Dear readers, in this feature we will give you a comprehensive and concise overview of our favorite go-to places in Lisbon, covering everything from bars, cafés, and restaurants to ice cream shops and specialized coffee joints. With regards to price, all of these places would be in the affordable category. If you’re on a very tight budget, maybe check out some menus beforehand, but as a general rule, for most places listed here, you’re likely to spend between 10€ to 20€ per person, drinks included.
In order for these places to make our list, our main criteria was that they are places we visit regularly and that, over the course of months or years, haven’t disappointed us and have kept their standard (which conveniently ties in with our previously published article about consistency). Meaning, even if we had a good experience in a place we went to once (and might have previously reviewed), it’s not included here. These places are tried and tested on a weekly or monthly basis. This list is also adaptable, meaning that additions or removals are always possible. In true Lisbom style, the focus is on (relatively) small businesses that are personal, offer something unique and will put a smile on your face, no matter how screwed up your day might have been. That’s the magic of good food, drinks and social interaction. Believe us, we know what we’re talking about.
So, without further ado, here’s why we made you click on this link. We divided the places into very tentative categories but several of these places are uncategorizable for more than one reason. Whenever possible, we linked our Lisbom review for each place. For the address and an up to date opening hours overview, please go to their respective website or facebook page. Our Evergreen list is arranged by category and alphabetically. With several of these places, there is an overlap, so some places are included in several categories.
Craft beer really has a grip on Lisbon and Portugal as a whole. In the last couple of years, there’s been an outright explosion of craft breweries throughout the country and if you’re a person who appreciates beer, it would be a shame to not at least dip your toe into this deep, foaming pool.
A no-nonsense kind of craft-brewing place that opens its doors once a week and takes the micro in “microbrewery” damn seriously. Every Friday evening, owner and brewer Margaret Orlowski opens her brewery for a tasting session, from 5pm until 10pm. Normally there’s some small, homemade snacks as well. Her beer deals in accessible flavors that are equally pleasantly satisfying and thirst-quenching. While there’s always new beer in the making, absolute highlights for the moment are the Coffee Pale Ale – which has an almost Belgian beer-like sweetness to it – and the American Pale Ale, a malty, slightly sweet ale with a nice aftertaste of hop and subtle notes of bitterness. If you want to try Margaret’s beers but cannot make it to the brewery, you can also have them in the Ginja shop at Restauradores (Ginja Sem Rival) or you can also go to Carinho do Vinho (discussed in the section “Wine”) or Adamastor Bar.
The beer of Dois Corvos is widely available all over Lisbon and is sophisticated, complex, demanding and remarkably consistent in quality. Whether it’s their punch-packing session IPA with beautiful hints of flowers, hops and balanced bitter notes, or the Scotch ale “Into the woods” with its slightly smoky smell and subtle hints of caramel throughout, this brewery does not disappoint. The best thing to do is to visit their beautiful tasting room where you can also see the brewing tanks, buy their beer by the bottle and obviously have fun tasting and comparing their wide selection of beers. Their experiments with aging beer in Portuguese wine barrels so far have resulted in a couple of seriously memorable beers that are some of the most layered, complex craft beers you’re gonna find anywhere in Portugal.
A pleasant beer bar in the center of Lisbon that has a wide selection of Portuguese (and sometimes international) craft beer on tap. The staff is knowledgeable and passionate, the wide ranging selection of bottled beers is astounding and feature some of the best craft beer you’re likely to find anywhere in Europe and it’s a great, relaxed hangout spot. They also have some decent tapas on offer to accompany your designated tasting session. It’s nothing too fancy and that’s exactly the point.
Not necessarily specialized beer places, but places where you’ll also find great Portuguese craft beer in a great setting:
- TROBADORES – TABERNA MEDIEVAL (their selection of craft beer is always changing, see Bistros and bars)
- MONTANA CAFÉ (they have the excellent craft beer “8a Colina” on offer, see Bistros and bars)
- FÁBRICA COFFEE ROASTERS (they normally have Musa and Corvina on offer, see Coffee)
BISTROS & BARS
You come here for the view, you stay for the coffee and you stay a bit longer for the delicious, indulgent though modern fusion food. Sitting next to Cais do Sodré station is this little gem of a bistro that inside only looks like a Berlin-inspired graffiti art shop (which it is) but on the other side boasts wonderful views over the Tagus. Although they don’t really advertise themselves as a third wave coffee bar, their espresso is seriously great. Other than that, their chef Freddy Guerreiro does a simple yet wonderful spin on Chinese steamed buns and their beef burger in combination with kimchi mayonnaise is simply divine.
