No visit to Lisbon is complete without a trip down the tramline to Belém. As the tram (#15) starts at Praça da Figueira we opted to go back to Confeitaria Nacional for breakfast. Thinking ahead to the famous Pastel de Belém that we would simply *have* to try, we decided to go custard-free for the moment. We repeated the divine Bola de Berlim and tried an Africano (or at least that is how it appeared on the receipt). It was sensational!! So moist and flavourful and coated in delicious coconut.
When we went in for breakfast there was no one at the tram stop, but when we came out it was a bit of a zoo (go figure!) So as usual, it must be said….”go early”!! The tram was packed but being of the modern variety, there was good air conditioning and standing wasn’t too much of an issue.
In the high season it really seems that you have to pick one of the main sights and just accept that it is the only one you will go into (if you don’t fancy standing in line in the baking sun all day). The tram lets off at the Monastery of San Jeronimo and the ticket line stretched almost around the corner. So we continued on to the Discoveries Monument where we encountered no line at all. We paid our 4 € and enjoyed the bird’s eye view of Belém in relative tranquility. It is a very small space at the top so there was no need to linger for too long.
It’s easy to forget that you are actually on a river and not the ocean as you stroll along the boardwalk towards Torre de Belém. The day was just perfect!
There was another huge line at the Torre de Belém (naturally) so we just enjoyed it from the outside.
By this time we were getting ready for our second breakfast, so we retraced our steps past the Discoveries Monument (now with huge line!) and continued to the main street. Belém is famous for their version of pastel de nata (the original some might say?) This fame comes with…long lines! haha! But what you have to know is that even though the long line zigzags out into the sidewalk, all you have to do is go through the door to the left of the entrance and grab one of the hundreds of tables available. The place is HUGE and the seated entrance is signed so it’s not even a secret tip! I’m trying to remember if you could order boxes to take away with the table service. I’m pretty sure you could. So there is really no reason to join the long line.
Wow – the line actually distracted me from reporting on the actual Pastéis de Belém! They were certainly good, but not our favourites by a long shot. The pastry looked sooooo flaky but then didn’t live up to its appearance. It was fully loaded and the filling was very eggy. So if you prefer the eggier variety of natas, then you would probably rate them higher than us. 🙂
Another quirky treat that makes an appearance on the main street is Pastéis de Cerveja (yes, Beer Cake!) We went to Pastelería Nau (gritty bar manned by an older gentleman instead of the shiny bar next door with a youngster serving – why do I always go for the gritty dark bars?!) The Pastéis de Cerveja is basically cake in a pastry cup. Sure, why not? It was a bit much after the Pastéis de Belém but we powered through.
It was still early afternoon by this point so we decided to get the tram back and take the ferry over to Cacilhas from Cais do Sodré. The ferry is also included in the Zapping card so we were still working off our initial 20 € charge from the airport. We happened to arrive at the other side just as a cruise ship was leaving Lisbon. I am a sucker for ships so we had some fun on the waterfront watching it sail by.
We continued along the waterfront and its derelict buildings until we reached Atira-te al Rio – the perfect restaurant in which to while away the afternoon! We scored a table right on the water with fabulous views over to Lisbon and wasted no time in ordering a set of canecas to rehydrate! It was difficult to choose what to eat but in the end we went with octopus salad (recommended by the waiter for good reason!!! Amazing!), sardines in lemon with roasted peppers (hello, amazing!), and a tabla de embutidos with, wait for it, carrot jam. The jam sent it through the roof! The embutidos were quite different to what we are used to in Spain so that was nice. All of this with 4 beers came to just 35 €. The sunburns were on the house!
Finally we managed to tear ourselves away from the table and continued following the waterfront until we reached the elevator that would take us up to Almada. (1 € for a return trip, not included on Zapping!) From town we walked about half an hour to the Sanctuary of Cristo Rei. We arrived very close to the closing time of 6 pm but still had enough time to take the elevator up to the base of the statue. The views were fabulous, and it was impressive to look up at the immense statue.
Back on the ground, we spent an hour taking photos and enjoying the views. Another cruise ship left port so we were treated to another sighting.
We wanted to be back on the water’s edge for sunset so we started back towards Cacilhas at about 7 pm. It took an hour to stroll back via the elevator and waterfront. The sunset did not disappoint. Great Balls of Fire!!
Back in Lisbon, we sought out a craft beer pub in Baixa that I had read about: Trobadores (Rua de São Julião, 27). It had a medieval vibe to it with some of the beers being served in clay cups. Very cool! The guy was really nice so we had a couple of different brews each to try and just enjoyed the scene.
Luckily the beers gave us a bit of an appetite for dinner. We kept tonight’s choice super-local with a couple of bifanas from Casa das Bifanas on Praça da Figueira. Lisbon gets full marks for sandwiches: first the prego (beef) on Day 2 and then tonight’s bifana (pork). Yum!