Friday, 28 July 2017

Portugal: Exploring Belém

Having managed to finally settle down in our hotel and survive our first night, it was time to start exploring what Lisbon had to offer. First stop therefore was the famous area of Belém.

Belém is a little way out of the city center and is home to many of Lisbon's most popular sites. The first of these we came across was Belém Tower, an old military outpost which used to protect the river from pirates and enemy attacks!

Despite it's rather serious purpose, I thought the tower its self was rather beautiful!

A short walk along the river front brought us to the Padrão dos Descobrimentos or 'Monument of Discoveries', a great big sculpture which cut against the sky. The monument represents the 'Age of Discovery' when Portuguese adventurers ventured across the oceans for the first time to discover previously unknown lands.

We opted to go inside the monument, which involved being packed into a surprisingly small lift and then walking up a few steep flights of narrow stairs. The view from the top was quite impressive, however perhaps Lisbon lacks some of the amazing skylines you may have experienced in other cities.

It turned out that there was an unexpected exhibition in the base of the sculpture which depicted how non-Europeans had been depicted throughout Portugal's history which was fascinating but also quite hard hitting, drawing attention to the extreme racism present in Europe's history.

Our next stop was the stunning Jerónimos Monastery and chapel. The monastery used to be home to a brotherhood of monks before the state decided that monks and nuns weren't really contributing anything to society! They were then turfed out and the monastery opened up to the public. 

It was said to be in this monastery that the famous 'Pastel de Nata' (custard tarts) were accidentally created by a young novice monk who had been banished to the kitchen for misbehaving. These tarts were then sold to try and generate an income for the now homeless monks! 

The architecture of the monastery is just simply stunning. Everywhere you look there are sweeping archways and beautiful details carved into the stone. There's even a lion who is rumoured to grant wishes if you rub his paw!

All of this exploring was hard work and so our last stop of the day was a chance to sit down and devour some of the Pastel de Nata at the famous bakery 'Pastéis de Belém. 

Now, I have to admit, despite the hype, I was a little dubious of the egg tarts - to me, they just didn't look all that appealing. However, I was proven wrong the moment I tool a deliciously crumbly first bite. They were seriously tasty.

Tasty enough that Joss and I may have devoured five between the two of us....


The recipe for Pastel de Nata is a closely guarded secret and one which the bakery has followed for over a hundred years! Each day, thousands of the little tarts are baked and sold, but only the master confectioners know the recipe, mixing it up in a 'secret room' within the shop. The line for the bakery was filled with tourists and locals alike, showcasing just how good these little tarts are!

Belém was a great day trip and we left still wanting to explore more - I can't wait for a chance to return and see what else it has to offer!


  1. Such great pics! Portugal is one of those places I can't wait to visit one day!

    1. Thank you Kay! Lisbon really surprised me - on arriving, I didn't know what to expect and yet everything we found was so interesting!


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