A culinary revolution has taken place in Lisbon. You'll find a market selling small plates made by top chefs and revamped classics like salt cod and custard tarts. Plus, it's budget-friendly – great for a weekend getaway
Looking for Lisbon restaurants? We’ve gone beyond the tourist trail to find where to eat in Lisbon like a local. From the best Lisbon bars in the Bairro Alto area as well as the trendy outer-city hipster hub, LX Factory, to Lisbon’s food markets and neighbourhood tavernas specialising in traditional Portuguese dishes.
Here are the best places to eat and drink in Lisbon on a budget…
For the best tavernas specialising in traditional Portuguese cuisine in Lisbon, to restaurants serving contemporary dishes with Portuguese ingredients…
Ramiro – best seafood
If you’re after great-value seafood served in a rustic setting, Ramiro is your spot. Make sure you turn up early, or be prepared to queue; this is, arguably, the most popular restaurant in Lisbon.
There’s a warren of rooms upstairs, but the front room on the ground floor is where the action happens – fish is fried, lobsters are plopped into pots, wine is poured – so hold on a little longer to bag a table in this section and soak up the buzzy atmosphere.
Huge tiger prawns come butterflied and bathed in lashings of bright yellow butter, smaller prawns sizzle in ramekins filled with garlic butter, and rare steak is sandwiched into crunchy rolls. Bottles of pale vinho verde are plonked on paper tablecloths in bespoke silver wine coolers.
Book a table at this light and bright restaurant in the Baixa district to dine beneath hanging plants alongside in-the-know foodies. The menu focuses on modernising Portuguese traditional dishes, executed with fresh, seasonal ingredients – little bites of crisp galega cabbage leaves sandwiching silky steak tartare, a clean bonito broth with wafer-thin slices of green radishes and rare bonito pieces, and fresh goat’s butter and whipped Iberico pork fat to slather onto springy sourdough bread.
There’s an impressive list of natural Portuguese wines, with plenty of vinho verde options – green and flinty Aphros Daphne, fresh and citrusy Casal Figuiera Antonio from north Lisbon and complex Tiago Teles Raiz.
A Primavera Do Jerónimo – best traditional taverna
The sheer volume of traditional Portuguese taverns you can duck into off Lisbon’s cobbled hills can be overwhelming, but this one has our stamp of approval. A hearty welcome (it gets very busy so book ahead) is followed by carafes of vinho branco (white wine) plonked on to the table along with a mountain of crusty bread rolls, little packets of mimosa butter and old-school sardine paste (a bit of nostalgia for locals).
The Portuguese are famous for huge bashed copper plates sloshing with soupy rice dishes, peppered with chunky pieces of fresh fish and shells to prize open in search of salty mouthfuls. The flaky oven-baked cod in a creamy sauce in a sizzling terracotta dish is especially comforting.
Sweet little Sol e Pesca, a fishing tackle shop that doubles as a tinned fish café. A funky spot, with formica tables and stools, it serves only fish straight from the can accompanied by corn bread; you can try octopus, sardines and anchovies, and work out which tins you want to take home.
Head to Nova Pombalina to eat juicy suckling pig sandwiches, served in a crusty roll with crackling and gravy. It’s a workers’ lunch institution, the city’s best porcine sandwich by a mile.
R. do Comércio 2, 00 351 21 887 4360
Bom Jardin – best piri piri chicken
Lisbon institution Bom Jardim is known as ‘king of chickens’ and chicken, fries and a glass of house wine costs about €10.
Travessa de Santo Antao, 11; 0035 12 1342 4389
Mini Bar – best modern tapas
In the last decade, Portugal’s capital has undergone a culinary revolution that is truly thrilling. 35-year-old José Avillez is at the vanguard of this gastronomic blossoming, elegantly proving that there’s a lot more to the city’s menus than custard tarts, sardines and salt cod. Since 2010, the former head chef of local fine-dining stalwart Tavares has opened five game-changing restaurants. First was Cantinho do Avillez, then came Belcanto, which won its first Michelin star 11 months after opening and its second last year.
For a more affordable way to sample his cooking, we head to Mini Bar, a cocktail lounge with a menu of snacks and small dishes, like codfish nuggets with ‘Bulhão Pato’ emulsion, Algarve prawns in ceviche and a mini burger of PDO beef. There’s also a street kiosk outside Mini Bar where you can try Avillez’ take on pastéis de nata and savoury pies.
