Lisbon is filled with lots of tiny districts and neighborhoods to explore. While many are filled with winding roads or tiled alleys and steep hills, Belém is relatively flat, making it the perfect part of town to explore on bike. After our free walking tour of Bairro Alto and Chiado, we took a quick lunch break before reconvening with our guide, Flecha, for a guided bike tour of Belém (the famous Pasteis de Belém were included of course).
Summer and I were a bit nervous at first, after seeing the steep hills of Bairro Alto earlier in the day and the busy traffic of Lisbon. We quickly found that Belém really was flat though and fully equipped with big bike lanes to keep us free from checking for cars and traffic.
While there were a few other groups of tourists milling about, we mostly had each of the monuments to ourselves. We stopped first to get a view of the 25 de Abril bridge and headed on to see Padrão dos Descobrimentos. While the sculpture was larger than life, I was more enamored with the swirling tiles on the ground.
In the distance beyond the bridge we caught a glimpse of the Cristo Rei overlooking all of Lisbon. It was built after World War II because the war never reached the city. Today it is said to watch over the city and keep it safe.
I was pleased to find the Portuguese discoverers love maps as much as I do.
We continued down our bike path to Torre de Belém. This watch tower made it silly for anyone to ever try to attack Lisbon because they could see foreign ships approaching from days out.
We crossed the street using a tunnel fully equipped with bike tracks so you can roll your bike down the stairs (this neighborhood really is bike friendly) and resurfaced in front of the fountain of the Jeronimos Monastery housing Vasca da Gama’s tomb.
For our last stop we took a break to sample a few Pasteis de Belém. They are an absolute must if you find yourself in Lisbon. Similar pastries are sold throughout the rest of Portugal but they must be called pasteis de nata instead because only one bakery has the secret recipe. Stories claim it was sold to the bakery from a monastery over 200 years ago.
While you must try the original, preferably with a cafe or even a glass of port wine as we later learned, it is also fun to try the other pasteis de nata around town for comparison. The great debate over which bakery makes the best pastry is a big debate around town. Each one is slightly different, but they are all best served fresh from the oven and still warm.
After our tour, Summer, Ivan and I walked back towards Praça Luís de Camões (our meeting point) and stopped along the way to catch a sight of Pink Street. It is lively at night with many bars, the patrons of which spill out into the street creating one big party.