Pasteis De Natas in Portugal

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.

Visit Belem

Brits abroad know to always have a brolly handy 😉

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.

We do put down the beers occasionally for a cute photo 🙂

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. 

Their cured meat platter and homemade bread is amazing as well!

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

Superman / Super Bock

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

For around €2 you can enjoy not one but two shots in a delicious chocolate cup, who doesn’t love a free refill?! 😊  

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!

The definition of a wine with a view!

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

Lisbon, Portugal: The Things No-one Tells You

Seeing as it was our first time in Lisbon, we’d read countless blogs and felt relatively prepared for our weekend exploring. But as always, we couldn’t possibly know everything before we arrived, and part of the fun exploring new places is learning what you didn’t already know. So here are a few hints and tips that we wish we’d known at the start of our trip, that will help you get the most out of your visit and (fingers crossed) save you time and money. 

Quick top tips; 

Don’t queue for the Santa Justa Lift viewpoint |

The Elevador de Santa Justa is Lisbon’s only vertical lift and is located within the historic centre on Santa Justa Street. The iron structure stands at 45 metres tall and provides a viewing platform with spectacular views over all of Lisbon. The queue for the lift ride is insanely long and judging by the trip advisor reviews, this remains a problem all year round. What we didn’t realise is that you can easily walk to the viewpoint platform. 

The walk to the viewing platform is not sign posted, and Joe just happened to stumble upon it on his way back from his second trip to the toilet as we’d already been queueing for nearly an hour at this point, so please don’t let that be you as well!

The stairs above are located next to MUJI opposite H & M. Turn right after these stairs and you will see that there is another set of stairs that takes you further up. Follow these until you reach the top and the large monastery will be directly in front of you (you won’t miss it!). To the right of the monastery you will see a restaurant, Bellalisa Elevador, a beautiful backdrop for a sunset sipping a glass of vino overlooking the terracotta roofs. If you walk up the small steps and carry on past the restaurant, you’ll come onto a bridge adorned with love locks, that leads to the spiral staircase up to the viewing platform. This costs €1.50 per person to enter and you have to pay this even if you’ve come up via the lift, so really, you’re not saving anything, and you’ve earned more beer from climbing those stairs #result!

Sintra Pena Palace |

If you do have a day spare, a day trip to the fairy tale castles of Pena Palace in Sintra is a must! (please see our top tips for travelling there below.)

Purchasing your tickets for Pena Palace can be easily done online on the day and this gives you a 5% discount on the gate prices. They accept screenshot tickets on phones so no need to worry about printing tickets out.

We made the mistake of adding ‘Inside the Castle’ to our tickets, as we thought this was needed to view the Palace and the surreal views over the valley and town below. Unless you’re really into Portuguese history however, we wouldn’t suggest doing this as the queue was ridiculous and easily took over an hour. The palace interior resembles what life would have been like when kings and queens occupied the castle. If like us, you aren’t interested in four poster beds and murals painted on ceilings, don’t bother, save yourself time and money. The Palace grounds are the most impressive part of the day and this is already included in the Entrance only ticket. Plus, you will have the satisfaction of walking up past all the queueing tourists, who will wait for up to two hours to get the same view as you. You’ll likely pass them again on your way back down!

Super man / super bock 😉

Use the time saved at Pena to visit Castelo Dos Mouros | Castelo Dos Mouros is noted as the least visited castle in Sintra, and it’s easy to see why due to its mostly grey exterior compared to the bright colours of Pena Palace. If you do choose to venture over and walk up to the top though, you will be rewarded with some of the most picturesque views of Pena Palace. Something we realised when looking down from Pena and thinking, “I bet this looks great from down there”.

