Biting into a pastel de nata isn’t a bad way to start the morning. Not the healthiest way of course but when in Lisbon, it really is the thing to do.
Head to your local cafe and order a coffee with a pastry on the side. This is generally eaten at the bar while standing, a bit like they do in Italy if you’ve been there before.
It’s a cheap and delicious start to a day of sightseeing.
Eating Our Way Around Lisbon
As this was my first trip to Lisbon, I was curious to find out about the local specialties and where to go to find them.
I was fortunate to be working with a local food guide on this trip and he gave us both a historic tour of the city and an introduction to Lisbon’s food culture.
Unfortunately, the tour I took is no longer available but this one is very similar.
Our guide Paulo started by insisting that the locals have a pastry with their coffee four or five times a day. I’m not convinced this is true but I want to believe it.
The City of Almada
After a bit of sightseeing in the wonderfully historic Bairro Alto neighbourhood, we took a small ferry across the water to get a view of Lisbon’s Golden Gate-style bridge, known as the 25 de Abril Bridge.
This brought us to Almada, a portside city that is well worth visiting for its seafood and a few interesting sights.
Here we were treated to plates loaded with seafood and a couple of glasses of Portugal’s famous vinho verde, a light and refreshing green wine.
Back in Lisbon’s old town, we stopped at the peaceful Jardim de São Pedro de Alcântara which feels like it’s hidden away above the city.
This was the perfect place to recuperate from all the walking with a refreshing glass of limonada followed by a healthy-sized jug of Portuguese sangria.
Best Piri Piri Chicken in Lisbon
We were getting a bit peckish again and even though we were heading out to dinner later we all voted to take a detour and try Portugal’s famous spicy piri piri chicken.
On the recommendation of our guide, we ate at restaurant Bonjardim. It’s located in the centre of Lisbon, not far from the Restauradores metro station.
This is rated as the best piri piri chicken in Lisbon and I can definitely vouch for its delicious simplicity. I ate a Bonjardim on two other occasions while in Lisbon, so yeah, it was good and budget-friendly.
With our walking tour over, we put on our helmets and hopped on the back of a motorcycle for a sidecar tour.
This is the sidecar tour. I highly recommend it.
These kinds of tours are so much fun, especially if you’re in a group. I was surprised at the attention we got from tourists and locals alike as we made our way around Lisbon’s streets in vintage sidecars.
The tour finished with us overlooking Lisbon as the sun was setting. This city is stunning in the evening and it’s one of the most exciting cities in Europe for nightlife.
Seeing as we hadn’t eaten enough pastries that day, we finished the day at the most famous pastry shop in Portugal, Pasteis de Belem.
These are like designer pasteis de nata and only pastries from this one shop can use the protected Pasteis de Belem name. So basically, pasteis de nata is the generic name for this kind of pasty and Pasteis de Belem is the brand name from this specific shop in the Belem neighbourhood.
Personally, I don’t think there is much difference between the famous and the generic varieties but I’m no expert. I do recommend visiting though and be sure to get them fresh out of the oven.
To finish our Lisbon foodie adventure we headed out for a night of food and fado at Mesa de Frades. I must admit to having no knowledge of fado before that night but it turned out to be quite an experience. Here’s an example of fado from Lisbon’s ‘Queen of Fado’ Amalia Rodrigues.
After a long day of discovering what to eat in Lisbon, we returned to our cosy Lisbon apartment.
Since this trip, Lisbon has experienced difficulties with housing affordability which has been exacerbated but short-term rental sites like Airbnb. To support sustainable tourism, I suggest staying at a hotel and leaving the apartments for residents who desperately need homes.