A supremely cozy hangout spot stuffed to the ceiling with antique furniture and a hodgepodge selection of art déco that pushes the limits of eclectic. Sinking into one of the inviting couches gels ever so nicely with the smooth old time jazz, blues and chanson tunes playing in the background. If that doesn’t lure you in, then for sure the most gooey, dark, intense, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cake will. There’s tea, wine, small snacks, a talkative owner: there’s no reason not to spend a couple of hours here. They have excellent vegetarian lunches on offer for around 4€ and their “tosta mista” (a kind of croque monsieur) made with the best Portuguese cheese and cured ham is to die for and hands down the best in town. An absolute gem.
TROBADORES – TABERNA MEDIEVAL
A medieval bar that is so much more than just a gimmick. Sure, the staff is dressed up as esquires and maidens, there’s medieval-tinged Irish folk music playing in the background and you can drink beer out of a horn, but the point is that it’s just a great place to be and that you do get value for money here. The hardwood floors and dark brown furniture in combination with the occasional chouriço burning are sure to warm your knuckles on a cold winter evening. It’s the kind of “brown bar” that you find all over Belgium and that we absolutely adore. They have an ever-changing selection of Portuguese craft beers and Belgian beers on offer, a selection of great, mostly bread-based tapas and be sure to try some of the mead (an alcoholic honey drink) as well. During the week, they also offer Portuguese lunches for lower prices, which we haven’t tried yet, but presumably, they should be good as well.
We didn’t include any specialized beer or wine bars here, so please also check out the “Beer” and “Wine” section if you’re interested in either of these.
A great bar and hangout space with an unforgettable, fluorescent peacock towards the back. This place has a Berlin heart beating firmly in its rainbow-colored chest and aside from serving you a great wine, the main reason why you should go here is simply because the burgers are just out of this world good. The quality of the beef is extraordinary and comes through in every bite. There are only a handful of uncomplicated toppings (in comparison to the myriad of choices in so many other Lisbon burger joints) and they all compliment the beef which you should definitely have medium-rare. They also do an equally memorable steak sandwich (prego), steaks and homemade crispy potato chips as an accompaniment. A particularly nice touch is that they are one of the only places in Lisbon open until late at night; so if you have late night munchies and you’re too much of a foodie to go to a crappy multinational burger joint or whatever, then you would be well-chuffed sinking your teeth into one of their juicy, succulent burgers. They also have a delicious vegetarian burger on offer.
TAMBARINA (CAPE VERDE)
One of the great luxuries of Lisbon is the possibility to try food from some of Portugal’s former colonies. We are no expert on these matters – all we know is that the muamba (a chicken stew) and the chickpea stews made with the tastiest, al-dente kind of chickpeas imaginable are out of this world good for a very accessible price (around 7€ / dish). There’s live music from Thursday through Saturday and the sheer informality of it all makes it a real diamond in the rough. Granted, the interior design is not much to look at, but that’s totally besides the point. Since it’s set in the rapidly gentrifying area of Santa Catarina, we hope this place doesn’t change or get chased away anytime soon.
ILLEGAL CHINESE RESTAURANT
Near Martim Moniz in the Rua da Palma 219, 3 esq (3rd floor on the left), there is an illegal Chinese restaurant which is a tried and tested Lisbom favorite. The food is dirt cheap, simple and chockful of those rich, umami-like flavors from soy sauce, oyster sauce, garlic and star anise. The fact that you have to mysteriously ring the bell of a normal-looking apartment only to be led into a living room where you’re sat down to have your meal makes it even more special. A unique experience in Lisbon and culinary-wise a highlight either way.
BELLA CIAO (ITALIAN FOOD)
The best pasta in Lisbon. This is as close as you’re likely to get to a traditional Italian trattoria. This place cranks out great pastas, does a highly addictive gnocchi dish with mozzarella and tomato sauce and with its long tables is a very informal, fuss-free experience. Granted, the house wine is rough, but it does cut through the rich pasta perfectly and you even get a tuna/tomato salad with amazing olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the house. Best be hungry, even ravenous when you go there: the portions are generous, bordering on the monstrous. There’s normally always a great vegetarian option or two on the menu as well.
Third wave coffee has not overtaken Lisbon as much as we thought it would two or three years ago. However, there are a couple of strongholds where you can get your espresso and filter coffee fix.