Don’t waste your money on taxi’s | Black cabs and Ubers are surprisingly inexpensive! Bare this in mind if you are planning on pre-booking your airport transfer. You might think if you book early that obviously you’ll save money, sounds normal doesn’t it. Well, that’s the wrong answer for Lisbon! Our flight was delayed, and our airport transfer kindly decided not to show at 1.30am 😊 Luckily, a black cab ride to House Sao Bento cost us €11, significantly cheaper than what we’d paid for our pre-booked ride. So, after fighting for a refund we ended up saving money! Karma’s a great thing.

Uber is also cheaper to use than in most European countries, sometimes working out at the same price or (cheaper!) than if we had paid to do a single journey on the metro. Handy if you’re in a rush or want to explore up until the very last minute, as an Uber from the centre of Lisbon to the airport costs around €9 and takes around 15 mins.

If you do happen to use Uber, here’s our invite code: natalieh4280ue

Visit Time Out Market on a rainy day | If you are unfortunate like us to have the odd rainy day or afternoon, Mercado da Ribeira (Time Out Market) is the perfect place to pass the time without missing out on Lisbon’s best eats. Boasting 32 gourmet food (and drink 😉) kiosks, offering the best of the city’s dishes all under one roof. 

Due to its popularity, try and aim for out of hours meal times if you can, around mid-afternoon or late evening would be best. Finding a seat can be extremely difficult, so if you do stumble upon a free space, we’d suggest leaving a low value jacket or item on the seat (Nat wanted to leave Joe) while you go gather your foodie items!

Our personal picks include: Balcao da Esquina’s Roast Pork Sandwich, Asian Lab’s Pad Thai, Manteigaria’s Pasteis de nata (regarded by some as the best in the city!), Sea Me’s Octopus Hot Dog and Café de Sao Bento’s Garlic Shrimp. Mmm 😊

Buy a Viva Viagem Travel Card | You can purchase a Viva Viagem card for €0.50 from any metro and suburban train station from the automatic ticket machines or from the ticket office. When you purchase the card, you’ll have the option to add 24-hour travel, a single journey or use the “zapping” option and upload €5, €10 or €15 etc, and be charged for the individual journeys you take (similar to contactless on the tube).

Here is the best value for money options, if you’re planning on:

  • Travelling around a lot on the bus, tram and metro = 1-day ticket €6.40 (valid for 24 hours). 
  • Purely travelling from Lisbon to Sintra/Cascais/Estoril on the train = zapping option €1.90 each way.
  • Travelling around a lot on the metro and train to Sintra/Cascais/Estoril = 1-day ticket €10.55 (valid for 24 hours).

The train from Rossio (in central Lisbon) to Sintra is one of the most popular journeys and you will most likely see a huge queue of people in the train station purchasing train tickets to Sintra. DO NOT JOIN IT! You can purchase these tickets from the automated machine in Rossio Metro (5 mins walk away) or any other close Metro station with zero time wasted queueing. 

Another point, we went on a Saturday so bad planning from us, but the train was PACKED, so try and aim to get there as early as you can. There were 9 carriages though (a commuter’s dream 😊)

Try Ginjinha |

You must make sure you visit a Ginjinha stand during your visit to Lisbon, try Ginginha do Carmo conveniently located at the bottom of our favourite walking street filled with endless bars and restaurants. Make sure you opt for the chocolate shot cup, by doing this you get an extra shot and it tastes so damn good! 😊

Be savvy at Castelo Sao Jorge | The best views over the beautiful terracotta roofs can be found during a visit to Castelo Sao Jorge. Unlike Pena Palace they don’t offer online tickets, so bare this in mind if you are tight on time as you do have to queue, although the line does move quickly. Also, anyone lucky enough to be under 25 benefits from a half price ticket so make sure you bring some form of ID if you are asked to prove this.

The ultimate wine with a view!

There we have it, 8 things we wish we knew before arriving in Lisbon. We really hope these help you out and help you make the most of your trip to this fantastic city. If you have any suggestions that we might have missed, we would love to hear them in the comments below!

As always happy drinking folks 😊

Cheers,

Nat and Joe xxxxxx