After our fantastic day out to Sintra, it was time to explore a little more of Lisbon. When doing research about Portugal before our holiday, I’d read so much about the famous egg tarts, and there was one place in particular that kept popping up – Pastéis de Belém.
The delicious custardy tarts were originally created by 18th century monks at the Jerónimos Monstery (which we also visited), as at the time large quantities of egg-whites were used for starching the clothes in the monastery. This led to a lot of leftover egg yolks, which were then made into cakes and pastries. The monks started to sell the “pastéis de nata” to secure a small income, and when the monastery was later closed, the recipe was sold to the nearby sugar refinery, whose owners opened the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém in 1837.
So it was decided – a trip to Belém was in order. Luckily the Pastéis de Belém shop is not the only attraction there, we also set out to visit the incredible Jerónimos Monastery, as well as the Torre de Belém.
After a quick ride on the tram, we (along with seemingly every other tourist in Lisbon) arrived in Belém. Our first stop was to visit the monastery, which with all of the incredible turrets and architecture, is very easy to spot.
Next to the actual monastery is a large church, which is free to enter. We made our way inside and marvelled at the incredible high ceilings and stained glass windows.
After admiring the church and tombs of many famous Portuguese people, we made our way inside the monastery (it’s not free to enter, but you can buy a combined ticket for the Tower of Belém as well).
I think the pictures really just speak for themselves – the interior is so well designed and absolutely beautiful.
We wandered around, checking out the smaller rooms which had some interesting displays about the history of the monastery.
As with the other days, it had actually rained briefly in the morning whilst we were having breakfast, but luckily by the time we were out of the hotel the sun had come out and it had warmed up nicely.
The monastery was just stunning, and I’m so happy we had the chance to explore it. I’m glad we made it just before peak season as well, as I can imagine it could get really busy in summer time.
Our next port of call was the Torre de Belém, or Belém Tower. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (which the Jerónimos Monastery also is) and was built in the early 16th century.
It started out as a fort to defend Lisbon, and was later used as a prison, a customs control point for ships and a telegraph service point. So it had many uses throughout the centuries, and is now a top spot for checking out the surrounding area.
Whilst on our way there, we walked along the waterfront, spotting the 25 de Abril Bridge, a suspension bridge very similar to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransisco. In the distance you can also see the Cristo Rei Christ Statue, which is reminiscent of the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro.
After a lovely walk along the water, we arrived at the tower. Luckily we had bought our tickets in advance at the monastery, as the queue was enormous – we seemed to have arrived at exactly the same time as a huge school group.
We made our way inside, checking out all of the canons which were once used as protection in battle.
You can go to the upstairs part, however since the staircase inside is tiny and very old, they only allow 120 people in at a time. This meant a rather long queue of people waiting to go up, which we had to join. Once we made it to the top, it was a little bit underwhelming – although the view was lovely, it definitely wasn’t worth the long wait!
The clouds were starting to get a little bit darker and there was a bit of a chill in the air, so we decided the best way to warm up would be with a delicious egg tart. That was the main reason we came to Belém after all, right?!
The inside of the cafe supposedly seats 400, however it was ridiculously busy and there was a queue just to get a table!
We decided the best way to sample the tarts would be to get them from the takeaway queue, which was fortunately almost empty.
And I can confirm – they were most definitely the best in the city! Warm, flaky pastry, and a soft custardy filling, they really hit the spot. In fact, we couldn’t help ourselves and had to go back in to get some more to take with us back to Dubai.
After a wonderful day exploring some of Belém, we hopped on the tram back towards our hotel.
Ready to sample some more delicious fresh seafood and Portuguese wine for dinner on our last evening in the city.