For fans of cakes and confectionery, Confeitaria Nacional in the Baixa near Rossio is a Portuguese institution.
The colourful Bolo Rei (King Cake) and the crispy pastel de nata (custard tart) are specialties of Lisbon to sample here.
Founded in 1829, Confeitaria Nacional is still going strong now. It all started when Portugal’s population was scarcely 3 million (today we are around 10 million).
It was a time of Civil War fought over rights to succession to the throne of Portugal, but that did not stop Balthazar Roiz Castanheiro from opening a patisserie in the capital’s city centre. Confeitaria Nacional would soon conquer a variety of distinguished customers.
The elegant tearoom on the first floor, a novelty for the time, was only to be opened in 1872. It was also the son, Balthazar Castanheiro Júnior, who brought from France the best pastry chefs, and introduced the Bolo Rei in Portugal.
Bolo Rei at Confeitaria Nacional
Bolo Rei is a ring-shaped fruit bread, covered in crystallized fruit and nuts, traditionally eaten at Christmas time. The original recipe is still today a well-kept secret, known only by the current owner and the oldest pastry chef.
Not everyone likes the fruit, so the Bolo Rainha (Queen Cake) came later. It’s essentially the same cake except that fruits are replaced with nuts.
Nacional’s specialties also include the pastel de nata and several Portuguese sweets and cakes to have with tea or coffee.
Praça da Figueira, 18 B, Mon-Thu 8am-8pm, Fri-Sat 8am-9pm, Sun 9am-9pm, confeitarianacional.com