditional boats and other curiosities, not the least of which is a drinking fountain, a life-saver on hot days!
Jeronimo doorway
Now run eastwards along the south façade of the monastery, now an antiquities museum. The small circular windows all have different stone designs. The two doorways into the church are truly amazing, and the stone façade is one great piece of artwork.
St. Jeronimo detailing work: amazing craftsmanship
Now cross the street to the south into the park, the Praça do Imperio, with its giant fountain. Then turn east to run through the beautiful gardens lined by olives and cypresses.
Praça do Imperio fountain
When you come to the line of old restaurants on the left, turn left to get back to the elegant, little shopping street, the Rua de Belém.

Turn left here, before the line of restaurants
Right across the street, you'll see Portugal's most famous bakery, the Pasteis de Belém. They invented those wonderful "natas" (custard tarts), and there is always a line of people waiting to take them home by the boxful. I've sometimes ordered a box of six to eat as dinner in the park (OK, it's not exactly healthfood).
Pasteis de Belém
NOTE: To the left, behind the tram turn-around station, is the entrance to the 6-hectare tropical botanical gardens, the Jardim do Ultramar. You have to pay for admittance, so I didn't include a loop through it, but you might want to add it to this run. It costs just €1.50, and is open until 5- or 6-p.m. depending on the season.
Jardim Ultramar, a tropical paradise
Now turn eastwards and run past the shops, which end after just one block. You are now at the next beautiful square, the Praça Alfonso, with the pink presidential palace on the left, with the palace guards out on the sidewalk.
The presidential palace entrance
Cross the square diagonally to the right to get back to the Avenida da India.

Here, again, is a pedestrian bridge back to the other side, where you'll come to the Belém ferry station again.

Now, just turn left and follow your trail back to the starting point at the Junquiera tram stop again, and take the 15E tram back home.


  1. What are you saying?

    "Today Belém is just one of Lisbon's western suburbs. "

    Belém is not a suburb. Is part of the city. Belem takes part in the affairs of Lisbon.

    Suburbs are outside the city and do not take part in the affairs of Lisbon.

  2. Sorry, I didn't phrase it very well: what I meant is that Belem is no longer a separate town, but integrated into Lisbon... And it's still a very beautiful place.