To say that the Portuguese love to eat is an understatement. “At the table, people talk about what they ate yesterday, what they plan to eat tomorrow, and what is currently on their plate,” shares journalist Célia Podroso. Her words were echoed by every Lisboa I met and punctuated by local chef Joaquim Saragga Leal, who joked, “people aren’t skinny here because we love eating too much.” An example of this love: the famous seafood spot, Cervejaria Ramiro, serves a steak sandwich for dessert!
The blend of Portugal’s rich trading history, down-home spots, chef-driven restaurants, and the city’s booming cosmopolitan growth is a recipe for Lisbon’s mouthwatering food scene. Here’s a guide to help you navigate the abundant eats in 72 hours, with some sights sprinkled in to digest between meals. Luckily, the numerous hills provide quite the workout.
Breakfast of champions
Start off with the iconic pasteis de nata at Manteigaria. Learn what makes these egg custard tarts so irresistible from a seat at the glass-walled bakery, where you can watch bakers fold enormous slabs of butter into the dough—hence why their name is Portuguese for “butter shop.” Manteigaria is located at the Time Out Market the bustling food hall attached to the Mercado da Ribeira. Essentially a live-action version of the magazine’s food section, this hugely successful market gathers Lisboa’s best under one roof, from charcuterie maven Manteigaria Silvato star chefs like Henrique Sá Pessoa.
Unfussy fine dining
At Chiado’s EPUR, 25-year veteran chef Vincent Farges merges fine dining techniques from his homeland of France with seasonal ingredients sourced from Portuguese producers. This translates into technically complex yet simple to savor dishes like Atlantic red mullet atop marrow mushrooms in a flavorful fish broth sauce. True to the restaurant’s name—EPUR is inspired by the French word for purity—Farges brings out the best of each ingredient. Set in a modern zen space with views of the Tagus and tiled rooftops below, this epicurean temple enchants with exceptional service that is refined without being stuffy. Tasting menus run from 65-160 euros with optional wine pairings—a must with charming, young sommelier Ivo Peralta picking Portuguese gems like the unknown copper-hued Villa Oeiras, a dessert wine from the tiny region of Carcavelos.
After your meditative meal, stroll to nearby Convento de Carmo, the sublime Gothic ruins of a convent and church that was decimated during the famous 1755 earthquake that nearly destroyed Lisbon. Don’t miss the small Carmo Arceaoligical Museum on site for beautiful tombs, paintings, and other objects that depict Lisbon’s history. Nearby, the Santa Justa lift, one of Lisbon’s famous 19th-century elevadors, is beautiful from up high or at street level if you don’t feel like waiting on the oft-lengthy line to ride it.
Perk up at Bettina & Niccolo Corallo an espresso-sized coffee roaster and chocolatier that uses fair-trade beans sourced from Bolivia to Brazil. Each La Marzocco-made coffee comes with a bite of brownie or chocolate bar—the latter are crafted made by Bettina’s husband Claudio in the former Portuguese colony of Sao Tomé and Principe. Their famous chocolate sorbet—so decadent yet simply made from just 100% dark chocolate, water, and a bit of sugar—lives up to its hype.
Sips with a view
The number of boutique hotel bars boasting killer views has grown alongside Lisbon’s population boom. One of them, the Memmo Príncipe Real, is tucked away from the upscale neighborhood’s bustle. Thanks to its cliffside perch, the 5-star hideaway serves up a panorama of the city’s famous hills. At its poolside patio, sip craft cocktails—including delicious virgin versions—and gourmet snacks like duck croquettes and tuna tartare tacos.
A favorite of locals, chefs, and culinary travelers, the Taberna da Rua das Flores dishes small plates sprinkled with creative flair. Think mackerel tartare with wasabi and seaweed, razor clams with Thai spices, lip-smacking caramelized short ribs, and flourless 80% dark chocolate cake that pairs perfectly with the Porto that the friendly waitress suggests. In the cozy, dimly lit space, sip local Lisboa wines, craft beers, and cocktails to the tunes of Nina Simone and the Beatles. The chalkboard menu changes daily depending on what chef André Magalhães finds. Come early to put your name in at this cash only, no reservations Chiado taberna, or plan to wait up to 2 hours.
Though Sacolinha Bakery sits in the most touristy part of Chiado, the 30-year-old pasteleria and padaria is frequented by many locals. Order the bolas de Berlim, a take on Germany’s berliner that arrived in Portugal by a Jewish family fleeing persecution in WW2. These sugar-dusted donuts are bigger than their Berlin counterparts; instead of jam, they’re stuffed with the egg-y custard that stars in so many Portuguese pastries.
