I genuinely love food. I mean, who doesn’t? I’m an eater and I’m not afraid to admit it. I especially love the way that food tells a story about an area, a people and a culture. One of my favorite parts of exploring new places is immersing myself in the local foods.
I was lucky enough to have a long list of things to try when visiting Lisbon, a long list that I was determined to conquer.
My friends, teachers and fellow bloggers seemed so enthusiastic about Portuguese food that it only made me more excited. I was extremely surprised by the value of the food; the portions were extremely generous in comparison with the prices. I may have left the city feeling a few pounds heavier, but I left feeling satisfied knowing that I had successfully tried everything on my list. Plus, Lisbon is a very hilly city, and I’d like to think that all the uphill walking canceled out some of the calories.
Here’s my must-try list.
Bistec a la portuguesa
“Bistec a la portuguesa” is a dish consisting of thin juicy beef steak topped with a layer of Spanish style ham or “jamon serrano.” It is drizzled in a light wine-based gravy and usually paired with potatoes or salad. Recipes vary from region to region and sometimes instead of ham your steak will be topped with a fried egg. I don’t usually order steak when eating out, mostly for reasons of budget, but top a steak with my favorite Spanish ham and there’s no keeping me away. Also, the prices in Portugal continued to amaze me, even for a generous steak dish.
Where to get it: Snob: Rua de O Seculo, 178, Lisbon.I tried my “Bistec a la portuguesa” in Sintra, just outside of Lisbon, but I’ve heard great reviews of a restaurant in the heart of Lisbon’s “Barrio Alto” called Snob. Snob has been described on many tourist sites as the “best steak in Lisbon” and some locals mentioned it to me as well. Even though I didn’t have a chance to go, I know what my first stop will be during my next trip to this city. Apparently, Snob can be pretty tricky to find, so if you’re up for the challenge, read a little more about Snob here before visiting.
Another popular meat dish in Lisbon is the “Portugese Bifana.” The bifana is a simple pork sandwich consisting of a layer of thin tender meat on a fresh hard roll. It pairs perfectly with a few squirts of the provided tart honey mustard. At only 2,30(e) a pop it’s a quick, affordable and delicious meal to grab while walking around touring the city.
Where to get it: Casa da Bifana: Praca da Figueira, Lisboa. As can be assumed from the name, Casa da Bifana is known for its delectable pork sandwiches. The restaurant is located in a corner of a main plaza of Lisbon, where you can find locals and tourists alike. The restaurant may be crowded and therefore not seem to be the most inviting, but it’s worth a stop in to taste the famous Bifana for just over 2 euros. They also offer an array of offer traditional Portuguese dishes such as the below Bacalhau à brás.
Bacalhau à brás
I can’t help but describe this interesting fish dish as a sort of glorified American home fries. It is a mixture of shredded fresh cod (bacalhau), potatoes, onions and scrambled eggs, garnished with black olives and snips of parsley. Portugal is highly regarded for its fresh fish, especially its cod, but I was pretty surprised to see it served in this form. Still, just as the majority of Portuguese dishes I had the pleasure of trying, it was tasty all the same. It helped that I’m a “breakfast for every meal” kind of person.
Pastéis de Belém
Oh my god. It. Was. So. Good. I’m not usually a pastry person, but when I spoke of my upcoming trip to Lisbon, everyone mentioned this delicious custardy morsel as a must try. I was told the famous bakery in Belem is usually a bit crowded, so we were adequately prepared and hopped on line at the register. We were lucky enough to catch a batch coming fresh out of the oven, which made the wait more than worth it. If the line hadn’t doubled before we left, I honestly think I would have waited for another. Don’t let the appearance of this little tart steer you away. It may look crusty and bland, but topped with a little powdered sugar and cinnamon it may be the best EURO I’ve ever spent.
Where to get it: Casa Pasteis De Belem; Rua de Belem 84, Lisbon. This confectionary has its very own famous protected recipe of the Pateis de Nata. Unfortunately, the secret is out and tourists from all over the world come to visit the factory, meaning that it can be very crowded at any given time. Still, I recommend that you budget the time. After tasting the magic of my first Pasteis de Nata, I couldn’t help but get a few more throughout Lisbon. Let’s just say, none were quite as good as the first.
“Pastéis travesseiro” curiously translates from Portuguese to “pillow pastry”. It is a specialty of Sintra, a small city just outside of Lisbon, and perhaps gets its name from its long rectangular shape. This flaky pastry is coated in sugar with an almond egg cream filling. They can be found in bakeries around Lisbon, some coated in layers of chocolate, but the original travesseiros come from a small confectionary smack in the middle of historical Sintra. If you’re heading to Sintra don’t pass up trying one of the originals.
