The Ultimate Foodie’s Guide To Lisbon
Our all-inclusive companion to the best eats (and drinks!) in Lisbon. From breakfast to dessert–and all of the custard tarts in between–find out what to eat and where to eat it! By David Pope
By David Pope
What do cinnamon rolls, tempura prawns, and English tea all have in common?
The answer? You probably wouldn’t be able to enjoy them if it weren’t for Portugal. This is a country that has connected the world for centuries, and we have a list of famous explorers as long as your arm to prove it!
Portuguese traders paved the way for some of the world’s favorite flavors, from the spicy hit of chili peppers in an Indian curry to the roasted toastiness of Brazilian coffee. Portugal really is the home of fusion food.
But if you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Lisbon, there’s no excuse for not exploring the tastes that have made this city one of the major foodie destinations in Europe. In this cosmopolitan capital, you’ll find unbeatable versions of classic Portuguese recipes served alongside unimaginably tasty local specialties. You’ll also discover the best custard tarts in the world!
5 Must-Eat Dishes in Lisbon
Here in Portugal, we have more recipes for salted cod (bacalhau) than there are days in the year! There are at least 400 ways of preparing this incredible fish, and each part of the country has their own signature take on it.
In Lisbon, make sure to try Bacalhau à Bràs—flaked cod served alongside scrambled eggs, potatoes, olives and parsley. Our favorite plate of this is served up at Casa Lisboa.
Lisboetas are huge fans of seafood—and why wouldn’t we be! With over 500 miles of coastline, this is the perfect place to indulge in some of the bounty of the sea.
Aside from the bacalhau, there’s no fish more popular among locals than sardines! Best eaten in summer, these local favorites are prepared as simply as possible. You’ll most commonly find them grilled and served on top of a piece of rustic sourdough, alongside a fresh salad.
3. Cozido à Portuguesa
There are some foods that look like a beautiful work of art, and then there’s Cozido à Portuguesa (Portuguese stew). Don’t get us wrong, it’s still one of the best-tasting dishes you can try in Lisbon, and the perfect thing to warm you up on cooler days.
This is the classic Sunday lunch for Lisbon locals, and it’s packed full of cozy, homey flavors. Fill a big pot with sausages, different cuts of beef and pork, as well as vegetables like beans, carrots and cabbage, and you have the start of one seriously tasty stew!
This simple pork sandwich has achieved almost cult-like status among locals, and is a popular afternoon and late-night snack. To make a bifana, a tenderized pork loin is fried in a secret sauce before being stuffed inside a crusty bread roll.
Everyone has their favorite spot for bifana, but we can’t resist the one from O Trevo (Praça Luís de Camões, 48), of Anthony Bourdain fame.
5. Chicken Piri-Piri
We’re not talking about Nando’s here.
At the same time as they were bringing tempura to Japan, Portuguese sailors were also bringing chili peppers back home. These birds-eye chilies are used to create the famous Piri Piri sauce that makes char-grilled chickens across the country taste incredible.
Here in Portugal, we don’t have as spicy a palate as Britain or the U.S., so most restaurants will give you the sauce in a bottle on the side. We get ours from Bomjardin (Travessa de Santo Antão 12).
Portugal for sugar-holics: The best pastries in Lisbon
These simple but delectable custard tarts are a good enough reason by themselves to plan a trip to Lisbon, and they make the perfect breakfast or sweet treat. Lisboetas are well-known lovers of all things pastry, and you’ll see pastéis de nata flying off café shelves all day, every day!
Not only that, but Lisbon is also home to the original custard tart recipe, dating back to 1837! In the neighborhood of Belém, people line up for hours to buy fresh pastéis from the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém.
Want to avoid the lines? Don’t worry, there are plenty of good pastelarias throughout Lisbon where you can have a coffee and enjoy your pastel in peace. The best of these has to be Manteigaria, with a few locations around town.
When in Lisbon, you should do as the locals do—and that means starting with a delicious breakfast! The classic breakfast choices here are a mug of hot, milky coffee alongside a small, sweet pastry (we told you, locals love our sweet treats!).
And if you’re lacking a sweet tooth, don’t worry! There are plenty of savory baked goodies on offer at breakfast spots throughout the city, too. We’ve put together a list of all the best breakfasts in Lisbon, so be sure to check it out for a tasty start to the day.
Locals will generally grab our quick breakfast before starting work, so most of the favorite spots in town will be full of people between 8 and 9 a.m. Aim to arrive a bit afterwards to avoid the crowds, or turn up mid-rush for the local experience of standing at the bar and chatting!
Whatever your brunch of choice, Lisbon has it covered. Missing your full English? Head to Heim Cafe (they also do some of the fluffiest pancakes in town). Looking for a lighter touch? The Mill, an Australian-run spot near Bairro Alto, has all of the avocado toast and chia pudding you could ever need.
What to drink in Lisbon: A foodie’s guide
Whatever your tipple of choice, Lisbon has you covered.
The city’s trendy bar scene is exploding at the moment, which means that your list of things to drinks is growing as well! The best bars in Lisbon come well-stocked with a mesmerizing number of classic and modern options, so we’ll lay out the basics here.
Portuguese Wine in Lisbon
Portuguese wine is finally enjoying some well-deserved attention, as this previously unknown wine region steps into the limelight. Look out for local reds and whites at bars and restaurants around town (pro tip: most house wines are pretty good, but do some digging through the wine list and you’re sure to find some gems!).
While in Lisbon, try local wines from the Lisboa region. This area to the northwest of the city has nine sub-appellations, so you’ll find plenty of variety here!
There are plenty of recognizable international grapes grown here, but if you’re looking to try something really local, keep an eye out for some native Portuguese grapes. For reds, look for Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca, and for whites; Arinto and Fernão Pires.
Craft Beer in Lisbon
Ginjinha in Lisbon
Finally, don’t leave without trying ginjinha! This sweet and sour cherry liqueur is a Lisbon favorite and is as iconic around here as custard tarts. Find it served in a shot glass, or even from a glass made out of chocolate.
Lisbon: The Mealtime Survival Guide
When to eat in Lisbon
Just like Spain and other Mediterranean cultures, the biggest meal of the day in Portugal falls at lunch. You’ll find most restaurants and tascas open from noon until around 3 p.m., with even office workers managing to fit in at least two courses!
Around 5 or 6 p.m., when the stomach is starting to rumble again, it’s time to grab a quick snack (and maybe a third coffee). If you’re not feeling another custard tart, you can go for a savory tart or pie instead!
What are petiscos?
Spend more than a few hours in Lisbon and you’re sure to find yourself asking one question: just what are petiscos?
They might sound like the Portuguese version of tapas, but say that around a local and be prepared for a mild death stare! These are as Portuguese as anything else in town, full of popular and seasonal flavors that vary from place to place.
Different restaurant names, explained
Stroll down any street in Lisbon and you’re sure to see more than few different types of eateries. Words like tasca, taberna, restaurante… but what’s the difference?
What’s the vegetarian/vegan scene like in Lisbon?
For a country that has prided itself on pork and seafood for centuries, this is no mean feat. But look around the city, and you’ll find some incredible veggie-friendly bites that will entice even the most devout carnivores!
Do you have to tip in Lisbon?
The exception to this rule is in Michelin-starred restaurants, where a gratuity of 5-10% is standard.
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