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Belém is famous as the place from which many of the great Portuguese explorers set off on their voyages of discovery. In particular, it is the place from which Vasco da Gama departed for India in 1497. It is also a former royal residence and features the 17th–18th century Belém Palace, former royal residence and now occupied by the President of Portugal, and the Ajuda Palace, begun in 1802 but never completed.
Perhaps Belém's most famous feature is its tower, Torre de Belém, whose image is much used by Lisbon's tourist board. The tower was built as a fortified lighthouse late in the reign of Dom Manuel (1515–1520) to guard the entrance to the port. It stood on a little island in right side of the Tagus, surrounded by water. Belém's other major historical building is the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery), which the Torre de Belém was built partly to defend. Belém's most notable modern feature is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries).In the heart of Belém is the Praça do Império: gardens centred upon a large fountain, laid out during World War II. To the west of the gardens lies the Centro Cultural de Belém. Belém is one of the most visited Lisbonite districts.
   
 
BELÉM TOWER
 
JERÓNIMOS MONASTERY
Belém Tower (Portuguese: Torre de Belém) - constructed on the rocky outcropping/island along the northern margin of the Tagus River as part of a defensive system to protect access to the Tagus estuary envisioned by John II of Portugal, it is one of Belém's iconic symbols of the parish. Originally, the Tower of Saint Vincent (Portuguese: Torre de São Vicente), it was elaborated by Manuel I of Portugal (1515–1520) to guard the entrance to the port at Belém. It stood on a little island in right side of the Tagus, surrounded by water.
 
Jerónimos Monastery (Portuguese: Mosteiro dos Jerónimos) - located along the Praça do Império, across from the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, it was originally built to support pilgrims who travelled in the region by Henry the Navigator; expanded and elaborated from 1501 by architects for King Manuel I of Portugal to serve as a resting-place for members of the House of Aviz-Beja; and as a church for seafearing adventurers who embarked during the Age of Discovery, after Vasco da Gama's successful voyage to India. Construction was funded by a tax on eastern spices, and over time came to represent Portuguese historical discoveries, becoming over time a national monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site, housing (in addition to the religious art and furniture from its past) artefacts and exhibitions like the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia (National Archaeological Museum) and the Museu da Marinha (Maritime Museum) within its walls.
     
 
MONUMENT TO THE DISCOVERIES
BELÉM PALACE
Monument to the Discoveries (Portuguese: Padrão dos Descobrimentos) - located on the edge of the Tagus' northern bank, this 52 metre-high slab of concrete, was erected in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. The monument is sculpted in the form of a ship's prow, with dozens of figures from Portuguese history following a statue of the Infante Henry sculpted in base relief. Adjacent to the monument is a calçada square in the form of a map, showing the routes of various Portuguese explorers, during the Age of Discovery.
 
The Belém National Palace, or alternately National Palace of Belém, (Portuguese: Palácio Nacional de Belém) has, overtime, been the official residence of Portuguese monarchs and, after the installation of the First Republic, the Presidents of the Portuguese Republic. Located in the civil parish of Santa Maria de Belém, the palace is located on a small hill that fronts the Praça Afonso de Albuquerque, near the historical centre of Belém and the Monastery of the Jeronimos, close to the waterfront of the Tagus River. The five buildings that makeup the main façade of the Palace date back to the second half of the 17th century, and were built at a time when, more and more, the monarchy and nobility were escaping the urbanized confines of Lisbon.
     
