Lisbon – Sightseeing and hunting for the best pastel de nata
We found ourselves, surrounded by blue tiles engraved with detailed ornaments and patterns. The sound of chatter and laughter echo through the big hall of the Pastéis de Belem and a long queue of hungry people face us. A perfect combination of the crunchy, flakey crust on the outside fluidly transitioning to the creamy, sweet taste of the eggy custard in the middle- the pastel de nata is a well-known, traditional Portuguese pastry and for a foodie like me, one of the top 3 must-eat item on my list.
Our flight was delayed due to the snow back in London and by the time we arrived in Lisbon, we were starving. A perfect excuse to eat our first pastel de nata right at the airport. It was just as delicious as I remembered from my Porto trip awhile back. Equipped with 2 other pastries, a Portuguese muffin and a tart, we made our way to visit the most iconic statue of Christ, the Cristo Réi monument. The cold, gusty wind blew through our hairs, but it was quickly overshadowed by the majestic sight of Christ looking down on us from 92 foot. The size and composition of the statue made me feel so small yet it gave me a peaceful feeling.
From Cristo Réi you’re looking over the rio Tejo and the Ponte 25 de Abril, an impressive steel construction that connects the city of Lisbon to the municipality of Almada. Its red colour and design reminds of the famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA and with a total length of 2.277 m, it is the 32nd largest suspension bridge in the world. Watching the cars move from one end to another whilst waves of the river are doing their own little dance underneath gives a sense of freedom and wildness.
As it began to pour down, we made our way to the Times Out Market for dinner. The smell of different foods around the world made our stomach grumble. You could find anything, from traditional Portuguese food to sushi. And of course, there was a wide selection of ice cream, cakes and pastries. How can you not stuff your face?!
Despite the rain, we walked to a local bar which was known for the traditional live fado music. You can’t get more Portuguese culture! When we stepped inside, we did not expect the limited amount of space. There were a couple of tables and a tiny bar full of people. The walls were filled with photographs. We ordered a couple of drinks and listened to the melodic yet melancholic music. Though I did not understand a word, you could feel the passion and drama of the music.
The next day, we made our way to the Santa Justa lift to enjoy the view over Lisbon. It did not come without obstacles. The queue was long and when we finally got onto the lift, it wasn’t working. They tried and tried to operate several times with support of the technical team before asking us to evacuate the lift again. After waiting what seems like the longest 15 minutes, we were able to go back in. Turns out, we were too many at the same time!
The wait was worth it! We took in the look of the red, orange-y roofs of the houses and the view of the main plaza and the people walking along the narrow roads.
We took the famous tram to Belem to visit the monastery and to end our trip with the perfect, most delicious pastel de nata.