Lisbon has always been one of Europe's best kept secrets, but it’s now in the spotlight mainly for touristic reasons. In 2015 alone, the city won 24 prizes in the Oscars of this Industry, being named as the best cruise destination.
We’re starting this tour by the Tagus River, more precisely in Belém, tasting the traditional pastries of this region - Pastéis de Belém. These result from an ancient recipe from the monks of the Order of St. Jerome who lived in the Monastery nearby. It was kept safe for several generations in the so-called Secret Factory and, still today, they’re manufactured with the same handcrafted processes by the few masters who know how to bake them.
After this short tasting, we’ll move on to visit the monument where Pastéis de Belém recipe was born – Santa Maria de Belém Church or Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, as it is commonly known. Founded in 1496 and being one of the most impressive Portuguese monuments, it was first called Monastery of Santa Maria de Belém, but it became known as Jerónimos because it was donated to the monks of the Order of St. Jerome. It has been considered by UNESCO in 1983 as a World Heritage Site.
Still in Belém, standing right along the river bank, there lies the centennial Torre de Belém (tower), a monument which celebrated its 500th anniversary in 2015. It already served as a fortress, as a state prison during the Spanish domain and served as military premises during the French occupancy. It is well worth entering and traveling through centuries of History, experiencing an atmosphere that seems to take us back in time to the Portuguese Discoveries’ period. It is indeed the expansion of the Portuguese overseas and the conquests within this context that are eternalized at the Monument to the Discoveries (Padrão dos Descobrimentos), very close to the Tower. The monument also symbolizes the magnitude of Infant D. Henrique’s work, the promoter of the Portuguese Discoveries’ period during the 16th century.
After a lunch break we leave Belém to climb the 7 hills of the city towards the Castle, passing by the symbolic Cathedral built in 1147 by D. Afonso Henriques for conquering this territory to the Moors. Going further up also requires a stop at Portas do Sol and the viewpoint of Nossa Senhora do Monte to enjoy the stunning panoramic view over Lisbon. We finally arrive at what remains of the reconstruction of São Jorge Castle where the ruins that were once hidden by the great Lisbon earthquake in 1755 are now visible. The castle was built by the Muslims in the 11th century as a stronghold of defense and conquered by D. Afonso Henriques in 1147, and there he lived his golden times until the Spanish occupancy.
After visiting the Castle, the tour continues to experience the essence of Lisbon's traditional neighborhoods in Alfama, but not before passing through the National Pantheon that has the remains of famous celebrities of the Portuguese History since 1966. From football to fado, Portuguese authors and political personalities, 12 of them are buried there, among whom, one is Amália Rodrigues. We can learn more about her when visiting the Fado Museum, situated in Alfama, a recent monument that consolidates the history of Fado and its main instrument – the Portuguese guitar.
We finish the itinerary walking by the most important squares of Lisbon - Rossio, Restauradores and Praça do Comércio - and tasting Port wine as well as traditional tapas at the emblematic Parque Eduardo VII.
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