The flaming chorizo is the fiery standout on the small but perfectly formed menu at Dona Quiteria. This teeny bistro, in a 19th-century grocer’s, is a cool new addition to a residential hilltop overlooking the Cais do Sodre nightlife district. Garlicky gambas and delicate bacalhau are also a must.
Around the corner at Flores do Bairro, on the ground floor of the Bairro Alto hotel, young chef Vasco Lello also embraces the new Portuguese cuisine, taking traditional recipes and styling them up to great effect. There’s an exquisite fish soup topped with a slender crab crostini, the wafer-like biscuit dotted with sweet threads of white crabmeat. The room itself feels a bit too much like a hotel lobby for our liking, but the food is terrific and well priced, with an ‘Os arrozes do Bairro’ menu of rice dishes – including snails, quail and oregano – at €12.
Here are the best local drinking spots for ginja cherry liquor, along with coffee shops and the best bars to watch the sunset in Lisbon…
A Ginjinha – for ginja
Don’t miss Lisbon’s iconic cherry liqueur bar, A Ginjinha, a hole-in-the-wall big enough for just three people. Order glasses of the house-made Morello cherry spirit and choose ‘com ou sem elas’ (with a cherry or without). This little bar has been here since 1840, and has passed through the hands of four generations of the same family. Lisbon may be experiencing a culinary revolution, but some things resolutely remain the same.
Largo de São Domingos 8, no phone
Quiosque Príncipe Real – for drinking with the locals
On the edge of Lisbon’s leafy Príncipe Real park lies an unassuming kiosk, fondly known by locals as “O Oliveria”. For a slice of local life, order a ginja shot, or coffee, and kick back on a cream-coloured chair on the cobbled pavement to soak up the late afternoon sun and watch men with crinkled faces gather over chessboards beneath billowing trees.
Praça do Príncipe Real, +351 21 342 8334
Rio Maravilha – for sundowners
Ascend four levels of concrete stairway at the far end of LX Factory’s main street to find this trendy bar, set over numerous higgledy-piggledy levels. There’s a loose Brazilian theme, but the space is characterized more by its industrial interiors – metal chairs in primary colours, exposed pipework ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows.
Make sure you climb higher to the upper level and venture outside onto graveled terraces to find a huge multi-coloured patchwork Christ the Redeemer replica greeting Lisbon’s original across the river. The cocktails are fab – try the pineapple rum sour, spiced with rosemary and paprika.
Both of Fabrica’s outlets are cosy places to while away an afternoon and watch Lisbon’s young folk and commuters pass through. The pasteis de nata here look particularly homemade and rustic, and make a perfect accompaniment for the house blend of Brazilian and Ethiopian beans.
Where to find the best pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) in the centre of Lisbon and nearby…
Have a peek through the glass window at the back of the shop at the bottom of Bairro Alto to watch some of the tightest pastry work you’ll ever come across – stunning spirals of butter and pastry that are then baked to form crisp little wheels filled with delicately scented custard.
Stand at the counter and pop a couple of tarts with an uma bica, the short and strong coffee that locals drink. There’s also a small outlet in the Mercado da Ribeira Time Out market so you can grab and go while you explore the market stalls.
Rua do Loreto, 2
Antiga Confeitaria de Belem
Climb the famous Belem Tower for brilliant views and be sure to buy at least one pasteis de Belem (custard tart), 90 cents, from Antiga Confeitaria de Belem.
Mercado da Ribeira (Time Out Market Lisbon) – best food market
Imagine a place where 30 of the city’s best chefs sell small, reasonably priced plates of their top dishes, alongside local wines and fresh lemonade, from a gathering of stalls. That’s exactly what’s on offer every day at Lisbon’s Mercado da Ribeira in the Cais do Sodré area. With dishes ranging from €5-8 each, pile your wooden table with crunchy tempura-battered green beans from Café de São Bento, platters of cheese, ham and sausages from classic Lisbon charcuterie house Manteigaria Silva, and piri-piri chicken with double-fried chips by Miguel Laffan of Michelin-starred restaurant L’And Vineyards in the Alentejo.
