One of the oldest cities of the old continent and at at least 2700 years old, Lisbon’s history is lengthy and complex. Today, we’re diving into it’s culinary history in this Foodie Travel Guide to Lisbon, Portugal – I hope you enjoy as much as we did!
Portugal, is it on your travel bucket list? Because if it’s not, then you should definitely consider adding it but if you’re not yet convinced, I hope this blog post makes you reconsider – Lisbon, the capital of Portugal is a city rich in history (it’s older than Rome!), art, and most importantly for us – food! My husband and I traveled to Lisbon during the month of January and found it to be quite a comfortable time to visit – temperatures in the 50-60F daily, with sunny days and very rare rainy days, it was a perfect getaway from the cold New England winters we were having. For those wondering, Lisbon is a very safe city with rare violent crime, and anytime we were out at night we felt comfortable and never nervous. Obviously, common sense is best and I’m sure there are some not so safe spots in every city, so always proceed with caution whenever you travel. Now, on to explore the city – starting with where to stay in this gorgeous, hilly, and delicious city!
Where to Stay in Lisbon, Portugal: The Corpo Santo Hotel
Location is everything when traveling to a new city – you want to be as close to the action as possible, but not too close that it’ll disturb your restful sleep and The Corpo Santo Hotel was THE perfect location for us. Offering superb service, this brand-new, 5-star hotel was built to share Lisbon’s cultural heritage in a welcoming atmosphere of understated luxury, where the past and the present coexist in perfect harmony. It’s location is a great starting point for exploring the city – it’s located on Corpo Santo Square, just 20 minutes away from the airport and every means of transport is just a few minutes walk from the hotel (underground, train, taxi, bus, and even Uber).
The photo below is of the gorgeously intricate wallpaper that lines the hallways of our floor. Each one of the hotel’s five floors is designed to take you on a journey through the history of Portuguese expansion in the world. Africa, Asia, Brazil and, of course, Lisbon; each floor has an aroma emblematic of its region, such as coffee or cinnamon. Our floor was ASIA and the aroma of the most elegant incense (not too strong) wafted in while we walked through the hallway. This completely blew me away – the way the hotel weaved together all the senses to create such a marvelous experience was divine.
Along the same lines of enticing every sense, the Corpo Santo Hotel also has its own restaurant in-house and before you say that most hotel restaurants aren’t good at all, I beg to differ with this one, called Porter. The stage is set on one of the most privileged view’s onto one of Lisbon’s most charismatic streets, so you’re taken aback as you walk in. As much as I appreciate a well-stocked minibar (and Corpo Santo’s minibar was quite lovely), after a day of travel, nothing is better than a hot, chef-prepared meal and that’s what Porter had to offer as you can see below. Leg of duck confit sitting atop a mushroom risotto – we were starving the night we arrived in Lisbon and this hit the spot! You can read my full review of Restaurante Porter on TripAdvisor.
Let me start by saying: bring comfortable walking shoes. For your own sake, don’t bring any type of heel unless you’re planning on going from hotel to car to restaurant to hotel. If you have to even walk ten minutes, comfortable shoes are a must due to how hilly Lisbon is. However, Lisbon had worked out several years ago that their city is built on a number of hills, and there are now trams and elevators and escalators in abundance to get you up and down the more arduous spots. We personally never took them (maybe because they’re harder to find, mostly inside building and such) but dear Lord I sure wanted to!
The great thing about Lisbon, even though it is hilly, is that it’s such a gorgeous city with great shops and restaurants on every street, that the walking uphill isn’t as bad because you do take your time.
Another great way to walk around and explore Lisbon is by booking a food tour. It’s something we do in almost every city we travel to because it’s always worth it: 4 hours of walking around a city with a true local, getting a feel for how it’s laid out, discovering hidden gems of food spots, and then having this local guide give you all the insider advice at the end of the tour is worth its weight in gold.
We were guests of Secret Food Tours Lisbon and what a fabulous food tour it was! Our tour guide Carmen was a local and so incredibly knowledgable not only in food history, but overall history of Lisbon and took us through the city flawlessly, showcasing some of the best bites to have.
The four hour foodie tour took us around spots in Lisbon we would not have discovered on our own: a local sandwich shop that served the most delicious pork sandwiches in the world (pictured below), a meat & seafood market that welcomed us with a table with fresh salad and the flakiest, most flavorful charcoal grilled fresh cod filets, a waterfront restaurant were we snacked on octopus salad and cod fritters, a fine dining restaurant where we did a cheese and wine tasting of all local Portuguese items, and one of the cities top custard tart factories.
If you’re traveling to Lisbon, wether it’s for two days or a week, book one of these Secret Food Tours and you won’t regret it. The tour guides are so incredibly knowledgeable and friendly, they know everyone at the spots we visit, the tour groups are kept to under 12 so you really have an intimate experience and can ask questions, and it’s just such delicious food! I can barely remember everything we ate even though I listed, but here’s a complete sampling from their website:
- To start, your local Portuguese guide will take you to a nice “Garrafeira” to enjoy a delicious Porto wine.
- Next, we will show you where to eat the best “Bifana” in town. The Bifana is one of the most amazing pork sandwiches ever created! Our Bifana will be served with a fresh “Imperial” (portuguese local beer)
- The visit will continue in the heart of Mouraria district where you will enjoy the stunning view over the city and all the beautiful old tiles
- Let’s not forget to try some sardines and have a “Ginjinha” (portuguese local liqueur)
- The tour also take you to a visit of a shop where our guide will buy delicious Portuguese cured meat and the best selection of cheeses that you will eat after the visit!
