Today I learned one of my new favorite quotes, but I learned it in Portuguese so this may be a bit off:
Tudo vale a pena quando a alma não é pequena.
This was exactly the mentality I was trying to have while visiting Belém, a suburb of Lisbon known mainly as the part of the city that used to guard the port into Lisbon and secondly as the departure point of Vasco De Gama as he set off to conquer India in the 1500s. Now, Belém is visited mainly by tourists to visit the famous Torre de Belém, the Presidential Palace, or the Pasteis de Belém.
I had visited Belém on my last trip to Lisbon and thought it was pretty mehr to be honest, so when I arrived this time and heard all the talk about how you “must go to Belém,” I felt pressured to try it again.
So I took a few hours on Monday morning, paid €1.70 for the thirty-minute train ride, and arrived in Belém…with pretty much the rest of the entire train who also got off at the Belém stop. It seemed like there were two groups of tourist motives – those who headed straight for the Torre de Belém and those who headed straight for the Pasteis de Belém. I decided to part left and go for the Torre as well, but upon arrival, I noticed nothing had changed except that this time there were were segways and selfie sticks.
It’s not that I don’t mean to give credit to a worldwide-known statue that represents something important to a country, but for the sake of making your Lisbon trip the most exciting it can be, I just want to say that a trip to the Torre de Belém is probably not going to much of a marker of your trip. So with this new tudo vale a pena quand a alma não é pequena mentality, here a few things I personally enjoyed 10x more than the Torre de Belém.
First off, you don’t have to go to pastel de Belém like everyone says you do
Bring up Belém to anyone in Lisbon and the first thing they’ll ask is, “You got the pastel de Belém, right?” Let me break it down for you in my very watered-down knowledge of cuisine. The pastel de nata is português for a vanilla cream puff with a croissant-y flaky crust. It’s sweet and cinnamon-y and perfect paired with a cafézinho (an espresso shot). With that being mentioned, the pastel de Belém is said to be the crème de la crème (literally), as you’ll notice from the ten-minute line of tourists wrapping around the building. This line, by the way, is only for take-away service; you can still get a pastel de Belém in the same amount of time or less if you opt for table service by simply walking in the restaurant like you own the place.