The last six years or so have seen Lisbon become one of Europe’s most sought-after – and delicious – European destinations.
Once famed merely for its custard tarts (the famous pasteis de nata), Portugal’s gastronomy is finally being recognized on a world stage – and for good reason. Its capital city’s food is fresh, innovative and affordable.
Being on the coast ensures Lisbon is never short of freshly caught seafood. This is best enjoyed at a local tasca, laid-back restaurants that serve modern twists on Portuguese classics, and which are enjoying a resurgence right now. With menus scribbled in chalk on the walls and a focus on fresh and local produce, tascas are humble but charming.
As someone who lives between London and Lisbon, I am always being asked for recommended places to eat. So if you are planning a trip, here’s my list of places you should check out.
Breakfast and brunch
When it comes to breakfast and brunch, plenty of delicious options lie all over the city. Pick up one of Lisbon’s famed custard pastries, pasteis de nata, from Pastelaria Alfama Doce, a historic bakery in the old district of Alfama. If you want seats and wi-fi, Dear Breakfast has three locations in central areas across the city (Santos, Chiado and Alfama), all offering up the usual egg combos as well as pancakes topped with either caramel, banana and pecans, or crispy bacon and mascarpone. (All are worth salivating over.)
In Anjos, Maria’s Food Hub is flooded with light and adorned with colorful artwork – and boasts a creative menu that will keep you satisfied all day long. Try the tasty Octopus Tapenade toast (served with a salad) or the protein-packed Shakshuka Verde (eggs, sweet potato, bell peppers and green sauce).
In Lisbon, you can find espresso coffee with a drop of milk (known as a cafe pingado) for under a euro at just about any cafe or kiosk. Try one at one of the city’s miradouros, viewpoints with panoramic views that illustrate why Lisbon is known as “the city of seven hills.” If it’s specialty coffee you’re after, Liberty in the digital-nomad hub of Santos offers coffee from producers in Honduras, natural wines and a great selection of gorgeous books. A five-minute walk from there is Comoba, a workspace that sources organic coffee roasted in small batches from local partners, and which sells white-chocolate and pistachio-matcha coffees.
Lunchtime might be the best way to eat at some of Lisbon’s more popular spots. Taberna Sal Grosso, a tightly packed cubby hole in Alfama with a chalkboard menu, is well known to both tourists and locals for its flavor-filled small plates. Dinner tables are snagged weeks in advance – but daytime bookings can often be made online a day or two before. Grab a classic dish such as shrimp with garlic, oxtail, or cod tongue with pea purée.
For seafood lovers, Ramiro, a famed three-story institution established in the 1950, serves clams, scarlet shrimp and crab weighed by the kilo. (In high season, prepare to queue for a table if you arrive without a reservation.)
Just off the well-heeled road of Avenida da Liberdade in the small square of Praça da Alegria, a unique jungle-themed bar called Monkey Mash serves drinks as vibrant as the decor. Specializing in agave and sugarcane concoctions, the bartenders here bring precision to their cocktail-making, and a zero-waste ethos is at the heart of everything they do. Try the Aztec Mystic, which has chocolatey notes that go perfectly with the tequila, tamarind rum and pear – or grab an In The Dark, made from a perfectly balanced mix of strawberry, miso tomato, black rice and tequila. Walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are suggested.
Tasca Baldracca, a low-ceilinged tavern with an ever-changing menu scrawled on a blackboard, features tasty small-plate versions of such classics as codfish cakes and chicken.
If you’re after something fancier, reserve ahead at Marlene. Helmed by one of Portugal’s top chefs, Marlene Vieira (who also has her own stand in the Time Out Market), this restaurant along the waterside in Santa Apolonia offers a unique ambiance, its kitchen surrounded by a counter from which guests can sit and eat as the chefs work. With two tasting menus (seven or 10 courses) featuring beautifully presented dishes such as Azores amberjack fish served in a shell, prawn amuse-bouche on butterfly-shaped fig leaves, and melt-in-the-mouth Wagyu beef, Marlene is a phenomenal dining experience indeed.
In Lisbon there’s no shortage of quirky bars at which to while away an evening. For natural wines and a very cool vibe, check out Rude in Anjos, which boasts more than 40 different varieties of natural wines alongside greens, whites, reds and oranges sourced from all over the country. Try a vinho verde (the “green wine” that’s very popular in Portugal) and kick back in a banquette underneath bright red lighting.
For a unique evening, try Pavilhão Chinês, an antique-filled time warp of a bar situated in one of Lisbon’s crowded party areas, Bairro Alto. The revelry is spread over five jam-packed rooms within an old grocery store that overflows with both vintage bric-a-brac and character. You can join locals and tourists alike with a craft beer, wine or cocktail in hand and sit beneath sparkling chandeliers and cabinets filled with toys, porcelain busts and sculptures. Just be careful what you touch.