- Next, we will show you one of the best hidden gems in Lisbon, an old palace where you will taste some traditional handmade “Petiscos”
- The tour can’t end without you tasting the famous and hand-made traditional Portuguese pastry “Pastel de Nata”
- Oh, and of course there’s our delicious Secret Dish too!
After eating all day, the hilly walking comes into play and is actually craved after the delicious food of Lisbon is had. And with so many hills and elevations, stairs and elevators, the vantage points are a photographer’s dream come true. The vivid artwork that can be found in and around the city is a welcoming sight, along with of course, the gorgeous tile work that Portugal is known for. The Culture Trip has a well versed article depicting the history of these “azulejos” or tiles, it’s worth the read and their photos are just as fabulous.
Now, we were in Lisbon for six days and thankfully, one of those days was a Sunday, which is hands down the best time to visit the LX Factory, which I’ll let them describe because it’s just such an experience: “In LXF, at every step you live the industrial environment. A factory of experiences where it becomes possible to intervene, think, produce, present ideas and products in a place that belongs to everyone, for everyone.”
On Sundays, it’s an even larger market with outdoor vendors and over a dozen restaurants and over fifty shops make this the perfect thing to do on a weekend. Plan to spend a few hours there – you’ll be enthralled by everything it has to offer. As you walk around the massive space (indoor and outdoor) you meet artisans, makers, and builders all sharing the love for their craft. It’s these moments, the ones I get to connect with the locals, when all the travel becomes worth it.
From the maker selling his small glass jars of port grape jam to the tea alchemist that recommend a blend of local herbs and spices for my anxiety, this market is what dreams are made of.
The dream continues because the variety of restaurants is insane – everything from Japanase sushi to Argentinian empanadas, but as we all know, I wanted to focus on the sweet side of LX Factory. So let me tell you all about the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had: the chocolate cake at Landeau Chocolate.
This chocolate cake is the perfect way to end your day at LX Factory. Order it with a shot of espresso and everything will be right in the world, at least for those ten minutes as you enjoy the cake. The cake is sliced to order (2.80 euros per slice), as this shop only makes one thing and one thing only – this cake. Don’t even try to ask them about it, their lips are sealed about everything from ingredients to method. All I can tell you it’s a dense but airy chocolate cake sponge, topped with a light, thin layer of chocolate mousse and topped with a good layer of dark cacao powder. The combination of all three makes this cake unlike any other I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot of cake.
Another spot that’s a must visit for foodies while in Lisbon is the Time Out Market Lisboa. 24 restaurants, 8 bars, a dozen shops and a high-end music venue, this is the happening spot in town and one you could also spend a few hours in. “Have you ever heard of curated burgers? Curated nigiri? Curated pizzas, sandwiches or even curated cod? Probably not. After all, Time Out Market is the first market in the world where everything has been chosen, tasted and tested (with four or five stars, and not one star less) by an independent panel of city experts: Time Out’s own journalists and critics. More than 40 spaces with the leading representatives in all the food categories that help make Lisbon what it is – and tastes – all together under one roof. Find out everything you need to taste – and what Time Out had to say about it.” – Time Out
Not only is it a place to eat and drink everything to your heart’s content, but it’s THE perfect place to stock up on food souvenirs. You might think it’s a very touristy spot, but it really is an affordable place to shop. I stocked up on local Portuguese sea salt for under 3 euros for 8 ounces, bought tinned seafood for my best friend at the best prices.
TSA Note: From what I was told, you cannot fly with canned foods in your carry on if you have a layover on your way home to the US. But if you have a direct flight back to the US, you can pack it and it’s no problem! Obviously, do your own research first but this is what I was told and I brought back about six cans of seafood with no issues whatsoever.
And to finish off this Foodie Travel Guide to Lisbon (which is at currently 2022 words so thank you for sticking with me!) is another sweet treat, quite possibly the most popular bakery good of all Portugal: the custard tarts or pasteis de nata. These custard tarts are made of two parts: the dough is a type of puff pastry, with flaky layers that support the bright yellow egg custard. It’s a 3-4 bite tart, so you can be like me and eat a few a day. You’re on vacation, so go for it! My top three spots for these were: Pasteis de Belem, Manteigaria, and Fábrica da Nata, in that order. They’re all delicious but Pasteis de Belem (a 20 minute ride from Lisbon) were my top favorite because of two reasons: they were created in this bakery and they are sold still warm from the oven. Delightful! A must when in Lisbon for sure.
I know I gave you a ton of information about what to eat in Lisbon, so here’s a recap (plus a few extras I didn’t mention in the blog but are worth seeking out):
- Corpo Santo Hotel Lisbon – book your stay here, centrally located + gorgeous rooms
- LX Factory – go on a Sunday to explore the markets & order the chocolate cake at Landeau
- Secret Food Tours Lisbon – book a four hour walking tour with local guide
- Custard Tarts – Pasteis de Belem, Manteigaria, and Fábrica da Nata
- Time Out Market Lisboa – perfect rainy day activity + great spot to pick up souvenirs
- Wish Slow Coffee House – a great concept store and coffee shop
- Cantinho Do Avillez – Peruvian food in an open restaurant concept, sit at the bar
May your travels lead you to Lisbon, Portugal this year!