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Belém and the Legacy of Portuguese Exploration

Enduring for over six centuries, the Portuguese Empire was actually the first colonial empire of Europe, leading the continent's Age of Discovery. With superior cutting-edge maritime technology and having a who's-who of historical explorers and sailors, the Portuguese mapped out whole coasts of the Americas, Africa, and Asia, while its European rivals were still squabbling on the main land. 

And Lisbon's Belem district, contains monuments and landmarks to this proud Portuguese legacy.

Monument to the Discoveries

* By far, the coolest monument in Belem is that of the Monument of the Discoveries; featuring some of the world's most important explorers and situated right on the port where ships used to depart for Africa, India, and the Orient.

Monument to the Discoveries

* There are 33 figures honored here, and among them are:

1. Henry the Navigator: Father of the Age of Discovery
2. Vasco de Gama: who discovered the sea route to India
3. Pedro Alvares Cabral: who discovered Brazil
4. Ferdinand Magellan: first man to circumnavigate the globe, and discovered the Philippines
5. Bartolomeu Dias: first man to cross over the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa
6. St. Francis Xavier: Jesuit missionary to Japan, Borneo and the Moluccas 

Lisbon Port

* Today Portugal still very much has a sailing culture, trading in ships for yachts.

Monument to the Discoveries

* At the rear of the Monument stands the Christian Cross, a reminder that all this sailing had much to do with spreading the Christian faith as it did exploring the known world.

Portuguese Exploration

* On the floor of the monument is a giant world map, which shows how extensive the Portuguese sailing routes got.

Portuguese Exploration

* "To boldly go where no man (European) has gone before", to quote a famous Star Trek captain.

Belem Tower

* Down the street from the Monument, stands the fortified Tower of Belem, built to protect Lisbon from pirates and rival European powers. Armed with 17 cannons, the Tower was a Beast!

Lisbon Hop On Bus

* Ahhh hop-on hop-off buses.. a mainstay of every European capital!

Lisbon Directions

* Belem also contains other noteworthy museums and attractions.

National Coach Museum

* One of which is the National Coach Museum, housing one of the finest collections of carriages in the world. 

National Coach Museum

* With English, French, German, Austrian, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese carriages on display, the Museum walks you through the history of royal carriages.

National Coach Museum

* From the simple.

National Coach Museum

* To the opulent and extravagant!

National Coach Museum

National Coach Museum

* What a supercar must have looked like back then!

National Coach Museum

National Coach Museum

* Check-out the detail on this one!

National Coach Museum

* Modern-era carriages, pre-automobile!

National Coach Museum

* Six horsepower engine!

National Coach Museum

* Ancient hop-on hop-off bus!

Lisbon Pop Up

* With a hipster pop-up souvenir stand!

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