The Tower of Belém

One afternoon during our time in Lisbon, we took a rickshaw to see the famous 16th century Tower of Belém! The tower was on my list of must see sights, but it’s not within the easily walkable part of the city. We asked a few locals about best way to get to the tower, and they told us to walk. But then I looked it up and realized it was over 4 miles from where we were! They were all clearly more ambitious AND in better shape than us. So our options were to grab a taxi, find the closest metro station, or take a rickshaw. And since Kingston loves rickshaws, we jumped in one and headed for Belem. It took about 30 minutes, and as we got farther and farther outside of the city I was so thankful we hadn’t tried to walk!

The Tower of Belém was the point where Portuguese explorers left from and returned to after their journeys and was once considered the “gateway to Lisbon.” The area is known as the capital of the Portuguese Discoveries and the tower remains one of the main symbols of Portugal’s global expansion during the Age of Exploration. You can walk across the bridge and tour the inside of the tower or just view it from land. We were kind of excited to find that it was closed on the day we visited, because that meant there weren’t long lines of people standing on the bridge in all of our pictures!

Since we were spending an afternoon in the suburban neighborhood of Belém, we had to try the pasteis de nata from the world famous Pasteis de Belém. The café was the first business to sell pastéis de nata commercially, and that lead to the pastry becoming Portugal’s most famous dish. The huge, airy bakery has been featured extensively in articles and shows all of the world and typically has a long line just to get inside. But we somehow managed to time our visit perfectly and only waited about 15 minutes for a table. The café sells at least 20,000 pastéis de nata per day and attracts thousands of visitors. It’s Lisbon’s most popular attraction and one of the most popular eateries in the world: one year it received over 10,000 TripAdvisor reviews… more than any other restaurant or café worldwide. Pastéis de Belém is open every day of the year, even Christmas and New Year’s! One of our favorite features inside the restaurant is a huge window into the kitchen where you can watch the magic happen! The experience was fun, but the tarts at this iconic, super touristy bakery weren’t as good as the ones from Manteigaria which also seemed to be a favorite among locals!

Other notable sites in the area are Jerónimos Monastery, the Monument to the Discoveries, and several smaller museums. Belém is a must-do, especially if you’re spending more than one day visiting the Portuguese capital.

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