We recently visited Lisbon for the first time. I’d never been to Portugal, and it was an interesting experience. While I absolutely loved the Azores and Porto, Lisbon didn’t quite do it for me. I’m not sure what it was. Whether it was the amount of people that offered to sell us drugs or the constant awareness of pickpockets, it just made it that little bit harder to relax. This was a shame, as the city itself – while gritty in parts – was beautiful. We stayed in Alfama, and found no shortage of spots to enjoy the beautiful Portuguese food. If you are visiting the city, you can read on to view my recommendations for eating out in Lisbon.
The Alfama district is one of the oldest areas of Lisbon. It survived the earthquake of 1755 in surprisingly good shape, so is one of the spots in the city where you can enjoy traditional architecture. For many years, it was a slum, and parts of it remain a little rough around the edges. However, it is a great place to explore, and is well known for its beautiful Azulejo – the colourful tilework adorning many of the house fronts. It is a maze of cobbled streets, tiny eateries and bars, and lots of beautiful spots to look out over the Rio Tejo.
You could easily waste a whole day in the area, visiting sites such as the Portas do Sol lookout and Saint Anthony Church. We spent our first day exploring Alfama, and managed to dine out there two or three times. The other area that we spent some time in – Belém – also yielded some delicious results. Read on to view our recommendations on where to eat in Lisbon!
Largo Rodrigues de Freitas, 14 a 18, 1100-455 Lisbon
This fabulous little steak house and eatery was located just across the road from our AirBnB. The staff were incredibly friendly, and we ended up going back three times – once for dinner, once for breakfast, and once to try out their delicious gelato! For our dinner, we weren’t terribly hungry, so ordered a charcuterie board crammed with local meats and cheeses. I’d also recommend their affordable ham and cheese croissants for breakfast. Portuguese croissants are much heavier than their French counterparts – more like a sweet brioche – and they are absolutely delicious.
Rua do Salvador, nº62 S. Vicente, 1100-466 Lisbon
I know I make a lot of lofty sandwich-related claims. But oh my, the sandwich I had at Marcelino Pão & Vinho was beyond magnificent. Crammed with local cheese, chicken, lettuce, honey mustard sauce and almonds, it was filling and delicious. This little hole-in-the-wall bar has a great menu, and was handily located just underneath our AirBnB. The food is plentiful and well priced, and the staff are kind and friendly. They also offer a great wine selection, and can advise you on local tipple to try.
Various locations throughout Lisbon – see website
Sometimes, when you are travelling, you don’t want a fancy meal. You want something simple, and you want to order it with minimal fuss. We came across A Padaria Portuguesa while exploring Belém. The main street is lined with expensive tourist trap restaurants, where you will pay 15 euros for a burger. We wandered a little further along and came across this cafe, part of a local chain. It was full of Portuguese people, always a good sign. You grab a little coupon, and go to the counter and order off a simple menu. Each of us got a chicken baguette, pumpkin soup and fresh lemonade for 5 euros each. You can’t go wrong with that!
Rua Belém 84-92, 1300 085 Lisbon
If you know anything about Portugal, you have probably heard of the delicious Pastel de Nata. The monastery pre-dating the Pastéis de Belém bakery invented the famous egg tart, best enjoyed with cinnamon, after the Liberal Revolution of 1820. The revolution caused many convents and monasteries to close down, and the former residents needed to find other ways to make money. Monks developed the tart from a French recipe, later selling it to a sugar refinery who opened the Pastéis de Belém factory and shop. If you show up and the line is out the door, don’t worry. Service is incredibly quick, and they know how to please a crowd – turning over more than 10,000 tarts a day.
- If you’re going to ride the No. 28 Tram that runs through Alfama, go earlier. While the shops and restaurants don’t open till later, you can explore the district in peace – and avoid the pickpockets that stake out the trams later in the day.
- Lisbon is hilly. Take comfortable walking shoes!
- Some restaurants charge ‘cover’ just for the pleasure of dining there, in additional to a service fee. It’s always best to check.