On the second day of our trip in Lisbon, we walked over to Marquês de Pombal Square where the meeting point of the Lisbon Hop On Hop Off Tours was. We took the open-top sightseeing tour bus to Santa Maria de Belém, more commonly known as Belém.
We made our stop in front of Padrão dos Descobrimentos, the Monument to the Discoveries. The monument is located on the bank of Tagus River and it celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries. The sculptures of many relevant heroes of Portuguese history such as Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral can be seen on the side profiles of the monument.
Priced at €3 per student, we took the elevator to the top of the monument for a bird’s-eye view of Belem and its monuments. From the top, we saw the Ponte 25 de Abril (25 de Abril Bridge) crossing Tagus River. The suspension bridge is very similar in appearance to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and it is the 21st largest suspension bridge in the world.
From Padrão dos Descobrimentos, we made our way to the Torre de Belém ou de São Vicente (Tower of Belém). The beautiful monument was originally built in 1515 as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon’s harbour. Now it is a monument to Portugal’s Age of Discovery and UNESCO has listed it as a World Heritage monument.
After a short walk from the Belém Tower, we arrived at the Liga dos Combatentes. Admission for the museum was priced at €2 per person. Inside we saw various clothes and objects used by the Portuguese fighters in trenches during the First World War.
In the same area, we also visited the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery). Similar to the Tower of Belém, the monastery commemorates the Age of Discovery and it was classified as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pictured above is the main church of the monastery, which served as a house of prayer for seamen leaving or entering port, after Vasco da Gama’s successful voyage to India.
After sightseeing around we felt a little hungry and went to Pastéis de Belém. Here’s a little history about pastel de nata – the well-known Portuguese egg tart pastry. It was believed that pastéis de nata was first created by Catholic nuns at the Jerónimos Monastery. And Pastéis de Belém was the first place outside the convent selling the egg tarts, after the monastery was closed in 1820s.
We were not surprised to discover a huge crowd upon entering the patisserie. However, the café was huge and we found ourselves a table at the back of the café where there are more separate and quiet rooms.
We ordered three Pastéis de Belém to start with. The egg tarts were priced at €0.95 each. The pastry was excellent, possibly the best that we’ve had so far! Each were freshly baked out of the oven and served warm. The golden pastry nest was crusty and the custard cream was sweet and creamy. A bit of cinnamon and powdered sugar also enhanced the taste of the egg tart! We loved it so much that we ordered another three more in the café. We also had two glasses of orange juice to quench our thirst during the hot summer’s day. The juice was priced at €2.25 for one glass.
Before leaving, we ordered another four of the egg tarts to take away. (Yes, they were that good!) It was obviously better when eaten warm and fresh in the patisserie, but quite good as well when we ate them the next morning.
Service was fast but we found some of the staff rather impolite. But the price for food was reasonable and the egg tarts were superb! More information can be found on their website where you can visit their factory by taking the visual tour. Stay tuned for our next post on authentic Portuguese cuisine!
Rua de Belém 84 a 92
Tel: +351 213 637 423