So many sweet treats, so little time. I can’t be the first person (and likely won’t be the last) to have faced this dilemma in Lisbon, such was the number of confeitarias with enticing window displays. Our solution? Cake for breakfast (or rather, part one of our breakfast). Chocolate cake, in fact, with a caramel mirror glaze from Confeitaria Nacional (Praça da Figueira 18). Founded in 1829 by Balthazar Castanheiro, it quickly established a reputation for quality pastries; in 1873, King D. Luís I granted it a royal warrant, and Confeitaria Nacional became a supplier of the Portuguese royal family. Incredibly, it’s still in the hands of the founder’s family six generations on.
Laurence’s pre-trip pastelaria research led us to Pastelaria Baltaha (Rua Horta Seca 1), where we tucked into chocolate croissants and watched the world go by. If you fancy a crash course in making their award-winning pasteís de nata, sign up for one of their workshops.
We spent the morning exploring Barrio Alto’s backstreets – and dodging the cleaners who were jet-washing the pavements! I had a soft spot for the tiled façades and wrought-iron balconies, and happily snapped away as we wandered through the area.
Looping past Pastelaria Alcôa (Rua Garrett 37), we couldn’t resist the siren calls of their window display. We weren’t the only ones popping in for elevenses (that oh-so-British justification for eating cake and/or biscuits before midday): there were a fair few others demolishing baked goods by the forkful. I’d highly recommend their passionfruit cheesecake – it ticked every box for me.
Before we knew it, lunchtime had rolled round. Nova Pombalina (Rua do Comércio 2), had garnered a number of recommendations, so we headed over and ordered two of the ‘piglet sandwiches’ that they’re known for. (I found their translation of leitão (suckling pig) rather endearing.) Speedy service and tasty grub are a recipe for success in my books, and this little spot certainly lived up to the reviews we’d read online.
With our stomachs stuffed with suckling pig, we pottered through Alfama, where we befriended an affectionate little tabby and admired a few more tiled façades for good measure.
We’d spotted Igreja de São Vicente de Fora from Largo das Portas do Sol on our first day in Lisbon, and decided to venture over and see it up close. Founded as a monastery in 1167, it was given a makeover by Felipe Terzi, an Italian architect, in the late 1500s, and subsequently crumbled following the devastating earthquake which struck Lisbon in 1755. Inside, it was pretty austere in comparison to other churches we’d come across on our trip; apparently the adjoining museum, which features a vast collection of Baroque azulejos, is the real attraction.
Just down the road from Igreja de São Vicente de Fora was the Panteão Nacional, a baroque church turned final resting place for Portuguese personalities. We were happy to admire the porcelain-white pantheon from afar (read: the terrace behind Igreja de São Vicente de Fora) on this occasion, but if I had more time, I’d have taken a look inside.
Next stop: Miradouro da Graça. Up one (or possibly more) of Lisbon’s hills we went, wending our way through pastel-coloured back streets and up to the viewpoint. Lisbon sprawled our beneath us: terracotta roofs as far as the eye could see; a higgledy piggledy mass of buildings below.
Whilst we were up there, we popped into Igreja da Graça. Its whitewashed façade belied its ornate interior, complete with stone-carved figurines, decorative motifs painted on the ceilings and gilded frames. As it was a little off the well-trodden tourist trail, there weren’t so many people visiting; always a plus in my books.
What little time we had left, we spent wandering around Rossio (where I picked up some cherry liqueur for my family from A Ginjinha) and Baixa (where we shared a final gelato from Santini). Before we knew it, the airport beckoned. Despite having allowed sufficient time to get there, we had a slight panic en route when the train we were on developed a fault five stops from the airport. Luckily, the driver got it going again and we reached the airport with plenty of time to spare, as it turned out our flight home was delayed (classic Ryanair). Até à próxima, Lisboa!