Like so many life-enhancing creations, pastel de nata was created probably by accident by a group of monks in Jeronimos Monastery. Located in Belem, a few minutes’ walk from the Tagus River, the monastery housed monks who gave spiritual guidance to Portuguese sailors during the Age of Discovery. When the place was shut down in 1834, the monks were without work and means to survive. So, they started selling custard tarts or pasteis de Belem to a shop next to the monastery.
And the rest is history.
Pastel (plural pasteis) de Belem is the iconic Portuguese custard tart sold in Antiga Confeitaria de Belem pastry shop since 1837. Made of milk, sugar, eggs, and cinnamon with a puff pastry casing, the original recipe for these tarts are only known to five people.
Elsewhere in Lisbon and throughout Portugal, these custard tarts are known as pastel (pasteis) de nata. They are the same as the pastel de Belem made from the monks’ secret recipe. There are hundreds of places in Lisbon selling pasteis de nata. If you’re wondering where the best places to eat pastel de nata in Lisbon are, here are five that we found.
1. Antiga Confeitaria de Belem
There’s always a line on the sidewalk of Antiga Confeitaria de Belem, commonly called Pasteis de Belem pastry shop. These are tourists waiting to taste the heavenly dessert. We suggest going inside the pastry shop to one of the five rooms where there are ample seats. There’s also a window to view workers unloading trays upon trays of freshly baked tarts from the kitchen (not seen from the window).
Before 1837 Antiga Confeitaria de Belem was a small general store attached to a sugar cane refinery. The shutdown of Jeronimos Monastery in 1834 meant the monks were out of work. To survive, they sold the custard tarts to the general store that eventually became a pastry shop selling pasteis de Belem.
Most guided tours to Belem include a stop at Pasteis de Belem. Here you can take a seat and ask for the warm, sweet and creamy tart with coffee. Remember to add a dash of cinnamon if you like. The pastry shop sells about 20,000 pasteis per day.
2. Confeitaria Nacional
Founded in 1829 by Balthazar Rois Castanheiro, Confeitaria Nacional is the oldest pastry shop in Lisbon. This two-floor pastry shop serves breakfast and lunch, but the main draw is the pastries and coffee. There’s a window display of pasteis de nata and various cakes at the front of the shop located on Praca da Figueira, one of the main thoroughfare in downtown Baixa.
Like Pasteis de Belem, Confeitaria Nacional makes their pasteis de nata on-site. It’s an ideal place for anyone looking for a historic place for coffee and pasteis de nata. Take a seat by the window in the tea room upstairs.
Manteigaria means butter shop in Portuguese. Manteigaria has two pastry shops – one on Rua do Loreto in Bairro Alto/Chiado neighborhoods, and the other is in Mercado da Ribeira.
There are no seats in Manteigaria on Rua do Loreto, and it only has one counter. The buttery pasteis are made in the shop and served all day. Visitors can enjoy the warm pastry and Bica (Portuguese espresso) at the counter or order to go.
Customers can watch the workers making the tarts in the shop through the wide window. The store makes about 5,000 pasteis de nata per day, and the bell rings when a fresh tray of pasteis is pulled from the oven.
4. Fabrica da Nata
This restaurant turned pastry factory, and café is in Praca dos Restauradores (Restauradores Square), steps from Elevador da Gloria, a funicular that links Bairro Alto to downtown Lisbon. You’ll get warm pasteis de nata straight from the oven either to take out or to eat in. Fabrica da Nata has a viewing window where you can see the production of these flaky and fresh tarts.
There’s always a line at Fabrica da Nata. Outdoor and indoor seats are available. The indoor seats are tastefully decorated making it a relaxing place to enjoy the tarts.
Fabrica da Nata has two locations in Lisbon.
PAUL is a French chain of bakery shop located on Rua Augusta, Lisbon’s busiest pedestrianized street, close to the Arco da Rua Augusta. PAUL serves all types of pastries, sandwiches, bread, and drinks.
There are just three tables indoors, but the main draw is the outdoor seats on the undulating mosaic covered street. Order a coffee and pastel de nata and enjoy the Portuguese sunshine.
After eating pasteis de nata in more than five pastry shops, these crispy puff pastries with sweet creamy custard tasted the same. The best are the ones served warm, straight from the oven. Add a dash of cinnamon and powdery sugar accompanied by a cup of hot coffee.
Also read, 5 Best Things to Do in Lisbon.
Do you have a favorite pasteis de nata shop in Lisbon?