I recently spend a short break in Lisbon, Portugal and thought I’d give you some tips from the day that we particularly enjoyed in the Belem neighbourhood of the City. To get to this part of Lisbon, you’ll need to take the 15E tram, which we caught from the outside the Cais do SodrÃ© Metro station.
Monastery of Jeronimus
The first place we stopped was the Monastery of Jeronimus, one of the must-see sights of Lisbon, known for it’s ornate and detailed carved stonework. The large church is free to enter and on both sides of the entrance you’ll find the tombs of the famous Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, and the writer LuÃs Vaz de CamÃµes who chronicled his voyages. The carved columns soar up to the vaulted ceiling and there are many fine paintings, side chapels and stained glass windows to admire. You’ll have to pay to enter the double story cloister with the same intricate stonework, a pleasant and shady place to linger on a hot day, with a fountain playing in the central courtyard.
Pasteis de Belem
Just along the road from the monastery is the most famous pastry shop in Lisbon, known as Pasteis de Belem after the small and delicious custard tarts, known elsewhere as Pasteis de Nata. The Monasteries were known for making these pastries from the egg yolks left over from the egg whites they used to starch their laundry. The story goes that the monastery sold the recipe to this pastry shop which they now keep as a closely guarded secret, known only to a few of their chefs. The shop is very popular and there are always queues for the Pasteis de Belem tarts, although you can also go inside and eat them sitting down with a cup of coffee as we did.
Monument to the Discoveries
We completed our walk around Belem with a look at the Monument to the Discoveries, erected in 1960 to comemmorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. The statues of famous explorers and notable figures from Portuguese history, stand behind Henry the Navigator gazing out to the River Tagus and to the sea as if on the prow of a ship. Behind them, you’ll find a map of the world laid into the stone paving, showing the different places in the Indies visited by these adventurers many of whom set off from this very spot.
There are many other things to see in Belem where you can easily pass a day, such as the Palacio de Belem and the intricately stone carved Belem Tower, as well as the parks overlooking the River Tagus, where you can sit and enjoy a few of those Pasteis de Belem.
All photos by Heatheronhertravels
Lisbon Travel Tips
Get more ideas on things to do in Lisbon in our Best of Lisbon post.