On the eastern edge of Alfama, Taberna Sal Grosso mixes the warmth of a traditional tasca (the homey eateries signature to Portugal) and the skills of a chef. At this convivial spot, the menu of small plates is designed for sharing: bacalhau confitado,the famous salt cod dish with crispy slivers of fries, rabo de boi, oxtail stew, and iscas de pato, fried duck liver as finger-lickin good as the South, not surprisingly since owner Joaquim Saragga Leal spent his time as a pilot in Tennessee. He affably works the room, sitting down with the mix of locals and tourists to explain the menu and bringing his house-brewed beer to waiting customers on the sidewalk. “I like to eat,” says the burly chef as he pats his belly. You can taste that love in each bite.
Work off lunch by wandering through the winding streets of Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood, or further up the hill to the equally charming, and less touristy, Graça. Hop the metro to Intendente, the revitalized ‘hood that has wonderful azulejos (tile) exteriors, including the original location of A Vida Portuguesa, a shop that sells a prime pick of local goods. Head across the street and up the stairs to Casa Independente https://www.facebook.com/CasaIndependente/ a hip, cultural spot that has an idyllic terrace ideal for sipping porto tonico, white port and tonic.
Cave 23 is ideal for those who like their tasting menus https://www.thedailymeal.com/free-tagging-cuisine/tasting-menu peppered with whimsy and served with intimacy. The cozy 20-seat space is hidden away in the cellar of the historic mansion-turned-Torel Palace hotel. Guests tuck into a parade of chef Bernardo Agrela’s inventive plates, each inspired by his global gigs (London, Tokyo and the Maldives), his youthful exuberance, and his Portuguese heritage. He plays with local bola de Berlim by adding savory, slow-cooked oxtail, to the sweet toffee sauce. Though the Converse-clad chef looks younger than his 27 years, he is serious about his food, solemnly responding that “things need to be tasty when paying this much,” when complimented on his fantastic açorda—bread stew. The wall of wine bottles clues you into the thoughtfully chosen list of small producers and natural wines, like the organic 2012 Quinta da Serradinha from nearby Leiria. Note that Cave 23 is a tasting menu only (65 euros) plus 35 euros for the wine pairing.
Tour like a local
Culinary Backstreets serves up food tours that focus on the traditional over the trendy and the people behind each bite. On the Lisbon Awakens: A Culinary Crossroads Reborn tour, the full-day feast kicks off with egg-yolk cookies, ovos moles de aveiro, and a history lesson at Doce Estrela as affable guide João draws a map of Portugal’s trade routes. Next, shots of ginjinha, sour cherry liquor, poured by an octogenarian mercearia owner, snack beers and sashimi of fresh tuna plucked from the adjacent fishmonger at the Campo de Ourique market, and the Goan-Portuguese mashup, pork vindalho. Lunch is at a classic family-run tasca, Imperial de Campo de Ourique, for pork and clams and bacalhau a minhota, where João shares that Portugal’s ubiquitous salt cod came from encounters between the Vikings and Basque fisherman in the 11thcentury. Half to full-day tours are priced at $95-135, ample eats and drinks included.
Farm to table
In a soaring, industrial, plant-filled space where vine-like bulbs hang from the ceiling, Prado fills the much-needed void of veggie-driven menus in this meat and fish-centric town. Adhering to the credo “if it’s not in season, it’s not on the table,” young chef Antonio Galapito menu reads like a trip to the farmer’s market. Charred spring onions with leek mayo, mackerel in parsley puree and blistered sea lettuce, and an intriguing mushroom ice cream. Every ingredient is sourced from local purveyors and producers, including a sourdough bread collab from cult bakery, Gleba. This Baixa hotspot is home to one of Lisbon’s only all-natural wine lists curated by Maria Rodriguez—the wonderfully atypical 2016 Phaunus Palhete is made from a mix of red and white grapes fermented in ancient amphora. Wine and other epicurean delights are for sale at Prado Mercearia, the gourmet mercantile next door.
Where to stay
Centrally located on Chiado’s lovely Praça Luís de CamõesDesign buffs will dig this hip hotel, which features contemporary art in each room and the in-house art gallery. At this cultural consulate, guests hobnob with locals at art shows, the cocktail bar, or happening events. Be sure to book a table at Taberna Fina, noted chef André Magalhães foray into fine dining (he owns the nearby Taberna da Ruas Das Flores mentioned above), which showcases flavors from his world travels in a refined, relaxed setting.
Smack dab in Bairro Alto, this boutique hotel has all the amenities you need for an effortless stay: a spa, a gym, an intimate rooftop bar, and two restaurants to savor local cuisine. Each of the stylish, modern rooms in this former palace is stocked with kitchens; the spacious penthouses—some with prime-viewing patios—are ideal for entertaining, families, or traveling with friends.