Before I visited Lisbon, I heard the name ‘Belém’ pop up around in many conversations. Knowingly it was one of the districts of Lisbon, but there was so much buzz around this one particular district.
The district is located right next to the water, so you have beautiful views across the river to Alfama and some of the best seafood restaurants brought in fresh by the fishermen. Belém is also home to the famous Pastéis de Belém. They were the first people to make the Pastel de Nata in Lisbon, with the recipe that was handed down from the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. It was exciting time for someone with an real sweet tooth.
We set aside an afternoon to spend in Belém, to make enough time to walk around the botanical gardens, visit the moments and enjoy some time in the sun. Heading out on the tram, which seems to be one of the most used modes of transport in Lisbon, we arrived in Belém.
We had to make a pit stop at Pastéis de Belém to make sure we picked our custard tart treats before the rush started. We got in at good time, but as soon as we left there were queues out the door again. Even the residents of Lisbon cannot get enough of their delicious treats – that’s saying something.
We took ours to go as we wanted to favour the taste of Lisbon for later, but there is the option to sit down and enjoy them with a cup of coffee.
Next to Pastéis de Belém there is the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, the sleekest and most opulent Monastery I have ever seen. It’s definitely worth a visit, just to see the hand carved detailing up close. It also became one of the UNESCO’s world heritage sites back in 1983.
Even the inside is just as opulent, complete with gorgeous stained glass windows. Now you can see why it took them eight years to build the monastery – no attention to detail was left out.
We spent a good half an hour just sitting in the monastery, the peace was just blissful. As we left the monastery, we wandered through the botanical gardens outside which was home to ducks and geese that pattered their way around. They loved entertaining all the guests.
The flowers had started to come into bloom under the hot Portuguese sun and were regularly watered by the shooting fountain, offering them some hydration regularly.
Belém truly offers that serenity that everyone needs in a capital city. If I lived in Lisbon, i’m sure I would spend most of my weekends here just having some down time, eating some fresh food next to the water.
Pottering off across the way towards Padrão dos Descobrimentos, which translated to ‘Monument of the Discoveries’. The monument was built to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Henry the Navigator’s death. He has been moulded into stone and sits at the front of the monument, supported by many historical figures that helped the movement of the Portuguese Age of Discovery.
Just East of Padrão is the famous Torre de Belém that is recognised by all the tourists. It has definitely become a symbol of the city, as it was originally used as a fortress to defend the ‘mouth’ of the River Tagus and would have sat at the point where the river meets the mouth. However, due to tidal shift the river has changed its direction and this is no longer the case.
The tower itself has many levels, which starts from the bottom at the dungeon up to the top terrace which has beautiful views of Alfama and the waterfront of Belém. There are also tours that can take you inside and around the tower too.
As the sun descended overhead, we enjoyed our last few moments of Bélem before heading to one of the famous miradouro’s to catch the sunset.
Until next time…