 
NATIONAL COACH MUSEUM
 
ELECTRICITY MUSEUM
The museum is housed in the old Horse Riding Arena of the Belém Palace, formerly a Royal Palace which is now the official residence of the President of Portugal. The Horse Riding Area was built after 1787 following the Neoclassical design of Italian architect Giacomo Azzolini. Several Portuguese artists decorated the interior of the building with paintings and tile (azulejo) panels. The inner arena is 50 m long and 17 m wide, and was used for training horses and for horse riding exhibitions and games, which could be watched from its balconies by the Portuguese royal family.
The museum was created in 1905 by Queen Amélia to house an extensive collection of carriages belonging to the Portuguese royal family and nobility. The collection gives a full picture of the development of carriages from the late 16th through the 19th centuries, with carriages made in Italy, Portugal, France, Spain, Austria and England.
Among its rarest items is a late 16th/early 17th-century travelling coach used by King Philip II of Portugal to come from Spain to Portugal in 1619. There are also several pompous Baroque 18th century carriages decorated with paintings and exuberant gilt woodwork, the most impressive of these being a ceremonial coach given by Pope Clement XI to King John V in 1715, and the two coaches of the Portuguese embassador to Pope Clement XI, built in Rome in 1716.
A section of the museum is located in the Ducal Palace of Vila Viçosa, in Southern Portugal.
 
The Electricity Museum (in Portuguese Museu da Electricidade) is a cultural centre that presents the evolution of Energy with a Museum of Science and Industrial Archaeology concept, where themed and experimental exhibits live side by side with a great variety of cultural events. Located in the Belém area on terrain Lisbon usurped from the Tagus River (Tejo in Portuguese) at the end of the 19th century, in one of the city’s areas with the greatest concentration of historical monuments where one can find, among others, the Jerónimos Monastery, the Belém Cultural Centre, the Tower of Belém, the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, the Portuguese Presidential Palace and Museum, the Coach Museum or the Cordoaria Nacional (national rope factory). A building classified as a Public Interest Project, the Electricity Museum unfolds along the perimeter of the old thermoelectric plant – the Tejo Power Station, which illuminated the city of Lisbon for more than four decades.
     
   
AJUDA PALACE    
Palácio Nacional da Ajuda (English: Ajuda National Palace) - initiated by Manuel Caetano de Sousa, the project was actually begun in 1795 (cornerstone), but under the directorship of Francisco Xavier Fabri and José da Costa e Silva the actual construction began in 1802, with many neo-classical influences and later remodelled by Francisco Rosa. Until 1910 it was the official residence of the King of Portugal.
   
     
     
   
A Pastel de Nata, is a Portuguese egg tart pastry, common in Portugal, the Lusosphere countries and regions (which include Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Guinea-Bissau, Timor-Leste, Goa, and Macau, introducing them later in Mainland China), and countries with significant Portuguese immigrant populations, such as Canada, Australia, Luxembourg, the United States, and France, among others.
It is believed that pastéis de nata were created before the 18th century by Catholic monks at the Jerónimos Monastery (Portuguese: Mosteiro dos Jerónimos) in the civil parish of Santa Maria de Belém, in Lisbon: for this reason, they are alternately known as Pastéis de Belém (singular: Pastel de Belém). During Portuguese medieval history, the convents and monasteries of Portugal produced large quantities of eggs, whose egg-whites were in demand for starching of clothes (such as nuns' habits) and also in wineries (where they were used in the clearing of wines, such as Porto). It was quite common for these Portuguese monasteries and convents to produce many confections with the leftover egg yolks, resulting in a proliferation of sweet pastry recipes throughout the country.
Following the expulsion of the religious orders, and later the closing of many of the convents and monasteries in the aftermath of the Liberal Revolution of 1820, the production of pastéis de nata passed to the Casa Pastéis de Belém nearby. It was this association, with the parish of Santa Maria de Belém that resulted in its popular name: Pastéis de Belém, after the name of the area and its bakery. The former religious clerics, in order to keep producing the secret and distinct recipe, therefore patented and registered the confection, while contracting the Antiga Confeiteira de Belém, Lda. to produce pastries based on their original recipe. The secret was transmitted to five master pastry chefs who guarded this original recipe, under the Oficina do Segredo, which later passed into the hands of familial descendents.
Since 1837, locals and visitors to Lisbon have visited the bakery to purchase fresh from the oven pastéis, sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Their popularity normally results in long lines at the take-away counters, in addition to waiting lines for sit-down service.
   
     
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