Just under 4 miles from the city centre sits Belem, a riverside area certainly worth an afternoon of your time. One of the few areas to survive the 1755 earthquake it has a great deal of beautiful historical buildings to see as well as a number of museums.
There are a few ways to get to Belem but as we were right next to the Cais Do Sodre station we chose to travel a few stops by train.
The standard stop for any visitor to Belem is to the Pasteis de Belem, the home of those delicious custard tarts you see all over Portugal. Opened since 1837 by the monks of the nearby monastery it is still run by the descendants of the original owners. It is said that there are 20,000 egg tarts sold every day which goes some way to explain how the bakery became the most reviewed eatery in the whole world on Tripadvisor. I had read beforehand that to avoid the queues that form outside for takeaway tarts, go inside and grab a table. It was a golden tip as we got a table straight away and were eating yummy pastries just minutes after arriving!
One of the most important buildings of Belem is the Jeronimos Monastery, a UNESCO world heritage site which began to be built in 1501. It’s an incredibly ornate building and can be entered for 10 euros, which we were hoping to do. However the HUGE queues on our arrival soon put paid to that idea so we settled for some external shots instead.
It wasn’t a total blowout though as the Museu De Arte Popular next door was hosting an Escher exhibition and we visited that instead. Escher is quite a fascinating artist with a lot of mathematically inspired works which were really interesting and I loved the exhibiton. The entry was 11 euros and worth every penny.
Another famous feature of Belem is the Monument of the Discoveries, a monument that sits on the very river that was used by traders in the 15th century to reach India and the Orient. The monument shows a number of important figures during the Portuguese ‘age of discovery’ from artists to scientists. It is a very visually impressive thing to see and a much larger scale that you realise in photos.
Also located on the river is the Belem Tower, a fortified tower built in the early 16th century that acted as both a defense system and ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. Once again you can enter the tower but we decided against it after seeing the queues.
Just further along the river you’ll find the Monumento Aos Combatentes, a visually striking monument that honours Portuguese soldiers that died fighting overseas during 1960s- 1970s. We found this area almost empty and therefore very serene. 180 bronze plaques surround the central monument and they glittered in the sun.
By this point we were pretty hungry and had planned to go to Pao Pao Quijo Quijo, a chicken place, but by the time we arrived the queue was down the road. We ventured past a few places but I kept being put off by low Tripadvisor reviews until we eventually came across 2a8.
We had the most wonderful meal. I had Portuguese steak and it was possibly the most beautiful meal I’ve ever had in my life! The service was so friendly, the setting was lovely as we sat right by a huge window overlooking the street, it really was a perfect meal. We had two courses and wine and it came to around 40 euros.
We worked off our lunch in an escape room, trying to stop a bomb in under 60 minutes at Escape2Win. We JUST made it but it was a really fun way to spend an hour, we’re huge escape room fans.
As we left the escape room we stopped in amazement at a long procession of horses trotting along the road. A Google when we came back revealed we witnessed the ceremony of the changing of the guards which happens on the 3rd Sunday of every month. It was quite impressive, with the guards playing music whilst on horseback.
Our final stop of the day was the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology however we didn’t go in, rather ON. The design of the building allows you to climb onto the roof which gives you great views over the river, although I don’t think I’ve ever been in a windier place in my life!
Steps walked: 23,469