Lisbon is one of Europe’s most vibrant and visited capital cities, known for its colourful tiled buildings, stunning castles and cathedrals, bohemian artistic vibes and all those hills which mean a simple stroll around the city centre is also one hell of a workout. Despite being one of the oldest cities in the world, it is modern, dynamic and bursting with excellent restaurants. It can be overwhelming deciding which restaurants to visit and what to try, but have no fear! In this post, I share where to eat and drink like a local in Portugal’s captivating capital.
One of Lisbon’s most famous places is Cervejaria Ramiro; a very popular, lively, and bustling beerhouse serving some of the best seafood in the city. The menu is large, with all manner of fresh seafood to tempt you. We enjoyed clams and prawns in garlic sauce, oysters, giant tiger prawns, and scarlet shrimp – all of which were delicious. The ‘scarlet shrimp’ were particularly fantastic – as sweet and succulent as lobster! Most of the seafood is priced by weight, so ask the friendly and helpful staff if you are unsure how much something will cost as to avoid a big bill.
While seafood is why you come to this restaurant, you should also make sure you order a prego – a delicious garlicky steak sandwich. Interestingly enough, this is typically eaten as a “dessert”, so make sure you leave room. Reservations are a must – unless you want to queue for a long time! I reserved a month in advance via email.
2. A Cevicheria
Here you will find fresh, creative, and incredibly tasty ceviche, all in a stylish and buzzing dining room. The seating is mostly at the kitchen counter, which has a giant octopus sculpture hanging above it. It features in many Instagram posts! Here you will get to watch the chefs carefully and precisely prepare the beautifully presented dishes. We ordered the tuna tartare tacos, salmon ceviche with pineapple, coconut, cashew and tapioca, and the ‘Portuguese’ ceviche of codfish, octopus, potatoes and egg, which had a luxurious custardy texture. Each dish was absolutely delicious, with great balance and complexity of flavours.
While the food was excellent here, there was one negative about our experience. When we sat down we were brought some cornbread and dips. I asked the waitress if they were “on the house”, she said yes… yet we were charged almost 8 euros for them! Most couverts in Portugal cost 1 or 2 euros by comparison. I hope it was an honest mistake and that she didn’t understand my phrase ‘on the house’, but it was still annoying. A Cevicheria is a very popular restaurant and there are no reservations, so visitors should be prepared to queue. Luckily you can order a pisco sour to drink while waiting, which makes the time go a bit quicker.
This tiny restaurant on a side street near Barrio Alto is an excellent spot for delicious and hearty portions of juicy peri peri chicken and other grilled meat. The menu – scrawled on a sheet of paper in both Portuguese and English – includes individual portions of sausages, chicken, and skewers, but I recommend ordering a platter so you can sample a few things. We got the platter for two, which included ½ a chicken, 6 ribs, and 3 sausages (including chorizo and morcela), all slathered in a zingy, spicy, garlicky sauce, as well as two sides of rice and a tomato salad. This generous platter cost less than 20 euros and was excellent value for money.
The shop is run by a lovely lady who does everything on her own, so it can get a bit hectic and orders can understandably take a bit of time to be served. The food is definitely worth the wait. Due to the size of the place there are only two tables available, so if possible just get a takeaway so you don’t have to wait for a seat.
We really enjoyed our lunch at Floresta das Escadinhas, which is just on the outskirts of Alfama. The food was simple and rustic but very tasty; we had octopus and grilled sardines (their specialty), served with potatoes, vegetables and a bottle of vinho verde. Everything was very fresh and well-cooked, with the sardines having a beautifully crisp skin and the octopus being lovely and tender. Other dishes on the menu include cod, squid (which had sadly sold out when we were there), and a mixed fish platter. There are also some meat options available like ribs, veal, and chorizo.
Portugal is home to the legendary pastel de nata (utterly irresistable egg custard tarts). While you can find these wonderful pastries all over Lisbon, Pastéis de Belém is unique in that its secret recipe has remained unchanged since the bakery opened in 1837! The tarts here are beautifully creamy, with a warm, crispy and flaky base. Make sure you sprinkle some cinnamon on them! The inside of the bakery is also charming with old school Parisien cafe vibes; think decorative ceilings, sleek counters full of pastries, and staff wearing immaculate uniforms with ties.
Just off of Dom Pedro IV Square is Ginjinha Sem Rival, which has been serving ginjinha since 1890. Ginjinha (also known as ginja), is a local sweet liqueur made by infusing sour cherries in alcohol – typically brandy. Spices like cinnamon and cloves are sometimes added. This local delicacy is served in a shot glass, but you should sip it rather than taking a big gulp. You can have it either with or without a cherry at the bottom. Ginjinha Sem Rival is relatively simple, with no seating inside and just a few standing tables outside, but it has a good atmosphere with a mix of locals and tourists. You can also buy some ginjinha by the bottle which would be a nice souvenir or gift.
Our dinner at O Velho Eurico was not only the best meal we had in Portugal, but it was one of the best I have ever had. Everything we tried was fresh, delicious and cooked to perfection. The chefs really understand flavour combinations, textures and how to balance a dish. We tried octopus, chicken hearts with grapes and vinegar, tuna in a Portuguese stew, squid with oranges (what a flavour combination!), and lamb croquettes. The staff were very friendly and placed a gigantic bottle of homemade grappa on our table for us to sample during our meal!
It is a small space, so you must make a reservation (via Instagram). When we arrived for our 8pm reservation, every other table was reserved and they had to turn people away who didn’t have a booking. If you visit Lisbon, you have to eat here!
8. Musa da Bica
Portugal is well known for its excellent wines and ports, but it also produces some very good craft beers too. One of Lisbon’s most well known microbreweries is Cervaja Musa, where you can try some excellent beers at their taproom Musa da Bica. This lively venue has some 15 beers on tap at a time, such as IPAs, saisons, and porters, or you can try a flight if you can’t decide. All of these can be enjoyed at one of the communal tables or outside if the weather permits. It can be pretty loud here with the crowds and music, but it’s a good place to go for some fun, drinks, and mingling. There is also a changing food menu if you get peckish.
I hope this post has given you a lot of ideas about where to eat and drink in Lisbon. If you have any other recommendations, please leave them in the comments.
Ciao for now
The Curious Sparrow