Pasteis De Natas in Portugal: A Weekend in Lisbon
We spent our gloomy UK May bank holiday in Lisbon and it very quickly became one of our favourite European cities! If brightly coloured pastel buildings, terracotta rooftops, riding on old rickety trams and eating pastries by the dozen sounds like fun to you, we’re sure you’ll love Lisbon too! The historic centre of Portugal’s capital city is home to beautiful architecture, incredible views and of course, plenty of great bars to enjoy a drink or two after leg burning walks up and down the winding streets (do NOT underestimate how hilly it is!)
Lisbon is great for a short weekend break, but there is so much to do that you could easily spend a lot of time getting lost around its seemingly endless backstreets. Here are our recommendations to help you come up with that perfect Lisbon itinerary.
Spend a morning exploring Belem, considered to be the city’s most cultural district. Here you’ll find the 500-year-old, UNESCO World Heritage site Torre de Belém or Tower of Belem. The Belem is one of the most famous monuments in Lisbon. It is one of the most photographed landmarks and as a result, gets very busy. If you want to go inside the castle, get there as early as you can as the entrance line is pretty long, although the general opinion is you could pass on this as the outside view is the most impressive part. We arrived mid-afternoon and the queue was steadily building up, so we just took in the tower from outside, and snapped the traditional photo of course 😉
A short walk down the river from the tower is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, or Monument of the Discoveries, a huge 52-meter-high structure featuring sculptures of the most famous explorers of Portugal’s ‘Age of Discovery’ during the 15th & 16th centuries. There are lots of cool street vendors serving cocktails, wine and ice cream near the grassed areas, so this is a great spot to grab a drink and relax by the river.
Be sure to take a walk past Jerónimos Monastery on your way back to the bus or tram stop. Also, part of the UNESCO world heritage site, the monastery took 100 years to build and is another amazing example of renaissance architecture.
Try a LOT of Pasteis de Nata
Now for a subject that is very close to Nat’s heart, the Pastel de Nata <3
A small egg tart pastry that you should always enjoy dusted with cinnamon. Please do not be put off thinking they are like an English egg custard tart, as I cannot stand those either! Think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone under the age of 65 who enjoys those (no offence to our older readers!).
The best place to grab a Pastel de Nata if…
…you’re visiting the Belem region: Pastéis de Belém, which is thought to be the home of the original Pastel de Nata recipe. This is proven by the size of the queue outside the shop door, the largest queue we saw (this was even in the pouring rain!). Pastéis de Belém opens at 8am every day, so if you don’t fancy queuing for half an hour make sure you get there nice and early 😊
…you’ve spent the day at Castelo de São Jorge: Pastry Santo Antonio, this place was my personal favorite and the best Pastel de Nata I had in Lisbon, it was baked to perfection. The perfect espresso and pastry stop after a long afternoon exploring the beautiful castle.
…you want to watch the bakers in action: Manteigaria allows you to see the Pasteis de Nata’s being made while you watch through the glass windows. There is no space to sit so take your pastries away and enjoy them in the sunshine or grab a large take away box – they will keep for up to 3 days.
Eat at Timeout Market
Time Out Market is one of the most well-known places to grab a bite to eat in Lisbon for good reason. There aren’t many places where you can find 24 restaurants, 8 bars, shops and a high-end music venue all under one roof! There are tons of different options apart from the award-winning Portuguese cuisine (they have a Manteigaria bakery here too!), including Asian, seafood, burgers and desserts. Time Out Market has something for everyone! Check out the Super Bock Experience while you’re there for an education in pouring your perfect pint. Also, a great option if you are unlucky (like us ☹) to have an afternoon or day of rain as the majority is based indoors.
Head to the top of the Santa Justa Elevator
For one of the best viewpoints in the city, make sure you head down to the Elevador de Santa Justa. The elevator was opened at the turn of the 20th century to assist with navigating the hilly districts of Baixa and Largo do Carmo (Carmo Square). Nowadays the elevator offers tourists a seven storey ride to the top of the viewing platform.
TIP: there is a very easy walking route up to the viewing platform which avoids the seemingly endless queue for the elevator itself, read about how to get there here (Please do this 😊).
Drink some craft beer
Something that might surprise you about Lisbon is that Sagres and Super Bock aren’t the only choices of beer on offer nowadays! (although we do love them too! 😊). The craft beer scene has well and truly taken hold in Portugal and there are several great spots in the city to enjoy a few crafty cold ones.
Our personal favourites are; Duque Brewpub, Lisbon’s first brewpub, specialising in local beers as well as their in-house brews.