A family business specialized in coffee and chocolate with nothing else but variants of these two items on the menu. Their espresso is dark and nutty with smoky notes running throughout but with enough gentle acidity and bitterness to make it a perfectly balanced cup of coffee. They also offer a drip coffee, filter coffee and milk coffee, there’s just no aeropress or french press. In the summer there’s a fantastically refreshing cold brew for you to try. Their hot chocolate and their smooth, creamy sorbet made with 100% chocolate are astounding. Plus, you get a free piece of their delicious chocolate with every cup of coffee.
A trendy Danish coffee shop in Lisbon that does not disappoint. Aside from offering espressos, flat whites, aeropresses and other filter options, they also have light, delicious lunches that are a more health-conscious alternative than what so many tascas have to offer, and their cakes and Danish baked goods are superb. If you should ever spot a carrot cake with lime cream cheese topping, make sure to try it. It’s a bit hipster but you do get value for money here.
Another third wave coffee shop, with two establishments in town. The espressos pack a punch and are normally a lighter roast, with flavors of caramel, toffee, peach and vanilla coming through. Their filter coffees are also recommendable and they have some Portuguese craft beer, light lunches and snacks on offer. A great place to sit for a while and relax. You can also sit outside and watch tourists be bothered by the pushy restaurant waiters trying to catch a fish.
A fantastic espresso and a great place to just hang out and watch boats sailing along the river can also be found in “Montana Café” (See “Bistros and bars”).
TASCA DO JAIME
With so many fado bars and restaurants spread out all over town, you’re not alone in not being able to see the wood for the trees. There are the sit-down restaurants that offer rehearsed concerts with the audience seated and eating dinner but there are also still a handful of places scattered over town that are just basically bars where you have to stand for a while drinking a beer before a seat becomes available. They are frequented by a varied range of fado singers that intermittently sing a couple of fados with the lights dimmed. In our opinion, there is no better place to try this than in the delightfully down to earth “Tasca do Jaime”, one of the best places in Lisbon to hear fado sung by people from the neighborhood (if they haven’t been forced to move to the suburbs due to gentrification that is) and anyone else who wants to sing. The fado is not always perfectly sung, but that’s the point really. Songs can cover an emotional range as wide as happiness, joy or downright silliness to the blackest of melancholy moods, sadness and longing. The food ranges from simple plates of ham and cheese to freshly fried, crispy codfish pastries. In combination with a beer or a wine, this place has all you could want for a fuss-free weekend afternoon of listening to fado without feeling awkward, out of place or having to kill your porcelain piggie. Nowadays, there are two “Tascas do Jaime”, one in Graça and one in Alfama, but our favorite, for nostalgia’s sake, is still the one in Graça.
Ice cream shops have been popping up all over town, but none of them can beat “Mú” and their impeccable, exemplary consistency. Their vanilla ice cream is seductive and laced with the black dots of the vanilla seeds whereas the mango is deep, rich and satisfying. The ice cream wraps itself around your tongue like a smooth Kenny G saxophone solo and the flavors are natural and intense. There are some great ice cream shops over town, but “Mú” is just always consistent, offering ice cream with simple, natural flavors that just taste of the nut, fruit or ingredient itself.
PASTEL DE NATA / CUSTARD TART
For the platonic ideal of a pastel de nata / Portuguese custard tart, go to “Manteigaria”. The crisp, buttery pastry beautifully offsets the still warm, creamy, gooey custard with subtle hints of lemon. All the while, you can see the chefs whipping up new batches behind a glass wall. Even Game of Thrones is not half as exciting as this, if you ask us. Set in the heart of the Baixa-Chiado district, this place is not half the tourist trap you might expect it to be, but rather an essential, highly addictive spot.You can also buy pasteis de nata to go, but if you’re not going to eat them straight away or in a brief amount of time, there’s no point. These tartlets were made to be eaten immediately with a shot of espresso. They have also opened up a smaller shop in Cais do Sodré, in the Time Out Market, but for some reason, it’s just not the same.
For a good idea of what homemade Portuguese food is like, your best bet would be those places that write their menus on a paper table cover and then tape it to the window (a “tasca”). That is most likely to give you an authentic, very payable experience. For an overview of 100 items and dishes that you shouldn’t miss whilst you’re in the city of Pessoa, Camões and out-of-control gentrification, then support a small indie writer and buy this wonderful book by our friend Zara Quiroga.
