Portugal | The Essential Foodies Guide to Lisbon

Fancy an inspiring, food packed break in Europe? Get yourself to Portugal's capital! Lisbon is a vibrant city with an exceptional culinary scene thriving among it's steep, blue tile adorned streets. From traditional tascas serving typical Portuguese dishes to modern, fusion eateries, rooftop bars and coffee shops catering to the influx of digital nomads, there's something for everyone here. We spent five days exploring the city of seven hills in the sunshine last September, and came home excited to write this essential foodie's guide to Lisbon. So without further ado, let's tuck in!

What to eat in Lisbon - 8 Portuguese Foods (and drinks!) you must try

Frango Assado - Otherwise known as Piri Piri Chicken! This dish is said to have its origins in Africa but was brought to Portugal by locals returning home from overseas colonies. Butterflied chicken is roasted, or barbecued, and served with this spicy pepper sauce, made of crushed chillies and oil, and accompanied by a side of rice or fries.

Pasteis de Nata - The popular Portuguese egg tarts were first created by monks in the 18th century at the Jeronimos Monastery in Belem, Lisbon to use up leftover yolks. Flaky pastry cases are filled with deliciously sweet custard, with a caramelised top. Often sprinkled with cinnamon or icing sugar and demolished in two bites.

Travasseiros - Another sweet treat, this time originating from the nearby town of Sintra, the name travasseiros translates to "pillows". These little sugar-coated pillows of puff pastry have a creamy almond and egg yolk filling. Best eaten fresh from the Piriquita bakery in Sintra itself!

Bacalhau dish at Farmacia Lisbon

Bacalhau - Salt cod, or bacalhau, is hugely popular in Portuguese cuisine. Historically the fish was dried and salted as a way to preserve it - ideal for explorers voyaging across the seas. These days it's imported from Norway or Newfoundland, and a staple ingredient in a number of dishes, rehydrated before cooking. One of the main Christmas meals here is Bacalhau com natas - a dish of cod and potatoes in a rich, creamy sauce. And Pasteis de bacalhau (deep fried fishcakes made with cod and potato) are moreish little bite-sized snacks enjoyed by locals. It's said there are 365 cod recipes in Portugal - one for each day of the year!

Bifana - A simple marinated pork sandwich, the bifana is a cheap lunchtime staple eaten on the go in Lisbon, or with a beer in a local tasca. Thinly sliced pork is simmered in a mixture of white wine, paprika and garlic, then topped with mustard or piri piri sauce in a bread roll.

Prego - Another traditional sandwich, similar to the bifana, the prego is made with garlic marinaded beef. Another great bar snack, also weirdly known to be eaten as dessert after seafood. Yes, dessert! Don't be expecting any fancy cuts of meat, this is a cheap and simple yet delicious dish.

Sardines and cod at Sol e Pesca

Sardines - Freshly grilled or packed in tins, sardines are one of the most commonly eaten fish in Lisbon. So much so, there's even a festival dedicated to them. If you're visiting in June, you'll be able to immerse yourself in the carnival atmosphere and enjoy grilled sardines atop a thick wedge of bread, on the street corners of Lisbon's old quarters, as part of the Feast of St Anthony celebrations.

Ginjinha - A sweet liqueur made by fermenting sour cherries (ginja berries) in brandy, with sugar and cinnamon, ginjinha has become the typical beverage of Lisbon. It's an unwritten rule that you can't pass a ginjinha bar without stopping for one. You'll find it served in shot glasses for less than two euros, with or without a cherry, or less traditionally in a tiny edible chocolate cup!

ginjinha shots outside A Ginjinha, Lisbon

Where to Try Local Food in Lisbon

Faz Frio - Serving classic Portuguese food with a contemporary twist, in a classy setting in the Principe Real area for over a century, Faz Frio comes highly recommended by locals. On the menu here you'll find a daily changing bacalhau dish so it's the perfect place to try it. The chocolate mousse is also hugely popular!

££ - Faz Frio, Rua dom Pedro V 96, Lisbon

Bonjardim - One of the best places to eat frango assado in Lisbon! The unassuming restaurant, tucked away down a side street off Praca dos Restauradores, gets super busy but the no frills service ensures everything runs quickly and smoothly. Think chequered tablecloths and stone-faced Portuguese waiters. We ordered the half roast chicken with fries each and believe me when I tell you it's some of the most intensely flavoured chicken I've ever eaten. Salty, smoky and so delicious that we'd eaten most of it before realising we forgot to ask them to pass the piri-piri sauce!

