Built on the coast, surrounded by vineyards and blessed with a temperate climate, Lisbon has an abundance of high quality, locally sourced ingredients, and some of the finest seafood in the world. It produces and attracts outstanding and innovative chefs, who continue to elevate the foundations of the traditional cuisine. If you are a food lover, you can easily spend a long weekend eating your way around Lisbon. From high-end dining to grabbing a snack, it won’t disappoint.
1. BBQ’d Chorizo. The cosy Tábuas Porto Wine Bar is in the central area of Baixa. An extensive selection of ports and wines are on offer in the cavern-like surroundings. Order small plates of local ham and cheese, but if you fancy something hot, opt for the chorizo. Cooked whole on a mini charcoal BBQ, the novelty of it doesn’t distract from the flavour. Delicious with an ice cold glass of Rosé and a bowl of olives.
2. Little Chicken Pies (empadas). Lisbon is built on 7 hills. Trams, buses, taxis and escalators will take you up from street level, however, like most cities, it’s better experienced on foot. There is no street food scene, but when in need of refreshment and a light snack, sit down in one of the many bars or bakeries for a cold beer and a bite-size chicken pie, they really are delicious.
3. Local Fizz (bruto) and Sushi. If the São Jorge Castle is on your list of attractions to visit, once there keep an eye out for the Solar Dos Mouros hotel and make your way to their roof terrace. Order a glass of the local sparkling wine, a plate of high-grade sushi and relax. Take in the view over the mighty Tagus River and the Cristo Rei Statue in the distance.
4. Custard Tarts (pasteis de nata). Pastéis de Belém is where the delicious custard start was created by monks in 1837. A very popular bakery and coffee shop located in historic Belém, a 20-minute tram ride outside Lisbon. Don’t join the long queue outside the bakery, take a table in the vast restaurant area, table service is much quicker than take away.
Belém has more to offer than custard tarts, it is a Unesco world heritage site. The Belém Tower, Jeronimos Monastery and tropical gardens are all worth a visit
Tourist tip. You can waste half a day queuing for the popular tram 24. The old style trams are still very much in service and cover many different routes, not just 24. You have a good chance of jumping on a traditional tram from Belém and riding it back into the city
5. Ceviche. The fashionable area of Principe Real is home to many of Lisbon’s most stylish bars and restaurants. Gin Lovers and Less is located in an opulent, former Arabian palace. The popular bar boasts 57 varieties of gin and an array of original cocktails. The relaxed modern restaurant offers an exciting menu of small plates including inventive variations on ceviche. Gin Lovers and Less is definitely a place in which to take your time. Make a reservation, enjoy a pre-dinner drink, soak up the exotic surroundings and leisurely work your way through the menu.
6. Exploding Olives. José Avillez dominates the food scene in Lisbon, from the two Michelin starred Belcanto to Burlesque at Beco. In the lively area of Chiado you will find Barrio Do Avillez, three concepts in one. Mercearia, a delicatessen, Taberna, casual and hearty and Páteo, high-end fish and seafood.
All three concepts share a central bar, allowing you to wait for your table whilst enjoying a drink and some unusual nibbles. If you love olives order ‘Azeitonas Explosives.’ When they arrive you may think they are small egg yolks, but bite down and a pop of warm olive puree is released. Sublime. Booking essential.
7. Coffee & Bagels. A cosy spot in Alfama, Pois Café is a stroll down the hill from the Se Cathedral. Behind the big wooden doors is an eclectic selection of comfy vintage sofas, mis-matched communal tables and works by local artists decorating the walls. Serving great coffee, brunches and lunches, they excel at simple but delicious flavour combinations such as the Klimt bagel – mango chutney, brie, red cabbage, cucumber, red onion and lettuce.
Tourist tip. Fado is a traditional genre of melancholic Portuguese singing. Beware the touristy deals of dinner and Fado mainly in Alfalma. If you are near the Se Cathedral at night, seek out Duetos da Sé. This little bar is behind blue, double doors, in a cobbled side street heading back down the hill towards Baixa. Go late and you’ll have missed the touristy dinner, but can pay a small entrance fee to watch the emotive second half. Magical.
8. Ginjinha or Ginja. A local liquor made from morello cherries, this warming tipple, apparently has medicinal qualities. Served in all the bars, you will also see little Ginjha kiosks dotted around the city. Ginjinha do Carmo at the base of the steps behind the magnificent Rossio train station, is one of the city’s most popular hole in the wall Ginja bars. Drunk from an edible chocolate cup for around €1, add a booze-soaked cherry for an extra 20c.
9. Seafood in Cascais. The seaside resort of Cascais is 45 minutes by train from Lisbon. A ten-minute taxi ride from the station at Cascais and you arrive at the Monte Mar. Located precariously on the cliff edge, this family-run restaurant is a local institution and well worth the journey. As the wild Atlantic ocean crashes beneath you, feast your eyes on the spectacular view and your appetite on the incredible fish and seafood.
10. Anything in the Time Out Market (Mercado de Ribeira). The Time Out team have brought all the best food and drink in Lisbon under one enormous roof. Central communal seating allows you to browse the reasonably priced food and drink from the abundance of stalls around the perimeter. A starter from one Michelin starred chef and a main course from another. Avoid at peak times, it’s a very popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
Tourist tip. Lisbon airport disappoints when it comes to eating. If time allows, end your trip with a meal at Time Out before jumping on the airport bus. The bus leaves regularly from the Cais do Sodré train station, opposite the market.