Crafty Corner, just around the corner from Timeout Market, which offers 12 taps on rotation with cool décor touches such as bar stools made of empty beer kegs, and a laid-back daytime atmosphere perfect for an afternoon pint;
and Quimera Brewpub (Lisbon’s second after Duque), which is located in a converted 18th century coach tunnel (this was Joe’s favourite!).
The menu is inspired by the bar’s American owners, with pastrami sandwiches and hot dogs amongst some of the choices to pair with their experimental IPAs that are brewed in house. They also have regular live music, with a jazz guitar duo providing the background ambiance for our visit.
As well as all of these, there is a craft beer festival held every September in the nearby beach suburb of Cascais, so Lisbon is really an up and coming destination for the international beer lover.
Take a day trip to Sintra
Sintra is a picturesque town located roughly 25km from Lisbon that is famed for its grand palaces, castles and gardens that has made the town a popular day trip destination for people visiting the city. Taking in this stunning scenery is a must during your visit!
Sintra is just a 40-minute train ride from Lisbon Rossio station, and we would advise taking the train as the roads around Sintra are always jammed with people visiting, plus its only €1.90 each way!
The historic centre of Sintra is a short walk from the station and is a great spot to grab a bite to eat or a drink. We’re guessing though that you (like us) will want to head up to explore the Palácio da Pena, a 19th Century Romanticist style palace once used by the Portuguese royal family. With its colourful facades, turrets and domes, the palace will no doubt be the highlight of your day.
The castle sits high in the Sintra Mountains with incredible views over the town, valleys and Portuguese Riviera below. Head round to the back along the ‘wall walk’ for the best views but there are plenty of Instagram-worthy photo spots all around the palace and grounds.
We decided to walk up to the palace, to work off all the past few days’ craft beer and because the roads were gridlocked with people heading up to the palace. If trekking for 1 hour up a mountain doesn’t sound like fun, then you can catch the 434 tourist bus from town.
Ride the Trams
Trams have been an icon of Lisbon and a traditional mode of public transport since the network opened in 1873. The number 28 is the classic Lisbon tram journey most tourists want to experience. The route winds its way around tight bends and climbs steep hills through several districts, passing many attractions, so it’s a great way to take a tour of the city while screeching around in a quaint, yellow 1930s Tram. Just be aware, the trams do get very busy so board early to get yourself a seat or at least some space. Pickpocketing is also a reality so make sure you are extra vigilant with your belongings during any journey.
Walk around Commerce Square
Take a walk around Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square) and check out the Triumphal Rua Augusta Arch and the statue of Joseph I (not our Joseph, unfortunately 😉).
Sit outside one of the many restaurants and cafes enjoying a drink in the sun, watching the world go by to recharge your batteries before you get back to exploring. Also make sure you check out the Ginjinha stand! Ginjinha or Ginja is a sweet cherry liquor, and second place in Nat’s Lisbon loves <3
The square is a great starting point for walking along the River Tagus or wandering the back streets of the central Baixa district. Just to let you know, people will probably try to sell you weed here, each to their own.
Take in the view at Castelo de São Jorge
For the unquestioned best view of Lisbon, you need to make your way up to Castelo de São Jorge. The history of the castle dates back to the first century and it overlooks the centre of the city with incredible panoramic views. The 25 de Abril Bridge and Cristo Rei (the sister statue to Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro) can be seen from the castle walls, making this spot the best for capturing the entire city in its terracotta glory.
It seemed a shame to take in such epic scenery without a beverage in hand 😉 So we treated ourselves to two glasses of red from Wine With a View, a small cart selling local wines within the castle grounds. Good value and delicious, the perfect way to enjoy your time at the castle!
Check out Lisbon Cathedral
A short walk from the Castle is Lisbon Cathedral, better known as Sé de Lisboa. It is the oldest and most important church in the city, dating from around the twelfth century. The cathedral is now used partly as a museum and as an archaeological site after a roman road was excavated in its central courtyard. For only €2.50 it’s definitely worth exploring.
Well there you go folks…
If you want even more hints and tips to get the most out of your Lisbon visit and more importantly, avoid the mistakes we made 😉 Check out our other Lisbon blog post ‘Lisbon, Portugal: The things No-one Tells You’ here.
Lisbon has something for everyone tucked away around every back street, so just get lost exploring this fantastic city! If you guys think we have missed anything, let us know down in the comments below. We will absolutely be returning to Lisbon one day, so we’ll be sure to check it out!
Enjoy your travels 😊
Love, Joe & Nat xxx