On our last full day in Lisbon Son and I woke up feeling queasy and off colour. Unsure what caused this we had a lie-in, a late breakfast and didn’t venture out until 11.30. We still didn’t feel on top form but were well enough to keep to our original plan to visit Belem.
Tram number 15 was our goal, it takes about twenty minutes to travel from Lisbon out to Belem and (more through good luck than good planning) we found ourselves at the first stop. We got seats but one more stop along the route the tram became incredibly full and it was standing room only. I was relieved we were seated. Standing packed like sardines for over 20 minutes looked like no fun at all.
Belem is the place from where Vasco da Gama and other explorers departed on their travels. A lot of interesting history in this area means it is a must see if you are in Lisbon.
We got off the tram at the stop for Monasteiro dos Jeronimos. Easy to find as the building is just stunning and the most beautiful example of Manueline architecture. A clever architect used small columns to support that vast roof and it withstood the 1755 earthquake. The vast majority of Lisbon’s large buildings collapsed, this one only had very slight damage.
We admired the stunning architecture from outside then went into the church. Free to enter but there is a charge for the monastery. The church has some elaborate decoration, the choir stalls are particularly impressive and we spied the tomb of Vasco da Gama.
Back outside and dodging the multitude of hawkers who tried to push all manner of things onto us, we crossed the road to take a closer look at the Monument To The Discoveries. Such an imposing monument on the banks of the river, it pays homage to the adventurers and explorers who helped establish Portugal as a super power in the 14th century. It dominates the shoreline and is in the shape of a ship with its sails blowing in the wind. Lots of historical figures, explorers and crusaders are featured and the square in front has a mosaic representing a compass, the map in the middle shows the route the explorers followed.
The monument is spectacular but so are the views of the river and the bridge in the background.
A short stroll along the water is the Belem Tower, we decided to look from the outside and avoid the entrance charge. Built in 1515 to protect the city from raiders, it is beautiful and intricate.
Walking back to the tram Son was quick to spot a crepe stall – something he cannot go past, this one got a thumbs up.
A couple of tram stops later we got off again at the Casa Paseis de Belem. You can’t miss this place either, just look for the bakery with a huge line outside. Apparently the queue is a common feature.
This is the traditional home of the Pastel de Nata, a custard tart sprinkled with cinnamon. The cafe and bakery has been selling these for over 150 years, you just can’t come to Belem and not have one of these. The line moved fast, we chose to buy tarts to take away. They were warm, just out of the oven and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar – mouth wateringly delicious. This was the perfect way to end our trip to Belem.