About thirty minutes by tram to the west of central Lisbon is Belém, a lovely locale we based part of a day around during our trip back in October. Belém is not for the faint of heart if you are unnerved by crowds. In the morning, cruise ships disembark and a never-ending line of tour busses congregate outside of its most popular sites. For our first stop, we avoided the crowds and visited the National Coach Museum. The collection of historical carriages here was amazing, and seeing so many in one place let us see the progression of “technology”, if you can call it that. I never really thought of carriages before, but loved the unique focus of this museum.
We mostly had the museum to ourselves at this early hour, and it allowed us ample time to wander the displays and see how the designs changed through the years for aesthetics, comfort, speed and reliability.
Our plan was to make a stop at Pasteis de Belém on the way to our next stop so I could indulge in a couple of pasteis de nata, the famous custard tarts you can find on just about every street corner in Lisbon. This shop is where they originated, but I took a pass after one look at the lineup outside the store. It stretched hundreds deep, and I had already sampled some of the heavenly treats close by our hotel that I could not imagine would be topped here.
We did brave about an hour long line to enter the Jerónimos Monastery. The exterior architecture was stunning, and the time passed fairly quickly on a beautiful fall day as the queue was a prime people watching spot.
Once inside, the wait was a distant memory. I loved the tranquility of the cloisters of the monastery.
The Portuguese late gothic ornamentation in this area of the monastery was truly stunning. Here are a few examples from wandering around the cloisters.
On leaving the monastery, we walked west toward Belém Tower, stopping for a delightful lunch at Descobre. The heat had sapped some of our appetite, but a table filled up with garlic shrimp, Portuguese cheeses and roasted potatoes helped restore some much needed energy.
While there was another long line for entrance at the Belém Tower, we had the advantage of pre-purchased tickets that got us right to the front. With its narrow interior staircases, they only admit a limited number into the structure to help with flow and congestion inside.
Once inside the tower and having climbed to the top, a spectacular view of the Tagus River opened up. Looking west, back toward central Lisbon, you can see the Monument to the Discoveries (“Padrão do Descobrimentos”) in the middle of the picture below and the Ponte 25 de Abril, the bridge linking Lisbon to Almada which bears a striking resemblance to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
The tower was the last stop on our mini day tour around Belém. As we exited the tower, we took one last look back as we made our way to the tram to take us back into Lisbon. A beautiful sight on a beautiful October day.