Belem deserves its own post as it is a neighbourhood that has so much going for it. It’s vibrant, full of history, is beautiful and holds the record for the best pastry in Portugal! As mentioned after a morning exploring Sintra we made or way via tram to Belem (the trams are so slow and expensive $6NZD PP!! so I wouldn’t recommend them unless really needed)
We met one of Leo’s cousins here who lives nearby to show us around and on the itinerary was the ‘Jeronimos Monstery’, ‘Pasteis De Belem’ and the ‘Torre de Belem’. We first arrived at the Jeronimos Monastery which we were told was once home to the city’s monks of the Order of Saint Jerome. It is probably the biggest building in Belem and this beautiful, imposing building was the first thing we saw when stepping off the tram. Totally awe inspiring. Apparently, it was built in 1501 and is now a USESCO world heritage site – it is also one of the nicest monasteries I have ever been to.
The even better news is that if you want to take a look inside the church, it’s free of charge, and open almost every day from 10:00, closing at 17:30 in the winter and 18:30 during the summer months. Otherwise, it costs $20NZD to visit the whole place, but as we are always on a budget, we kept our snap happys to the outside of the building.
From this beautiful monastery we made our way along the stunning boardwalk past many bars and café’s to get to the Tower of Belém. Again, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the tower is said to have played an important role in the Age of Discoveries, acting as both a fortress and as the main gateway into Lisbon for overseas traders, but now it’s probably best known for it’s picturesque setting for a beautiful photo and opportune spot to watch the sunset. This had been on my list from reading many Portugal blogs and I have to say, it was ok. It is much smaller than I imagined, so a little underwhelming, but overall a great spot to sit, chill and people watch.
The last and most important stop of the evening was ‘pasteis de Belem’. Now for all those who know me, will know that I love cakes, pastries, food in general and after hearing about this world famous bakery known for it’s perfect pastry, I would say I was more excited to try this than anything else in our full day of adventuring! Belem is the birthplace of these tiny creamy desserts which in my previous blog have been referred to as Pastel de Nata but Pastéis de Belém is a store and café specialising in these pastries, and ‘specialised’ is definitely the right word. This bakery has been producing freshly-made Nata since 1837, using the original recipe created by monks in the neighbouring monastery.
Now, I have now tried 7 of these little beauties through Portugal and I can honestly say 1 is not enough, in fact 3-4 would not be enough and if I hadn’t put on so much flubber then past few months then I would have stuffed my greedy wee face till I burst. (man, I miss the gym)
Leo loved them as well and for someone who doesn’t have a sweet tooth, he was floored at the first bite. These gooey, creamy delicacies sprinkled with icing sugar and cinnamon were literally one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth. I urge you if in Lisbon – go here! God, I could be there sales rep…what a fantastic job that would be!!
That brings our day to the end, which after 35k + steps I was grateful to get the fuck home and sleep. Tummy filled with yummy desserts and camera full of fab photos, I would say was a 10/10 successful day! It also brings us to the end of our Portuguese adventure as tomorrow we are off to Croatia!!
Hey! I'm Ally. I left the UK in 2011 to move overseas and ended up in New Zealand - my new home. This year we are taking a gap year to loop the world stopping in some AMAZING destinations - and I'm passionate about sharing these adventures with you!