If you’ve read my Lisbon City Break Guide, you will know that I fell hook line and sinker for this incredible city. The culture, the architecture and the very very pretty vistas grabbed in a way like no other has. But then you add the food into the bargain and its love, forever.
I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so well, so often and so varied when I’ve been on a city break, but the options for decent grub were there on every corner. In this food guide I’m going to take you through some of the more traditional food and drink offers, and then I’m going to tell you where to find the best of the best.
Buckle up, and don’t read this when you are hungry!
Traditional Foods in Lisbon
There are a handful of things that you are absolutely going to want to try when in Lisbon
Pasteis de Nata
You’ll find these everywhere in Lisbon. We travelled to Belem to try the most famous of all at Pasteis de Belem, but there are lots of wonderful little cafes and bakeries lining every street with 1 euro custard tarts. Try them, love them and try them again.
I’ve written a whole post about the history of the humble pastel de nata, so you can see all the recommendations (and a few recipes) there. At around 1 euro per tart, there really is no reason NOT to try these wonderful, sweet warm pastries. They’ll warm your heart (and make the climbs up the hills much much easier!)
Green wine (or vinho verde) is a traditional Portuguese wine that originated in the north of the country. Essentially the vinho verde is not a grape variety, but refers to the fact that it is young wine. It’s is drunk very quickly after bottling (not rare vintage here), and can be red, white or rose.
I’m not a lover of white wine, but I had some of the white variety of vinho verde and it was truly delicious. Green wine, because of when it is bottled tends to be lighter and fresher in flavour, and I can confirm that I got none of my usual white wine hangovers after drinking it.
You can actually purchase vinho verde in the UK and this bottle of Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde comes highly recommended.
Continuing on the alcoholic theme, ginjinha (or simply ginja) is a Portuguese liqueur that is made from ginjha berries, alcohol and sugar alongside other ingredients. Ginjha berries are like sour cherries, and the drink is a thick, red liquid at about 20% abv.
It’s a very popular drink in Lisbon, with plenty of Ginjinha Bars popping up across the city (from kiosks to fully fledges bars). We actually tried our ginjinha out of the window of a wonder woman in Alfama on our Alfama Tour with Sandemans. She producing it herself and poured us thick warming shots of the stuff from a jug on her windowsill. Sort of perfect!
Something I didn’t try whilst in Lisbon were Sardines. They are not my cup of tea, but Sardines are huge business in Lisbon, whether grilled and freshly prepared or eaten from colourful cans available on every street corner.
If you visit Sintra, you will be able to find the pastel de nata but that would be a mistake. In Sintra, you want to sit down with an travesseiros, a long sugar coated pillow filled with egg yolk, almond and sugar. The lines for these are long in the summer, but after our rain soaked trip up to Pena Palace these were just the thing to take the edge off whilst we waited for our train.
Where to Eat + Drink
Lisbon is full of so many many many places to eat and drink that you’d have to try very very hard to have a bad meal there. I’ve rounded up some of my favourites, as well as a few others I didn’t get to try but that come highly recommended by some of my favourite travel bloggers.
Mercado Da Ribeira
This is a must do. If you only visit one place to eat in Lisbon, make it this place. It’s a food + drink market run by Time Out like no other – we’ve visited many of these markets in Europe, and this one tops the list. Within the market are loads of food stands serving everything from a quick snack through to Michelin star quality food, alongside bars with beer, wine, gin and cocktails. You grab your food and find a place to sit at long communal tables.
We did a couple of laps of the market on a busy Friday night before choosing a plate of steak, cured ham, sweet potato chips and egg from Cozinha da Felicidade. It was absolutely delicious, I think I wolfed it down in mere minutes and I would have been happy to go at it again, if it wasn’t for the fact that I knew I should pace myself.
Drinks wise, we sampled from Beer Experience Super Bock, Cinco E Meio (where the barman knocked up something amazing and lethal) and Gin Club by Schwepps. We settled in for the ultimate night of people watching. There were solo eaters, big groups of locals all tucking in to meals or basic cheese and ham plates with large glasses of Portuguese wine. We had the best fun, and I was sad not to be able to visit again.
A firm favourite with blogging babe Sophie Cliff, we spied Bonjardim down a little side street in Baixa, and were tempted by the smell of chicken and chips. I’m partial to a Nandos, but this is honestly the best peri chicken and chips I’ve ever had. It was dirt cheap (around 6 euros each), for a massive bit of chicken and a pile of chips on a tray which you then coat in as much peri oil as you can manage.
I loved that it was packed full of locals – it was just solid good authentic food. I don’t know how I’ll ever eat Nandos again.
Before arriving in Lisbon, I had researched ahead and booked us in for a slightly more special meal on the Saturday evening. Nestled firmly in the centre of Chiado, Largo is open for lunch and dinner and is part of the old cloisters of the Convento da Igreja dos Mártires which makes you feel like you are dining in a secret underground cavern.
The main feature is a wall of aquarium filled with little jelly fish which is odd but also hypnotising to watch. The food is top-notch – we feasted on Iberico pork, seafood soup, braised lamb and incredible gelato and left with our bellies full and satisfied. It cost around 100 euros for two which included three courses and wine.
Cafe Do Rio
Our last night was spent in Cafe Do Rio, a gourmet hamburgueria in Baixa trying out burgers, Portuguese style. It’s a gorgeous little place with a relaxed vibe and excellent, friendly staff. The burgers all come without buns (it’s like the burgers are the bun), can be served with chips, rice or salad and can be enjoyed with some amazing homemade tomato ketchup and garlic mayonnaise. Which was incredible.
I opted for the Nemesio with pineapple and Mr S went for a Shepherd with some tasty Portuguese cheese. This was all topped off with a jug of Sangria and good chats with the staff who were insanely friendly and in no rush to get rid of us despite the late hour.
It’s not a holiday if there is no pizza, and we were recommended this cute and compact Pizzeria by our friends Jack + Chelley just by Pink Street. Serving a range of solidly tasty pizzas with good beer and cheap wine this was a perfect place to eat until we were stuffed before embarking on our next walking tour.
I mean honestly this pizza was incredible, but at 1pm on a Saturday, the place was empty. Don’t let that put you off. The service is a little brusque (in comparison to what we’d experienced elsewhere), but the food was quick and delicious which is really all you want from a Pizza parlour.
The Best of the Rest
Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to make it to everywhere on my list (although I’m hoping to be back in Lisbon in November!), but these places all come highly recommended by my friends and fellow travel bloggers. And they have amazing taste.
- O Prego da Peixaria – recommended by the wonderful Sophie Cliff. Prego steak rolls, gigantic gins and sweet potato fries. Holla at me.
- Park Bar – a rooftop terrace bar where the cool kids hang. I’m not cool, and I didn’t hang but if you are go for it!
- Both Chapito and Vestigius have great food (AND GIN) along with great views, and come highly recommended by my cousin who is ace.
- Restaurante Isco – hard to find, it barely exists online or in person but my wonderful friends Jack + Chelley said they’d eat here every day if they could. Perfect for vegetarians.
So that’s it. My ultimate guide to eating and drinking in Lisbon. I’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments, for the next time I visit this wonderful city!