Our second day is Lisbon was the most wonderful – touristy but still worth remembering – single day spent in a European city (which is saying a lot, as our travel style is usually laid-back as opposed to go-go-go). This is because on day 2, we discovered Belem! Belem is a specific area of Lisbon, not terribly far from the main squares, and we took public transport (bus in this case) to get there. Belem is a popular tourist destination because of more than a few historic gems in very close proximity.
Our first stop was this iconic cafe called Pasteis de Belem. Both Sachin, my husband, and I has received recommendations from separate people back at home to visit this cafe. And the dish to have in Pasteis de Belem is their one-of-a-kind Portugese pastries which is like a rich crusted custard. Do not be deterred by the crowds on the outside, we were told by our “recommenders”, the cafe has plenty of seating inside. And this turned out to be quite true. The cafe justifiably was crowded, but we were seated immediately. Pasteis de Belem is a must visit for its very Portuguese feel of lovely blue and white tiles, and of course the pastries.
Then, unto the next stop, the vision that had attracted me to Belem in the first place – Torre de Belem. Torre De Belem is the glorious white castle like structure right on the River Tagus (Rio Tejo). After taking its glorious Portuguese-gothic style architecture from a distance, we paid for the tickets to take the few stairs to the 2 different terraces, and fully soaked in the April afternoon. The Tower along with the nearby Jeronimos Monastery, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Looking down from the upper terrace unto the lower terrace and the River Tagus
After taking countless pictures of and selfies with the Torre de Belem, we finally pulled ourselves away and walked over to the Monument to the Discoveries. The Monument, which has 33 statues etched in it, is dedicated to Portugese explorers and discoverers, including Vasco Da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan, who put Portugal on the map as a maritime power to be reckoned with. At the Monument, you can pay a minimal amount and take the elevator to reach the top observation deck (which we certainly did, because, after all, there was an elevator!). While we did not go inside, we admired from outside the Jeronimos Monastery, built in limestone and similar architectural style as the Torre de Belem.
The Jeronimos Monastry, Lisbon
It was late afternoon by this time, but still we wanted to make the most of our last day in Lisbon. So, we bid farewell to Belem, and hopped on the bus to the Lisbon Aquarium. The highlight for us was the part where you are walking on a transparent floors in a room with transparent walls, and you see giant turtles swimming under you feet and beside you. In another enclosure, you can see penguins frolicking about, another big hit with us! We also caught glimpse of the Vasco da Gama bridge, the longest bridge in Europe.
Happy feet at the Acquarium
The Vasco da Gama bridge, the longest bridge in Europe, from a distance
It was late evening when we headed back to Lisbon’s historic city center. As we were roaming in the squares, catching the last glimpses of the walls of the Lisbon Castle from below, we saw a big queue outside a shop that appeared to be giving away free samples of a home-grown liquor. The liquor turned out to be a sweet cherry brandy called “ginha”, and while the shots were not free, they cost a very nominal amount and the shop was A Ginjinha, also quite famous. We patiently waited in line and happily drank the offered drink, toasting to the two wonderful days spent in this beautiful, elegant and sunny city!
For more on Lisbon, click here: 2 days in Lisbon – Part 1.