The Fort of Bom Sucesso in Lisbon

The Fort of Bom Sucesso and Museum of Combatants is in the riverside Belem district of Lisbon.

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If you’re feeling positive you might be tempted to translate the name of Lisbon’s Forte do Bom Sucesso as ‘Fortress of Good Success.’ That would be a decent stab at a literal rendering though it’s usually known in English as the Fort of Bom Sucesso.

The fort stands in Lisbon’s waterfront Belem district, an area known internationally primarily for the Manueline-style Heironymites Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos) and Tower of Belem (Torre de Belem), A-list stars with UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Comparatively few visitors pop into the squat Fort of Bom Sucesso, located within the kick of a football from the ornate tower.

Looking at Portugal’s Overseas War

If you’re enthusiastic about military history then the fort, which houses the Museum of Combatants (Museu do Combatente) will prove worth a visit. The museum is run by the League of Combatants and tells the story of Portuguese military personnel serving in the Overseas War (known in Portuguese as the Guerra do Ultramar and sometimes, in English, as the Portuguese Colonial War) fought from 1961 to 1975 in Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique.

More than 8,000 Portuguese lost their lives during the bitterly fought campaigns in Africa. Their names are inscribed on a marble monument in front of the fort. A further 15,500 returned home with permanent physical or mental injuries. A guard of honour stands by the angular war memorial (the Memorial aos Combatentes da Guerra do Ultramar) which was unveiled on 12 May 1993. An eternal flame flutters in the breeze from the nearby river Tagus.

The River Tagus and WWII

The fort itself dates to the late eighteenth century. It was built to protect Lisbon’s seaward approaches and the main batteries still point out towards the mouth of the Tagus estuary. You’ll see artillery pieces on display, including the guns that would have protected the port had it come under naval attack during World War Two.

You can also see an M5A1 tank, which saw service in Angola, and a rusting four-wheel drive. The latter, in particular, could do with an urgent spot of renovation. If you’re a casual visitor then you’d probably welcome information on where and how the artefacts displayed were used. Unfortunately, there’s little to add value to a visit.

History Books and Revolution

The only books offered for sale at the shop by the entrance to the museum are Portuguese editions. A shame, as the Portuguese Colonial War is a fascinating conflict. Involvement and reactions were factors that prompted the Carnation Revolution of 1974.

Temporary exhibitions are also held within the fort. Not have military connections. They have included Micro-Safari, an exhibition of lizards, snakes, lizards, amphibians and glass tanks holding creatures that non-experts tend to describe as creepy-crawlies.

Before leaving Belem, it makes sense to pause for a drink and possibly a snack at the Cafe do Forte, situated between the Fort of Bom Sucesso and the Tower of Belem. The cafe is reasonably priced and its terrace is a fine place to sit and enjoy the sun setting over the Tagus.

Memorial to Combatants of the Overseas War (Memorial aos Combatentes da Guerra do Ultramar) in Belem, Lisbon, Portugal. Photo by Stuart Forster.
Memorial to Combatants of the Overseas War (Memorial aos Combatentes da Guerra do Ultramar) in Belem, Lisbon, Portugal. 

Further Information

Learn more about the historic sites of Belem on the Visit Lisbon website. See the Visit Portugal website for information on Lisbon and beyond.

Thanks for reading this article about the Fort of Bom Sucesso & Museum of Combatants in Belem, Lisbon. Thinking of travelling to the Portuguese capital? Check out this Go Eat Do city guide for making the most of 48 hours in Lisbon.

Photographs illustrating this post are by Why Eye Photography, which is based in North East England and can be reached on 07947 587136.

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1 Comment

  • isabel martins

    April 25, 2014 at 16:36 Reply

    Your page is great and thanks for publishing such a pleasant article about us.

    In our new exhibition, The Trench, you get inside a trench of World War I and experience a light and sound show.

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