£ - Bonjardim, Tv de Santo Antao 11, 1150-312, Lisbon

Pharmacia Felicidade - For a modern twist on traditional dishes, check out Pharmacia Felicidade. Conveniently located by the Miradouro de Santa Catarina viewpoint, this restaurant has great terrace seating as well as a beautiful interior. The vintage pharmacy concept lends itself to their medicine inspired cocktail list. I recommend the prego here; their version of the steak sandwich was topped with mushroom in a sweet potato bread roll, and Gordon's cod with mashed potato and garlic mayonnaise was heavenly!

££ - Pharmacia, Rua de Santa Catarina 1-2, 1249-069, Lisbon

Licor Beirao cocktail at Time Out Market, Lisbon

Time Out Market - A star attraction in Lisbon's foodie scene, Time Out Market's huge food hall can be found in the Mercado da Ribeira, housing an array of unique traders. This is a great spot to try lots of different delicacies under one roof, with the central communal benches making it easy to share with friends or get chatting to new people. There's a patisserie serving freshly baked pastel de nata, Cozinha da Felicidade (by the same Chef as Pharmacia) offers Portuguese dishes featuring cod, sardines and octopus, alongside various other seafood stalls, and there's even one dedicated to the prego.

If you fancy something less traditional at Time Out, I'd recommend Asian Lab for pad thai and bao, Crush doughnuts for showstopping baked treats or Croqueteria for, you guessed it, all kinds of weird and wonderful croquettes. Wash it all down with a beer from the Super Bosk kiosk, or a cocktail from the Licor Beirao bar. It can get really busy here, particularly at lunch time, so it's best to visit earlier in the day if possible.

££ - Time Out Market, Mercado da Ribeira, Avenida 24 de Julho, 1200-479, Lisbon

Sol e Pesca - Visited by none other than Anthony Bourdain in his No Reservations series, Sol e Pesca on Lisbon's Pink Street specialises in tinned seafood. Not your usual restaurant fare, but then this is not your usual restaurant. A rainbow of cans lines the walls alongside fishing paraphernalia - even the menu is fixed to a fishing rod! This is no gourmet experience, but ideal for a pitstop.

Choose the prettiest tins on the shelf, or make your choice from the lengthy menu - sardines, tuna, roe, mussels, cod? Tomato or olive oil? Staff helped us make sense of it all, and we took their advice for a couple of must tries. Plates of fish arrived sprinkled with herbs, served tapas style with crusty bread to mop up the sauces. I'd recommend the sardines with tomato and chilli but wasn't so much a fan of the cod in lemon and olive oil.

£ - Sol e Pesca, Rua Nova do Carvalho 44, 1200-019, Lisbon

Reading the fishing rod menu outside Sol e Pesca

A Tendinha do Rossio - During a free walking tour our guide pointed out this traditional tasca, founded in 1840, as the ideal spot to sample local snacks. We headed straight there at the end of the tour and ordered pasteis de bacalhau and a bifana with mustard to share. I wasn't a fan of the latter, but the cod fishcakes went down a treat. You'll also find these served stuffed with cheese at little kiosks around the city, but this is a more touristy take on them. Don't expect anything fancy at Tendinha - it's quick, cheap and cheerful, and feels local. It's very central, just a short walk from the Santa Justa Lift, and across the square from our next stop.

£ A Tendinho do Rossio, Praca dom Pedro IV 6, 1100-200, Lisbon

A Ginjinha - Also located at Rossio square, A Ginjinha is the original home of the iconic drink, served by the same family since 1840. A shot of ginjinha here costs less than 2 euros. Simply join the queue, order your drinks, sip them outside in the sun and then return your glass and wash your sticky hands at the sink by the bar. It does get busy here, with tourists jostling around the queue for the best view, but service is snappy, and you won't have to wait long. Alternatively you could go across the road to Ginjinha Sem Rival, which opened in 1890. 

£ A Ginjinha, Largo Sao Domingos 8, 1100-201, Lisbon

Sipping tea in a doorway table at Neighbourhood cafe, Lisbon

Best Brunch Spots in Lisbon

Fauna and Flora - A rustic, plant filled space with kerbside seating, Fauna & Flora is the perfect spot to start your day. A stack of big fluffy pancakes, topped with fruit, coffee cream and a berry coulis was my choice, while Gordon enjoyed a smoked salmon and cream cheese seeded bagel. I have to admit I was jealous of the "Guilty" chocolate and banana pancakes at the next table!

££ Rua da Esperanca 33, 1200-655, Lisbon

Neighbourhood Cafe - Probably the best Turkish eggs I've ever tried! Neighbourhood is exactly what it says on the tin - an Aussie style neighbourhood cafe, offering good coffee and delicious brunch through the day, and smash burgers with craft beer and organic wine in the evening. Another must try dish is the carnitas benedict. Sourdough toast is topped with Mexican pulled pork, poached eggs and a spicy hollandaise sauce!