Over glasses of red wine, also from the Alentejo, and a platter of Iberian ham that includes a finely aged reserve from Trás-os-Montes and a pica pau – beef with pickles and olives – from chef Miguel Castro e Silva, local journalist Célia Pedroso, of food tour company Eat Portugal (eatportugal.net), explains the petiscos renaissance. ‘These small plates were once relegated to humble tasca bars, but now they’re everywhere, with chefs competing to attract diners with the best cod cakes or the most tender prego (steak sandwiches).’
In an adjacent section of the 19th-century building merchants sell fish, meat and vegetables. We buy fresh piri-piri peppers, bay leaves, garlic and almonds from women with life etched on their faces.
Mercado de Campo de Ourique – best local food market
Lisbon’s revamped Mercardo da Ribeira may have hipster food trucks, but the pretty 1930s Mercado de Campo de Ourique stocks a no-nonsense range of Portuguese goods; look out for classic pasteis de nata (custard tarts) from Pasteleria Aloma.
Hop on the tram out to Calvario in the West of the city and walk to the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge; beneath it Lisbon’s young creatives have set up shop in dozens of old fabric factories.
For an experience not quite like any other, delve into lofty Ler Devagar bookstore, climb the steel stairs, and sit on a balcony overlooking thousands of titles with a hefty slice of pavlova from O Bola da Marta.
There’s a flea market every Sunday, where you can pick up artisan products and vintage trinkets, or peruse the shelves of the more permanent shops for Nordic accessories.
Where to find the best foodie gifts, traditional Portuguese products and sweet treats in the old town and among Lisbon’s backstreets…
Conserveira de Lisboa
If you want to shop for foodie souvenirs in Lisbon, then head to classic tinned goods retailer Conserveira de Lisboa where you can pick up tins of sardines in technicolour retro packaging. There’s a large store in the centre and a little outlet in the Mercado da Ribeira.
In a sidestreet in the Chiado area, seek out the glorious shopping cornucopia that is A Vida Portuguesa, where shelves are lined with reissued kitchen packaging classics. Buy a sardine grill for the barbecue, a stove-top toast maker, orange and red melamine plates, and yet more twinkly tins of fish.
It’s easy to make a pig of yourself ‘at the pork place’, aka Manteigaria Silva, where shelves of spiced, cured and smoked porcine produce fill the cabinets of this 100-year-old deli. Delivered to port-barrel tables out front: plates of requeijão (ricotta), marmelada (quince paste) with delicate dried figs and silken slices of 24-month-cured presunto (aged ham) from Portugal’s Barrancos region.
Having started the day with a shot of ginginha (sour cherry brandy) at the eponymous, neighbouring bar, you might
welcome these gourmet stomach-liners, but there’s more to come.
These are just two of many stop-offs on a new, two-offs on a new, two-hour walking tour hosted by Lisbon’s Inspira Santa Marta Hotel, themed around petiscos, the Portuguese answer to tapas. These aren’t just the ‘small plates’ of the worldwide bar-snack type, but rather an excuse to graze or to dine with friends on deli dishes or half portions. Hosted by local food experts from Eat Portugal, these bespoke tours are a great introduction to Lisbon’s affordable food scene.
The best boutique hotels in Lisbon and foodie hotels in Lisbon centre…
Hotel do Chiado
Hotel do Chiado inhabits the top two floors of the famous Armazens do Chiado building and has one of the city’s best locations, overlooking the historic centre and with views of São Jorge Castle and out to sea.
Inspira Santa Marta Hotel
This boutique eco-hotel offers petiscos tour packages for €548 for two people, including two nights’ b&b and a guided petiscos tour.
The Valverde Hotel
Plush Valverde Hotel has a contemporary, dark colour scheme with pops of bright colours – mustard yellow throws, teal blue velvet chairs. There are nods to Portuguese design and traditions throughout, from pretty tiles to modern artwork. The hotel has a serene inner courtyard, providing a peaceful oasis to enjoy afternoon tea or a pre-dinner cocktail, or tuck into traditional rice and seafood dishes at the Sítio restaurant.
Photographs by Alex Crossley (Header image from Getty)
olive magazine podcast ep72 – Morocco with John Gregory-Smith
This week on the olive magazine podcast, the team discuss Portuguese custard tarts after this week’s Bake Off technical challenge – how to make them, and where to buy them in London, Lisbon and beyond.