Lisbon - A Day in Belém

The Tower of Belém at the edges of the Tagus River in Lisbon, Portugal.
On my second day in Lisbon I took the train out to Belém, a neighborhood in the southwesternmost corner of the city known for its Age of Discovery monuments. Located right on the River Tagus, Belém was often the departure spot for Portuguese explorers leaving to "discover" new lands. Between the Tower of Belém, the Jerónimos Monastery, and some great local eats, a trip to Belém is a beautiful way to spend a day in Lisbon.

The most famous pastry shop in Lisbon, Fábrica de Pasteis de Belém, don't miss their amazing egg pastry.
Perfect Pastel de Belém, fabulous flaky pastry filled with egg custard and a burnished top.
It's always busy at Pasteis de Belém, but don't let the crowds stop you.

Before starting my sightseeing I stopped for breakfast at the famous Fábrica de Pasteis de Belém. It's an absolute Lisbon must. It was here that Portugal's signature egg tarts originated and it's the only sweet shop in the world that can officially call their pastries 'Pastel de Belém' (elsewhere they are pastel de nata.) Don't let the perpetual chaos inside deter you from a sugary treat. Get in line at the cash register to place your order, then hand your receipt to the servers at the counter who will deliver your food. The kitchen sends out wave after wave of pastry to fill demand, guaranteeing your order will be fresh and warm.

I sampled many Pasteis de Nata around the city, and all were good, but none came close to the perfection of Pasteis de Belém. Paper thin layers of buttery crisp pastry are filled with a rich, yet balanced, custard of sugar and egg. The pastry tops blister in high heat adding a toasty hint of caramel to the flavor profile. Powdered sugar and cinnamon are offered to sprinkle onto your pastry, I prefer the cinnamon. When the heat of the tart warms the cinnamon, the most irresistible fragrance of sugar and spice is released. And don't forget a coffee, an espresso or cafe con leche amounts to an ideal breakfast.

The magnificent Torre de Belem in Lisbon, Portugal.
Locals fish from the River Tagus at the base of Torre de Belém in Lisbon, Portugal.

After breakfast I walked a ways down the main street of Belém, past the Jerónimos Monastery and on to the iconic Torre de Belém. My Lisboa card included entrance and allowed me to skip the rather lengthy queue. The tower is a beautiful structure in an incredibly picturesque setting. But there's not a ton to see inside. Visitors can climb to the top of the tower, but my fear of heights and mild claustrophobia kicked in, so I settled for a few photos on the main level. My favorite part was the people watching. During my visit the sandy moat was filled with children playing, while locals fished from the tower's rocky base.

Coming soon, a walk along the Tagus, delicious lunch at the restaurant Os Jerónimos, and a tour of the Jerónimos Monastery.

A lookout for guards at the Torre de Belém in Lisbon.
Locals fish from the River Tagus at the base of Torre de Belém in Lisbon.
Children play in the sandy moat around Lisbon's Torre de Belém.
Egg tarts to die for at Pastéis de Belém in Portugal.
Don't miss Pastéis de Belém when in Lisbon, it's a must!
Pass your receipt to the server to receive your order at Egg tarts to die for at Pastéis de Belém.
A coffee pairs perfectly with a pastry at Lisbon's Pastéis de Belém.
A coffee pairs perfectly with a pastry at Lisbon's Pastéis de Belém.

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