It’s quite predictable for me to start my blog posts with…my favourite place so far. However, Lisbon had all my favourite things, old charm, winding lanes with tiled streets, incredibly honest food and vibrant colours everywhere…it’s so wonderfully real and authentic.
We had a fabulous time exploring all that Lisbon has to offer, we walked and walked, taking in all the colourful tiles and cute trams. Enjoying the ocean views and sampling all the pastéis de nata we could find, perusing the sardine shops with their brightly coloured ornate tins.
There are many bakeries serving these little egg tarts but my favourite by far was on a back street in a tiny café in the Alfama district, surrounded by elderly ladies selling shots of the famous cherry liquor, Ginja.
The egg tarts were delectable, the pastry delicately crisp and the custard deep and creamy. Picture the scene, we are munching on heavenly pastries and the café owners were dancing away to a Cher concert on the TV from the 90’s, even now the experience brings a smile to my face. The coffee was very good, simple and unpretentious and the best thing was it was super cheap compared to the popular Pasteis de Belém & Manteigaria (we sampled them all, I’ll come to my review later).
The scenery is breathtaking, every time you turn a corner there is something else to excite the senses….
The city is split into different districts, there is the famous Alfama where the streets are tiny and winding, full of restaurants and bars and ancient tiled buildings. In this authentic fishing town the smell of sardines barbecuing is intoxicating.
The city is steeped in history, from São Jorge Castle to Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge. There is so much to see.
Christo Rei, the iconic Christ the King statue that overlooks the city of Lisbon
The 25 de Abril suspension bridge
A Ginja stall in Alfama….
The best way to get around is to walk or take a tram. Lisbon is well known for being a hilly city so trams are the popular choice.
These beautiful trams take you all around the city and into all the different districts.
Or a tuk tuk, there are many of these brightly decorated taxis buzzing around the streets.
Usually we tend to do a condensed city tour especially as we have planned to travel for a year and are already nearly 8 months in but with Lisbon we couldn’t get enough and ended up staying much longer than we had anywhere else before.
From Lisbon we traveled a little further afield….
The coastal town of Cascais just west of Lisbon was first on the list, it’s a relatively small but busy town. A holiday makers heaven, gelato stores, bars and restaurants line the streets and beautiful sandy beaches adorn the coast.
Next on our list was the western most point of mainland Europe in Cabo de Roca. We had already visited the geographical centre of Europe when we were in Lithuania a couple of months back so it was interesting to make it to the most western point too and later in our travels we will head to Tarifa the most southern point of mainland Europe.
Much cooler than being in the city this town sits in the hills of the Serra Mountains.
Stunning Sintra where 16th century tiles decorate the buildings and the impressive moorish castle overlooks the town below.
Whilst in Lisbon we were really fortunate to meet our friends from Singapore, it was a happy reunion that came at a really good time. It was lovely to see Jon catching up and chatting about old times with his friends, this trip has taught us many things and probably the most significant is the importance of friendships and making an effort to connect when you can.
I know it’s taken a long time for me to document our time in Lisbon, for me it has been hard to put into words how much I really enjoyed my time and everything we loved about this wonderfully vibrant city.
I’m not a natural writer and for me beauty comes from photographs as I can tell a story so much better through my photographs than my words.
I realise I shouldn’t have left it so long but I hope you enjoy the journey.
Before you go… here is the review of my favourite 3 Pastéis de Nata bakeries in Lisbon.
Pastēis de Nata is an egg custard tart originating from Belém a district in Lisbon, Portugal dating back before the 18th century and made by catholic monks. They contain eggs, sugar, cream and cinnamon and today they are enjoyed the world over.
No. 1) Doce Fama
As I said these were by far my favourite egg tart, there was nothing at all pretentious about the café or the egg tarts. They were served simply and filled deeply, much more so than their counterparts. They had a sweet vanilla flavour and were served with ground cinnamon in a shaker, I had mine with an espresso (wonderfully rich and strong) and a shot of the famous Ginja, cherry liquor. The delicious mix of flavours all came together in a big hit of vanilla, cherry, butter and coffee. You need to go here when you visit Alfama, however, it’s easy to miss this little gem.
Doce Fama, R. de São Miguel 1100-543, Lisboa
No. 2) Pasteis de Bélem
This place is an institution, the queue outside says it all really but what is mind blowing is what is going on inside. From the outside this bakery looks pretty unassuming, apart from the throngs of people patiently waiting their turn to taste the egg tarts you could be mistaken in thinking it was just a regular bakery.
So, you enter the small shop front where the egg tarts flying out the door, to be met by possibly the largest seating area I’ve ever seen. There are rooms followed by rooms all connected by small walkways. This experience alone is worth the visit.
For me the Nata were good, not too deep and not too sweet but beautifully caramelised on top and just a hint of cinnamon.
Where the real joy came from was the restaurant, the blue and white tiled decor and the monastic history it contains. Bélem is a really great part of Lisbon to explore so visiting Pasteis de Bélem is a no brainer if you are in this neighbourhood.
No. 3) Manteigaria
I was excited about visiting this store, it’s in a very nice part of town and people queue to grab a tiny box of these scrumptious treats. It’s a very different concept to the other two I have reviewed, more grab and go, there is a bar to stand and eat your pastry and down a coffee but no seating. We bought ours to take away and the packaging alone is über cute. You buy the tarts in pairs and they come in these cute boxes. In the bag you also get individual sachets of icing sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling. Although the boys found these the best of the bunch as they contained cinnamon in the custard filling. I am not a huge fan of cinnamon so that’s why they are third on my list, but for presentation and packaging they rate high.
We visited this bakery about 4 times in our 10 day stay in Lisbon I think it’s fair to say they have pretty good egg custard tarts.