££ Largo do Conde Barao 25, 1200-163, Lisbon.

Sunny pancakes - ice cream for breakfast at Heim Cafe, Lisbon

Heim Cafe - Feel good vibes and a sunny disposition are what's on offer for breakfast at Heim! This is a popular spot, so arrive early or expect to wait. Despite being on the dessert section of the menu, I couldn't resist the sunny pancakes with coffee cream, berries, oreo crumble and ice-cream. Yes, ice-cream for breakfast. Don't judge me! It was the happy eggs (fried eggs with bacon and toast) that caught Gordon's eye. How could you resist with a name like that? 

Heim's sister cafe Seagull Method also comes highly recommend for breakfast in Lisbon!

££ Rua de Santos-O-Velho, 2 e 4, 1200-812, Lisbon

Dear Breakfast - I mean, it literally does what it says on the tin. Dear Breakfast has three fabulously bright, airy and modern cafes across Lisbon serving all day breakfast. There's an entire egg based menu, alongside pancakes and pastries, plus smoothies, juices and all your favourite brunch time cocktails.  

£ Rua das Gaivotas 17, 1200-163, Lisbon 

holding a pastel de belem in front of the belem tower

Lisbon's Best Pastel de Nata

Pasteis de Belem - Where better to sample Portugal's famous dessert than the original Pasteis de Belem? This bakery next to the Jeronimos monastery has been making pasteis to the same secret recipe since 1837. Grab a couple to take away and enjoy a walk over to the Belem Tower where you can scoff your pastries by the river. Expect a queue when you arrive but don't worry, it moves fast!

£ Rua de Belem 84-92, 1300-085, Lisbon

Manteigaria - Popular with the locals, Manteigaria specialises in freshly baked pasteis de nata, served in typical swift and no nonsense fashion. Tuck in at the small counter with a coffee, where you can sprinkle your pastry with cinnamon and icing sugar, while you watch the bakers work their magic. You can also find them at the Time Out market.

£ Rua do Loreto 2, 1200-108, Lisbon

Green coffee cup with latte art, Copenhagen Coffee Lab

Best Lisbon Coffee Shops

Copenhagen Coffee Lab - The Danish brand has 8 Scandi style cafes located throughout Lisbon, popular with the digital nomad crowd. To be honest I'm no coffee expert but there's a huge choice including pour overs and cold brews. We enjoyed an afternoon sipping lattes and green tea out on the terrace at their Alfama location. 

££ Escolas Gerais 34, 1100-213, Lisbon

Baoba - Roasting their own Brazilian specialty coffee, Baoba is a compact coffee shop tucked away in a corner on Sao Paulo Street, not far from the Time Out Market. The scent of the on site roastery wafts through the door, inviting you in and an espresso here will cost you just one euro!

£ Rua de Sao Paulo 256-258, 1200-430, Lisbon

Tacos and margaritas at MexFactory in Lisbon's LX Factory

Best World Food in Lisbon

It's not just Portuguese cuisine that Lisbon does well. There are restaurants specialising in food from all around the world in this city. These are some of the best that we found!

Mex Factory - In the uber cool LX Factory complex, among the art and concept stores, you'll find Mex Factory. This casual Mexican restaurant, centred around a wrestling ring with Luchador masks adorning the walls, serves the best tacos in town. Try the shrimp and pork carnitas, and wash it down with a top tier margarita!

££ LX Factory, Rua Rodrigues Faria 103, 1300-501, Lisbon

Kefi Greek Bistro - A sister restaurant of the popular brunch spot Heim cafe, Kefi specialises in Greek cuisine. Think fresh salads, baked feta, tzatziki and souvlaki with delicious grilled pita. Bringing a little bit of Santorini flavour to Portugal. Advance booking is recommended here.

££ Calcada da Estrela 187, 1200-665, Lisbon

A Cevicheria - Adding a Portoguese twist to a Peruvian dish is the concept behind A Cevicheria. Famed for their pisco sours serving window, and giant hanging octopus sculpture, this is the place to try fresh ceviche in Lisbon. There's a touch of Asian influence to the menu too with dishes like the black pork and tiger prawn katsu sandwich, or tuna belly tartare and wasabi taco. It's not cheap so definitely one for a special occasion. I'd suggest trying the 5 course tasting menu for 66.70 euros per person.

£££ Rua dom Pedro V 129, 1050-046, Lisbon

Boa-Bao - The best place for Asian food in Lisbon, Boa-Bao takes your taste buds on an adventure through the continent with dishes from China, Thailand, Korea, Vietnam and more. We shared a variety of dim sum, followed by a delicious massaman chicken curry and tofu pad Thai. The cocktail passport is a fun touch - try the Thai'quiri! It can get busy here but they don't take bookings. We visited on a Thursday night and were seated straight away.

