Lisbon is a city for exploring. Spend the day meandering around narrow, cobbled streets, climbing up stone steps and soaking up panoramic views from the ruins of a castle, or a rooftop bar with a porto tónico in hand. It’s a city steeped in history with mesmerising architecture, plus, you’re never less than ten metres away from somewhere that sells pastéis de nata.
Staying in an Airbnb for the week, our host advised us to ‘get lost in Lisbon’ and that’s exactly what we did. Here are my favourite recommendations for places to seek out:
Pastelaria Alfama Doce
Every morning we left our Airbnb and marched through Alfama to Pastelaria Alfama Doce for breakfast. The owner is the nicest man you’ll ever meet and also fluent in about five different languages. All the pastries range from 85 cent to 1€ each – yep, you read that right. Every morning we ordered a handful of unknown goodies to try. These included, pão de Deus (perfectly light coconut bread), folhado de maçã (pastry with apple filling), puff pastry fingers filled with either jam, lemon or chocolate, tarts filled with almond and lemon (a fellow cousin of the pastel de nata), pastry filled with chickpea butter and cinnamon, and the famous custard tarts themselves. Finally, the orange juice. We need to talk about the freshly-squeezed orange juice. It. was. so. fresh. Sweet, sour and tart all at the same time, enjoyed in sips.
Pastelaria Alfama Doce, R. da Regueira 39, 1100-219 Lisboa
Ginjinha Sem Rival
I wish we had Ginjinha holes in the wall in the UK. Walking down the street and popping in for a casual 1.40€ shot of cherry liqueur is definitely something I could fit into my day. I’m not usually a fan of shots but this surprised me – it was sweet and very drinkable – we even took a bottle home with us. Enjoy your shot of Ginjinha just outside the shop, then eat the cherry at the bottom of the glass and spit the pip out into the street.
Ginjinha Sem Rival, R. das Portas de Santo Antão 7, 1150-264 Lisboa
Any gelateria that serves their gelato with a giant dollop of whipped cream on top (for no extra charge) gets a massive tick in my book. Nannarella does wacky flavours. When we visited, their flavour of the day was Parmesan ice cream and funnily enough, I thought I’d pass on that and go for the chocolate oreo flavour instead – which was amazing.
Nannarella, R. Nova da Piedade 64A, 1200-299 Lisboa | https://www.nannarella.pt
Time Out Market Lisboa
A go-to spot for anyone visiting Lisbon. Time Out head hunted all the best restaurants, chefs, cafés, bars and shops in Lisbon and got them to conveniently set up outlets under one roof. It can feel quite epic when you first step inside. There are people everywhere, all carrying trays of food and glasses of wine that your eyes and nose obediently follow as they zoom past, making your decision of what to choose for lunch very difficult. At one end of the market, is a line of famous, Michelin-starred Portuguese chefs who have their own restaurant outlets serving dishes for around 12€ – which is very good value for what it’s worth, plus, they’re extremely generous on portions. I went for a salted cod gratin with spinach and carrots by Henrique Sá Pessoa from Michein-starred restaurant, Alma, in Lisbon. It may not look like much but it was incredible. Silky and buttery all in one bite. Don’t forget to pop next door to Mercado da Ribeira, a traditional market brimming with lots of fruit, veg, meat, fish and plants to pick up some supplies for dinner.
Time Out is also home to (in my opinion) the best pastéis de nata in Lisbon – and I went to Belem! You’ll join a long line at Manteigaria but they’re served at lightening speed. After a ferocious dusting of cinnamon, scurry off with your precious morsel and try not to eat it all in one go – it’s so tempting! Mottled like an overripe banana and delicately held together by a crisp pastry case, Manteigaria’s pastéis de nata strike the perfect balance between that all-important crunch and the sweet puddle of glistening custard that spills out. We even took some home with us, as well as tinned sardines wrapped up in string, from the institution that is Conserveira de Lisboa.
Time Out Market Lisboa, Av. 24 de Julho 49, 1200-479 Lisboa | https://www.timeoutmarket.com/lisboa
Mercado da Baixa
Another food hall, packed with pregos, charcuterie and cheese platters, chorizo and blood sausages, meat skewers and lots of sangria – considered to be some of the best in Lisbon. A great place to grab a quick bite to eat (I went for a pork ciabatta sandwich) and take in the busyness of the square around you.
Mercado da Baixa, Praça da Figueira 6D, 1100-241 Lisboa
Take a day trip to Sintra to see palaces and botanical gardens. It’s also where you’ll find the best ‘pillows’ in Portugal. Called Travesseiros, they look like sausage rolls but taste like buttery croissants doused in sugar. It’s a dough-based pastry made with egg cream and almond and you can choose fillings like chocolate or almond. They are indeed heavenly.
Casa Piriquita, R. das Padarias 1/18, 2710-603 Sintra | https://www.piriquita.pt/
It’s essentially a giant house with a secret courtyard, all hidden in plain sight. Walk through it’s unassuming doors and head upstairs where you can nosey around all the various rooms, which each carry with them a different ‘look’ and lots of sofas, tables, chairs, lamps, rugs, etc. The bar is fairly expensive but worth it just to hang out in the Mediterranean-style courtyard (complete with balcony overlooking it, from the floor up) which is dominated by the leafy canopy of a large overgrown tree. Relax there during the day (they also serve food) or go at night for one of their DJs. You’re also right opposite Ramiro, the incredibly famous seafood restaurant. I did join the queue (people can wait up to four hours in it) but it took me an hour to come to terms with the fact that I actually didn’t appreciate seafood enough to commit, so I left. That was fun.
Casa Independente, Largo do Intendente Pina Manique 45, 1100-285 Lisboa | https://casaindependente.com/
Ramiro, Av. Alm. Reis nº1 – H, 1150-007 Lisboa
Moving swiftly onto something I do enjoy – fish! However, I was not in a good mood when we made our way to this restaurant. We got off the tram two stops late by accident and had to walk back on ourselves for a while, only to get to a bridge (that took us directly to the restaurant) and find it closed. The only alternative? Walk all the way around the entire circumference of the port to get to a place that we would have been in five minutes if it wasn’t for the closed bridge. Ah, I was so hot, so tired, so hungry. It didn’t help either that when we arrived we were met with a massive queue, however, all of this dissolved into thin air as soon as we sat down and started eating. It’s a fish restaurant set in a port, so you are surrounded by shipping containers and most of the time battling the elements with how windy it is (there is an inside if you prefer). All the fish is cooked on a barbecue outside in full view, seasoned and served very simply – chosen fish (I went for salmon, my boyfriend went for salted cod) with peeled potatoes, boiled, and a Popeye-style portion of greens. With a side of chips and a pint of white wine (for only 3.50€) it is amazing. The fish is so meaty and salty and flaky and fresh and juicy, I could have just eaten it on it’s own and not gone into a food coma but I walked around an entire port for this.
Último Porto, R. Gen. Gomes Araújo 1, 1350-352 Lisboa
A cosy bar in Bairro Alto serving jugs of sangria and plates of charcuterie and cheese for an affordable price. Feel at home, surrounded by precariously stacked books, paper lampshades, posters on the green walls and hanging fairy lights. A good place to get a drink after enjoying sardines and tomato frito on grilled bread at nearby tapas restaurant, Leve Leve.
Tasca Mastai, R. da Rosa 14, 1200-387 Lisboa
Leve Leve, Tv. da Boa Hora n 39, 1200-063 Lisboa