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Having my Pastéis and eating it in Lisbon – Portugal

They’re crisp, creamy, custardy and perfumed with vanilla and cinnamon – the Pastel de Nata are the signature pastry of Lisbon. If you have a sweet tooth, like me you’ll find yourself looking for opportunities to taste them – at your hotel breakfast, with your mid-morning coffee and perhaps a few to take home.

Pasteis de Belem in Lisbon, Portugal

Pasteis de Belem in Lisbon, Portugal

There are plenty of Pastelarias or cake shops around Lisbon, but there’s one place that’s on every tourist map for tasting these delicious little mouthfuls and that’s the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém where the cakes are simply known as the Pastéis de Belém. In 15 minutes from downtown Lisbon on the no 15 tram you’ll reach the Monastery of Jerónimos, another Lisbon landmark and one tram stop before is the bakery. You’ll know it from the crowds milling around around the doorway, queuing to buy some of the famous Pasteis de Belém.

In the Pasteis de Belem shop in Lisbon

In the Pasteis de Belem shop in Lisbon

If the sun had been shining, I’d have bought my pasteis and eaten them in the nearby park, overlooking the River Tagus, but as it was pouring with rain, we spotted a sign saying that seating was available and decided to venture in. Initially I couldn’t believe that there would be anywhere to sit, but as one room opened into the next we walked on through until we reached a large room where there were some free tables. They do sell snacks and sandwiches here, but I would imagine that barely anyone leaves without having ordered their Pastéis de Belém.

In the Pasteis de Belem coffee shop in Lisbon, Portugal

In the Pasteis de Belem coffee shop in Lisbon, Portugal

So the story goes that in the 18th century the monks of the nearby monastery sold the ancient recipe to the bakery and it remained a secret, only known by 3 of the chefs at the bakery. There’s even a special room where the secret’s kept. It’s a nice story, but if you’d like to give the Pasteis a try, then you I’ve found a recipe on Forks & Jets that you can try out – I’m going to give it a go at Christmas as an alternative to the mince pies.

Portuguese Christmas cakes at Pasteis de Belem in Lisbon

Portuguese Christmas cakes at Pasteis de Belem in Lisbon

All the pasties are made on the premises and each day they turn out anything between 15,000 and 50,000 pastries (yes that’s FIFTY THOUSAND). What a production line! If you’d like to hear the interview where I gleaned this nugget of useful information – listen to the Hostelworld Podcast on Lisbon.

Near our table was a counter showing some of the other biscuits, cakes and preserves made at the bakery and we also bought a ringed cake topped with colourful crystalised fruits as a gift for some local friends we were going to visit. They later told us that it was the traditional Portuguese Christmas cake, which might have a little token buried in it, in the same way that we might put a sixpence in the Christmas pudding for one lucky person to find (hoping they won’t break a tooth on it first)

We enjoyed our coffee and Pastéis, which are said to be the best in Lisbon, although I have to say that the ones we were served in our Hotel Av Liberdade had the marginal edge on the creaminess, crunchiness and general deliciousness scale (must find out where they get them). I’m still dreaming of those little morsels of yumminess – it will be hard to miss them when you’re next in Lisbon.

This post is part of Wanderfood Wednesday hosted over at Wanderlust and Lipstick – head over for chocolate and strawberries and other foodie delights

Antiga Confeitaria de Belém
Rua de Belém 84-82, Lisbon

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Lisbon Resources

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    Anil
    November 26, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    They look great but wonder if there’s a cheese version?

  • Reply
    Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels
    November 28, 2009 at 2:31 am

    I wonder how I missed these when I was in Portugal. I’m usually first in line for the sweets! Maybe this is my excuse for going back…..

  • Reply
    Gourmantic
    November 30, 2009 at 7:14 am

    They look delicious! I haven’t been to Portugal yet and this is giving me reason to put it on the itinerary.

  • Reply
    Sherry Ott
    December 3, 2009 at 4:48 am

    Thanks for including the recipe – I love baking!

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    Sweetarts christmas cakes
    December 9, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Looks delicious and a very cosy place to finish off all that heavenly culingus.

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    Edmund
    July 12, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    I loved those Pasteis de Belem! You really hit the jackpot when you decided to visit this prized bakery in Lisbon. I almost always hate tarts, and I’ve never been a fan of Portuguese desserts (they taste bitter to me), but these just rocked my world. So crispy, so flaky, and so perfectly sweetened, unlike most of the other desserts I tried in Portugal. Thanks for the delicious photos!

    Now, if Portugal could only get some amazing chocolate desserts…
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    Chris Stenberg
    March 9, 2011 at 9:39 am

    I agree I would have rather eaten my Pasteis in the park. I found the actual cafe to be pretty boring inside, but the desserts themselves were delectable! The Belem area is beautiful also and is perfect for a seaside stroll!
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