££ Largo Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro 30, 1200-369, Lisbon

Rebel Patties - Sometimes you just crave a really good, old fashioned burger, am I right? Rebel Patties is a super casual spot, serving baskets of burgers and fries, alongside cocktails and beer! I had the best final night in Lisbon chilling with a margarita and chicken burger with katsuobushi mayo and perfectly cooked skin on fries. You know when something just hits the spot? This was it for me! However, if not everyone in your party is in the mood for burgers, Rebel Patties shares their outside tables with next door neighbour Rebel Asian, so you can mix it up if you like!

££ Rua da Boavista 34, 1200-262, Lisbon

Lisbon's Best Cocktail Bars

Quattro Teste - This Basque-Italian cocktail bar was highly recommended to us, and for good reason. Accepting walk-ins only, and no large groups, Quattro Teste has a very intimate feel. I enjoyed their unusual take on a margarita with melon and pesto, while Gordon went off-menu. The talented bartender created a pineapple based take on a Long Island Iced Tea, which ticked every box for my husband. A must visit in the Alfama district!

££ Rua de Sao Cristovao 32, 1100-177, Lisbon.

Red Frog Speakeasy - Currently number 40 in the World's 50 Best Bars, Red Frog is probably the best known bar in Lisbon so it's best to book ahead. To enter, look for a doorbell beneath a red frog on the wall! A comprehensive menu includes reworked classics such as an aged white negroni and Stiggins fancy daiquiri, with pineapple rum. Be aware there is a dress code in this candle-lit New York prohibition style bar.

££ Praca de Alegria 66b, 1250-004, Lisbon

Lisbon's 3 Best Rooftop Bars

The Rooftop at Selina - Surrounded by red rooftops our Selina hostel had it's very own rooftop bar overlooking the pool, which was open to the general public. If you stay in the hostel you'll be given a free welcome drink token on arrival so make the most of it! A recent refurbishment has seen the bar take on a Moroccan vibe, which suits it's laidback atmosphere perfectly. Enjoy a cold beer or classic cocktail, and check out the weekly events schedule. We were treated to live DJ sets and a free comedy show one evening!

££ Beco Carrasco 1, 1200-096, Lisbon

Park - Aptly named, Park is a popular rooftop bar on the 6th floor of a carpark in Bairro Alto. Straightforward drinks are served to a hipster crowd, who enjoy sweeping views of Lisbon and the 25 de Abril bridge, spanning the Tagus river, from this urban terrace garden. Our walking tour guide recommended heading here for sunset!

££ Calcada do Combro 58, 1200-123, Lisbon

Lost In - This Asian influenced bar and restaurant has incredible panoramic views of the city's red rooftops, from both inside and outside on the tree sheltered terrace. Located in Principe Real, near Faz Frio and A Cevicheria, Lost In's tranquil oasis is perfect for pre-dinner drinks.

££ Rua dom Pedro V 56D, 1250-094, Lisbon

Where to Eat in Almada

From Cais do Sodre port, you can catch the ferry across the river to Cacilhas, and explore the small, more local feeling city of Almada. This area is predominantly known for it's Christ the Redeemer-like statue, but more recently it's become popular with tourists thanks to Netflix's Somebody Feed Phil.

In the show Phil dines at Ponto Final - a riverside restaurant serving traditional Portuguese cuisine on the pier - which has resulted in it's increased popularity. However, in my opinion, the main attraction here is the location and it's Instagram potential. To me the food doesn't look very appealing, so coupled with the numerous negative Trip Advisor reviews and stories of lengthy queues, we decided not to eat here. Instead, we went next door!

Atira-te ao Rio - Being right next door to Ponto Final, Atira-te ao Rio benefits from the same striking views across the water to Lisbon, but for me had a much more appetising food offering. The menu features a selection of seafood and local dishes, but is on the pricier side. We opted to share a couple of starters of deep fried cuttlefish and fried shrimp with garlic, mopped up with crusty bread for lunch, washed down with a delicious Aperol spritz. Advanced booking is highly recommended, but we visited bang on opening time and were seated riverside straight away!

Cais do Gingal 69/70, 2800-284, Lisbon

Sunset at the viewpoint by Pharmacia Felicidade in Lisbon

Phew! You'll see what I mean when I call Lisbon a foodies city? This guide has barely scratched the surface of the abundance of restaurants, but we certainly ticked off all the essentials and must tries. Let us know if you think of any other Portuguese dishes or unique restaurants that should be added!

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