Lisbon is a city with a sweet tooth, and its most iconic pastry is the palm-size pastel de nata, or egg tart, a creamy custard tart available in pastelarias across the city. The recipe dates back to the 16th century, when the confections, like many other Portuguese sweets, were made by nuns in convents. Now, locals eat pastéis de nata at breakfast, in the midmorning, after lunch, or in the evening — any time they’re craving a snack.
The tart’s ingredients are very simple: a puff pastry filled with a custard made of cream, egg yolks, sugar, flour, and lemon zest. But that simplicity does not mean all egg tarts are created equal — the competition for the best pastel de nata in Lisbon is fierce, and some bakeries even keep their recipe secret.
A perfect egg tart should be at least three or four fingers wide and about two fingers high. (Always skip the soulless miniatures.) The crust should be thin, and crispy even when cold; the filling should be creamy and just a little runny. Most of all, the taste should be subtle and nuanced, and not too sweet.
Visitors to Lisbon could spend their entire trip eating these tarts in search of their favorite. Here are a few places to chase perfection.
Antiga Confeitaria de Belém
In Belém, Lisbon’s most touristy neighborhood, one of the longest lines is not for the 16th-century monastery Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, but for the dark blue pastelaria next door. During the day, international and Portuguese tourists queue for hours to buy boxes of egg tarts at the takeaway counter or nab a seat in one of the five massive dining rooms.
Egg tarts, in their modern form, originated here in 1837. Antiga Confeitaria de Belém's egg tarts are called pastéis de Belém, not pastéis de nata; the name is trademarked, and their original recipe is secret. Only six people alive today know that recipe, including the three master bakers who work behind closed doors at the so-called Secret Atelier.
The confeitaria sells thousands of egg tarts per day, and while the occasional tart can be a bit burnt or underdone, 90 percent are perfect. An order fresh out of the oven alongside a glass of port wine is one of the best egg tart experiences you can have.
The line might suggest that this is a tourist trap, but Lisboetas also trek out here for their pastel de Belém fix. If you want to avoid the line, go at breakfast or on a day when the nearby monastery (a big draw) is closed.
Rua de Belém 84-92 | +351 21 363 7423 | website
Price per egg tart: 1,30€
Minutes away from Lisbon’s popular shopping area Chiado, Manteigaria is best described as an egg tart bar. The Art Nouveau building, once a butter shop, has only a counter and a kitchen. From eight in the morning until midnight, a mix of tourists and locals eat their egg tarts at the counter, while on the other side of the plexiglass, bakers roll, shape, and fill new tarts. Every time a new batch comes out of the oven, a bell rings.
Manteigaria’s tarts are light with a thin, flaky crust, and the thick cream has the right hint of sweetness. Buy a few extra, because their tarts are just as good cold.
The owners have also opened a second shop inside the crowded and touristy Mercado da Ribeira. Though the egg tarts stand up to those at the original location, the new shop doesn’t have the same charming counter vibe.
Rua do Loreto 2 | +351 21 347 1492
Price per egg tart: 1€
Nestled in the narrow streets of downtown Lisbon, this is one of the oldest confeitarias in Portugal. Open since 1829, the sixth-generation family pastry shop is fanciful and opulent, with decorative woodwork, a mirrored ceiling, and marble counters. A spiral staircase leads up to the tea room on the second floor. The shop first gained renown in the 19th century, when the owner invited bakers and chefs from France and Spain to teach the art of pastry. In 1873, Confeitaria Nacional became the official supplier of the Casa Real (Royal Household).
Some of the recipes used by Confeitaria are secured under lock and key, including the recipe for their egg tart. It features a more dense and sweet custard, a nice contrast to the crispy and flaky layers of the pastry. The best move is to buy a dozen pastries: Fill half the box with egg tarts, and then add whatever other convent sweets catch your eye.
Praça da Figueira 18 B | +351 21 342 4470 | website
Price per egg tart: 1,10€
Pastelaria Alcôa opened at the beginning of 2017 in what was once a beautiful tobacco shop. The tiles from the interior and exterior remain, but the smoke has been replaced by the smell of sugar and an enticing window display of sweets. This is Alcôa’s second location; the original dates back to 1957 in Alcobaça, a city about two hours from Lisbon famous for its convent sweets.
The pastéis de nata are on display next to other convent sweets made of egg yolk and sugar with funny names like “nun’s belly” or “the forbidden love.” The bakery uses high-quality ingredients, and the custard of the egg tarts is perfectly balanced and creamy. Warm egg tarts continuously come out of the oven, so no matter what time you stop in, there will always be a fresh batch.
Rua Garrett 37 | website
Price per egg tart: 1,10€
Located in the heart of Lisbon’s business area Saldanha, Versailles is a café with a charming Parisian vibe. With black-and-white checkerboard floors, chandeliers, and enormous mirrors, the 1920s-era interior is one of the most beautiful in Lisbon; it has also been a meeting place for many generations of politicians and locals alike.
Massive window displays showcase the house specialities, from simple homemade cookies to éclairs. Even though Versailles doesn’t specialize in pastéis de nata, theirs are perfect: With a delectable eggy cream, its subtle flavor isn’t overwhelmed by excessive flavors of vanilla or lemon. If you’re hungry for lunch as well, the croquettes and pork sandwiches are especially good.
Avenida da República 15-A | +351 21 354 6340
Price per egg tart: 1,20€
Fim de Século
Away from Lisbon’s downtown and most touristy areas, this pastry shop in Benfica — a green, residential neighborhood in Lisbon — is located right in front of the local market. In 1999, Fim de Século opened as a simple family pastelaria, and it has since become a well-known egg tart destination.
Owners Gabriela and José Carlos have been testing and perfecting their egg tart over the years, and they won’t reveal the secret to their success. The crust is flaky and crisp, and the not-too-sweet custard interior is so runny as to almost require a spoon. Don’t make the mistake of ordering just one — you will immediately turn around and order three more.
Rua João Frederico Ludovice 28 | +351 21 764 9294
Price per egg tart: 0,95€
Miguel Andrade is food writer, researcher, and chef connector based in Lisbon.
Joana Freitas is a photographer based in Lisbon who specializes in food and portrait photography. You can follow her on Instagram and Facebook.
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