Simply put, one of the best restaurants in town that serves traditional Portuguese food with a modern-day touch without breaking the piggy bank. Their menu has a selection of standard grill-dishes, but the cheapest option is the daily changing menu, consisting only of two market-fresh items. Whatever you take, it’s going to be the bee’s knees. Personal service by owner Luís, home cooked food, a great wine-by-the-glass selection and amazing desserts, including believe it or not, a head spinning panna cotta. It’s open all day as a café / pastelaria, roughly from 9 am until 7 pm, but they only serve food during lunch hour and are never open for dinner.
Chef and fellow foodie Fernanda Soares cooks up colorful miracles: traditional, often long-forgotten or hidden Portuguese dishes with an Arabic or other original twist from the tiniest kitchen. From melt-in-your-mouth stews to fish dishes that go beyond a grilled fish, the menu’s a winner. The extremely cute, beautiful interior design (it’s all about the fish nets) and the great wine, homemade lemonade in summer and scrumptious desserts make this place difficult to leave. Most of the time there’s a delicious vegetarian option as well.
If you want to get good, fresh seafood you could of course make a beeline for “Cervejaria Ramiro” which we’ve heard is great. However, because we’re lazy and sceptical of hyped up places, we’ve never been there. If you’re looking for a fantastic, more accessible alternative, go to the train stop “Alcântara Terra”, where you’ll find a fistful of specialized seafood restaurants (so-called “Marisqueiras”) on the square and in one or two side streets that won’t drill a huge hole in your wallet. We normally go to “O David” but every option is a win here. Also heading to the rough but beautiful seaside town of Setúbal and having some seafood or the local specialty, deep fried cuttlefish, is one of life’s great pleasures.
Lisbon’s vegetarian food scene is still very much in a research and development kind of phase with many places that totally miss the point with too much meat replacement nonsense instead of cooking up great vegetable dishes. Many places also offer boring buffets that are nothing more than just a plate-filling array of ill-fitting accompaniments. Some of your best options would probably be restaurants that do not necessarily advertise themselves as vegetarian but have some vegetarian options on the menu. We’ve listed some of your best options here, but we genuinely hope that the fantastic Portuguese vegetable produce is going to come through more on restaurant menus and that they are going to be treated with more respect and passion (what about grilling an aubergine or slow roasting some vine tomatoes people? It’s not rocket science!).
Maybe the most picturesque vegetarian / vegan restaurant in town, with the most attractive part of the restaurant set in a pavilion with a small garden around, creating a sense of seclusion and calm in the middle of the city. Most nights, there’s also a sitar-player providing you with pleasant, soothing background music. It’s definitely cozy, has smooth service and the dishes are worldly, with influences and recipes that go all the way from Italy to Morocco to India. While there is still room for improvement (the menu could be smaller, they could do more with less, the flavors of spices and herbs could be intenser), it’s probably the best vegetarian/vegan restaurant in town by a mile. Do try the mango ceviche, you’ll be smitten.
Not necessarily specialized vegetarian restaurants but places that normally always have a great vegetarian dish on offer:
Wanli (See “Bars & cafés)
Carinho do Vinho (see “Wine”)
Bella Ciao (see “International Food”)
Mercearia do Século (see “Portuguese Food”)
A wine bar. A hang-out place. A meeting place. A make new friends kind of place. Happiness. Delight. Have we mentioned wine yet? Some delectable small tapas on Tuesday night and in summer there’s also great food from Wednesday until Saturday evening. In winter, dinners are served from Thursday to Saturday, but it’s always best to check with them directly. Super cozy, personal and one of our absolute favorites. Their menu, which mainly consists of smaller dishes, also has one or two vegetarian options which are better than what you would get in most vegetarian restaurants. They only have Portuguese wines on offer and the owners can perfectly explain to you which wine would suit your palate.
A wine bar that not only boasts a great selection of wines and personal service but also a great street-terrace in a quiet corner just below Principe Real. Friendly owners who are absolutely passionate about their wine (which mainly comes from the Tejo region) and who know how to keep their Portuguese-styled food as simple as possible. Even for those who already know Portuguese wines, their wines are truly unique and will show you a different, lesser-known side with more notes of dark cherries, dried fruit and a pleasant, balanced dryness. Add to that the great selection of jazz, blues and ragtime playing in the background and the memorable maritime-themed interior design that makes the whole bar look like an old Dutch navy and you’ve got yourself something truly memorable.