There are two reasons that you’ll be urged to visit the suburb of Belém.
The first is that it is home to several of Lisbon’s museums, which are all free on Sunday mornings. Never one to pass on free culture, I hopped on a tram to see the famous Jerónimos Monastery and Belém Tower only to realize that the free admission comes at the price of being surrounded by all the other cheapskates lining up with you.
The second and most likely motive is that it’s the home of the famous pastel de nata, that sweet egg custard held in a flaky pastry shell that Portugal and some of its former colonies have become known for. Pastéis De Belém is said to have started selling these treats in 1837 after the liberal movement closed down all the religious institutions and the monks who had been expelled from the monastery down the street had to start selling their perfected pastries.
The place always has huge lineups, but it moves fast and assures that you are getting an egg tart that is straight out of the oven. I can confidently state that they were the best egg tarts I’ve had in my entire life, and I say “they” because one is definitely not enough.
But there’s something you might miss between Belem and Lisbon if you’re not careful. It’s called LX Factory and it was one of my favourite things in the city. This abandoned industrial site was reclaimed by a group of ambitious artists, architects, and designers who converted the old factories and warehouses into boutiques, concert venues, restaurants, galleries, studios, shared workplaces, and of course a giant library with a resident mad scientist who lives upstairs.