24 Hours in Lisbon: A Food lovers guide
If you’ve never been to Lisbon before, you’re in for a treat. Fertile soils, easy access to the sea and an irrepressible sweet tooth have defined Portugal’s culinary culture and brought it a good deal of acclaim. But while classics like bacalhau (dried salt cod) and pasties de nata (custard tarts) never go out of fashion, there are plenty of other dishes here to tempt your appetite.
If you’ve only a day or two in the city, make sure you try the following:
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Custard tarts at Antiga Confeitaria de Belem
Lisbon’s most famous patisserie, Antiga Confeitaria de Belem is ideal for laying down some much-needed energy reserves ahead of a busy day of sightseeing. A hop skip away from Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, Belem’s famous pasties de nata (sweet filo pastries filled with custard) have been made, baked and sold here since 1837.
When Portugal’s liberal revolution forced the monastery to close in 1834, the monks banked on the success of their recipe (to this day a closely-guarded secret) to fund their livelihoods. A local sugar cane refinery provided the sugar and the rest, as they say, is history.
Pasteis de nata are best enjoyed the traditional way – straight from the oven, dusted down with cinnamon and/or powdered sugar and chased down with a cup of strong black coffee. At roughly €1 each, you’ll be tempted to scarf down more than just the one!
Antiga Confeitaria de Belem, 84-92 Rua de Belem, http://www.pasteisdebelem.pt
Grilled salt cod at Café a Brasileira
Many of Lisbon’s best restaurants offer great lunchtime deals, especially if you opt for the menu do dia (fixed menu) or prato do dia (daily special). If you’re shopping or sightseeing around Chiado, Café a Brasileira (established in 1905) is a unique place to stop by, an old world atmosphere reflected in its gleaming art deco fittings.
Wanting to try a typical Portuguese dish, I honed in on the grilled bacalhau (dried salt cod) and wasn’t dissapointed. It came out glistening with olive oil and butter, served with onions, peppers, garlic spinach and roast potatoes. The portions were so large I could barely move when I got up from the table!
NB: Restaurants in Lisbon will often serve you couvert (appertisers) e.g. bread, cheese and butter, before your meal. Anything you eat is added on to the bill so send these away if you’re not too hungry (this is where I got burned…).
Café a Brasileira, 120 Rua Garrett
Sweet pastries in Sintra
Just half an hour from Lisbon by train, Sintra is great for a day trip. And while most visitors come to explore the town’s exotic gardens and fairytale palaces, its famous bakeries are worth a look-in too.
Marching up the hill towards the National Palace, you’ll come across Fabrica das Verdadeiras Queijadas da Sapa, a small bakery that’s been cranking out queijadas (crisp pastry shells filled with a mixture of fresh cheese, sugar, flour and cinnamon) since 1756. These bite-sized cheesecakes were a hit with Portugal’s royal and aristocratic families and are also sold at Café Saudade opposite the train station, whose marbled floors and frescoed ceiling bear more than a hint of royal opulence.
Sintra’s second-most famous sweet are travesseiro – flaky puff pastries filled with a sweet, jam-like filling made from ground almonds and egg yolks. You can try them at Piriquita on Rua das Padarias or, if that’s closed, a few steps further down at Piriquita II.
Fabrica das Verdadeiras Queijadas da Sapa, 12 Alameda Volta do Duche
Café Saudade, 6 Avenida Doutor Miguel Bombarda,
Piriquita, 1-5 Rua das Padarias
Piriquita II, 18 Rua das Padarias
Wine tasting at ViniPortugal
Keen to try out a whole host of Portuguese wines without the rigmarole of booking a wine tasting class? ViniPortugal allows you to drop by at short notice, either on your own or in a group. The procedure is simple: buy an enocard for €2, grab a glass and taste as many tipples as your credit allows. There’s about 12 different wines to choose from, ranging from full-bodied Douros to light Vinho Verdes, as well as port and Madeira.
The tasting rooms are tucked away beneath the 18th century arcades on the western side of Praca do Comercio. This grand square was dominated by Lisbon’s Royal Palace which, unfortunately, was destroyed by an earthquake in 1755. Nevertheless, it’s a pleasant place to stroll and take pictures of the huge equestrian statue of King Joseph “The Reformer” facing the Tagus river.
ViniPortugal, Praca do Comercio, http://www.viniportugal.pt
Wine and tapas at Bebedouro
Situated just off Rua da Prata, Bebedouro is one of those hole-in-the-wall type places that’s overlooked at first. Stepping inside, however, is like entering a wine shop, with a huge array of bottles lining the walls. Scattered tables, dim lighting and a cosy outdoor terrace reveal it for what it actually is – a small but stylish boutique wine bar that specialises in wines from Portugal’s fertile Douro valley and serves excellent pesticos (tapas).
The owners make a point of working with lesser-known wine producers so, if you’re lost on what to try, ask for advice; or, if you’re not a fan of the grape, try an artisan beer or port cocktail instead. The waiter recommended I start dinner with a platter of regional meats or cheeses before moving on to the tapas (tinned mackerel drizzled with virgin olive oil and served on cornbread and the tomato-based squid stew were two of the ones I tried). The servings are surprisingly huge here so, in the interests of tasting as much as you can, feel free to order the dishes as you go.
Bebedouro, 24 Rua Sao Nicolau
Other places of history in Europe
If you are interested in discovering other places of History in Europe, feel free to read my following articles. All are great days out of London for groups of friends or family.
Bodiam Castle, Inside the Walls of a Medieval Castle – East Sussex, England
Here are some amazing activities that you can book while in Lisbon, Portugal before you go.