I can smell the tarts before we’re inside. My mouth waters as the scents of cinnamon and powdered sugar drift into the street. The walk to Belem has been worth it, and now I’m ready for my reward: the renowned Pastéis de Belém. I’ve come all the way to Portugal to taste them, and no weekend in Lisbon would be complete without one. Or ten.
Weekend in Lisbon
Which is funny, because on my last trip to Lisbon I missed out. Nine years have elapsed since, and I haven’t stopped chastising myself. But that’s partly why I’ve traveled back this time. Not only do I want to see how much the city has changed, but also experience the things I didn’t get to last time.
I’m here with a friend for a girls’ weekend, and we start our visit the way we do best: with food. We walk into Bairro Alto and over to a restaurant called Cantinho do Avillez. It’s come highly recommended by several friends, and we enjoy an evening of great wine and good food as the city’s nightlife gets going around us.
The next day we have similar luck with morning coffee and croissants in the hip interior of Fabrica Coffee Roasters. The caffeine fuels our walk to the Time Out Market, a huge covered market with more food stalls and fresh vegetable stands than we could possibly get to in one trip. It’s an impressive feat, and we’re even more excited when we hear rumors that they’re opening in London later this year.
From the Time Out Market we meander along the waterfront to the LX Factory, another place that’s opened since my last visit. This reinvented industrial space is full of stylish boutiques, cafes, and restaurants.
We pop into a few shops before having lunch at A Praca. It’s a Portuguese restaurant with local vegetable and seafood dishes served in an eclectic dining room.
After lunch we stroll along a street bursting with colorful tiled facades and busy with Lisbon’s famous trams. It leads us to Belem, where the smell of the aforementioned tarts lures us into the iconic Pastéis de Belém cafe. Signs in its labyrinth of rooms guide us to an open table, where we reward ourselves with tarts after a long walk.
The Pastéis de Belém are every bit as gooey and flaky as I’ve heard, and as my mouth savors the sweetness my mind forgives my stomach for missing out last time.
When we finish, we walk around the famous Mosteiro dos Jeronimos monastery, through the gardens, and to the waterfront monument celebrating Portugal’s historic explorers.
Afterwards we hop on Tram 15, which takes us back along the route we walked and into the city center.
Our weekend in Lisbon continues with an ascent to the Castelo de Sao Jorge, the hilltop castle overlooking the city. As the sun sets, we ramble through the streets and up and down Lisbon’s staircases, eventually settling in for wine and cheese at a restaurant called Gosta do Castelo.
Later we stumble upon The Food Temple, where a vegan dinner packs more flavor into a set menu than I’ve tasted in a long time. It ends the evening on a high note, and we’re happy to have seen and done so much in Lisbon in one day.
The next morning we head back to Bairro Alto to walk around and explore the side streets.
We absorb colorful houses in alleys and sweeping views on hillsides before taking the iconic Tram 28 to the area near the castle.
Again we’re rewarded with stunning views over the tiled rooftops as we walk through the Graca area. Afterwards we head for lunch with a view at a restaurant called Chapito.
From there we head down the hill to the Se cathedral before wandering into the sprawling Praca do Comercio square, through the pedestrianized streets of Baixa, and up the wide manicured gardens of the Avenida da Liberdade.
We end on a sweet note with a trip to Manteigaria Fabrica de Pasteis de Nata in Bairro Alto. We’re here to try their famous pastéis de nata, the rest of Portugal’s answer to Belem’s famous tart. They go down a treat, but we still prefer their cousins to the west.
As our weekend in Lisbon comes to a close, we leave with the cinnamon-sugary taste of tarts on our tongues and images of sweeping views and classic trams in our eyes. We’ve done a lot in two days, but I would still travel back just for another taste of the Pastéis de Belém.
Have you been? How would you spend a weekend in Lisbon?