Where to get it: Café A Piriquita. Rua das Padarias, Sintra. This little café works like a deli counter, the first thing that you must do when you enter is take a number from the dispenser. After you wait until you see your number appear on the screens around the counter. This helps the process stay organized and the quick wait is definitely worth it.
The last of my pastry recommendations is the Alfama pastry, a specialty of its own little barrio of Lisbon, the Alfama district. It is a small round almond pastry, perfect with coffee for a light breakfast on the run.
Where to get it: Alfama Doce, Rua da Regueira 39, Lisbon. This tiny bakery is the perfect breakfast stop if you find yourself exploring Alfama during morning hours. Read more about this little café below in “Must-go Restaurants.”
Red sangria has quite the popular reputation in Spain. The Spanish have even created a cheaper version of sangria, made of red wine and lemon soda, called “tinto de verano.” In Lisbon, it was nice to see two options under the Sangria category on the menu for a change: red and white. While I love a good glass of red sangria, I can also appreciate the refreshing crisp taste of white sangria on hot sunny day. Portuguese sangria recipes also call for lots of fruit, which made them even better!
Where to get it: Á Margem; Doca do Bom Sucesso, Lisbon. This restaurant is a little out of the way of central Lisbon, but if you find yourself in Belem, it is easily walk-able. Look below, under “Must-go Restaurants” for more information on Á Margem.
I was a bit hesitant to try the Sardines. In my mind “sardines” have such a negative connotation; I think of a small metal tin with stinky little salty fish inside. Still, I was determined to give everything on my list a try. Once again, I was pleasantly surprised; the Portuguese don’t seem to disappoint. The Sardines we were served were not canned stinky fish; they were perfectly grilled, light and flaky. Even though peeling the skin and watching out for the bones was a bit of a hassle, that’s the deal with most fish over here. Working for your food only makes you appreciate it more!
Where to get it: Santa Rita: Rua sao Mamede ao caldas Nr 24 c, Lisbon. Look below under “Must-go restautants” for more information on my favorite restaurant in Lisbon, Santa Rita.
Ginginha or a cherry flavored liqueur is very popular amongst the Portuguese, especially in Lisbon. This sweet smooth liqueur is sold as a shot. If you’re looking for the full experience ask for “ginginha copo chocolate,” and for only 30 cents more your cherry liqueur will be served in an edible chocolate shot glass. Chocolate and cherry, where can you go wrong?
Where to get it: Ginginha do Carmo; Calçada do Carmo 37, Lisboa. These little “bars” can be found in various places around Lisbon. They are very small and almost serve as a “shot stand.” It is common to order your shots, leave the counter and then enjoy them outside.
Feijoada is a typical Brazilian and Portuguese bean-based stew usually supplemented by pork or beef. It also contains various vegetables depending on the region including carrots, potatoes, turnips and cabbage. It’s a very hearty and wholesome meal, so make sure you have time to rest and digest before heading back out on the town.
Where to get it: I got a shellfish version in a traditional Portuguese restaurant, Santa Rita, but according to GoLisbon, “if you’re looking for a typical ‘feijoada’” Comida de Santo is the place to go.
For more foodie recommendations in Lisbon, check out the following restaurants!
Rua sao Mamede ao caldas Nr 24 c, Lisbon
This restaurant is quite possibly the best-valued restaurant I’ve ever been to. Santa Rita is just your traditional neighborhood Portuguese restaurant, which you will find filled to the brim with young locals at any given time. For the most part, main dishes are under 7 euros and range anywhere from a large fillet of freshly caught fish to the “Santa Rita Steak”. They also offer massive pitchers of local wine or Sangria for only 6 euros. We went twice in our short three day stay in Lisbon. It only helped that our waiter for both visits was the cutest little helpful Portuguese man. If you’re looking to eat cheap without sacrificing quality, head on over to Santa Rita.
Doca do Bom Sucesso, Lisbon
Á Margem is located very close to the Belem neighborhood of Lisbon. It is right up along the water not far from the tower of Belem. Á Margem is a must visit if you find yourself in the area of Belem. It’s the perfect place to grab a small bite and a large sangria before heading to the famous confectionary for a delicious Pastéis de nata. If you can, make it here around sunset for great views of the marina, the Tagus River and the Ponte 25 de Abril.
Rua da Regueira 39, Lisbon
This tiny bakery is tucked away in the winding streets of Alfama. By the time we had stumbled upon this place, we had worked up quite the appetite. So, as any rational starving tourist would do, I ordered just about one of everything. The man behind the counter was extremely friendly and squeezed our orange juice right in front of us. There were only locals inside this small café, stopping in for a light pastry breakfast.
Happy Eating!!! 😀