Here’s where to find the tastiest local treats to try in Lisbon
These are the top 5 local treats to try in Lisbon by someone who has done some thorough research! In no particular order, let the salivating begin;
The Best Pastries in Lisbon
The pastel de nata or custard tart is best eaten with a coffee for a quick jolt of energy. It was initially made in the Sao Jeronimo monastery close by and the original recipe is still a secret. You can eat the original and the best custard tart at the Pasteis de Belem bakery but the queue of tourists often snakes out of the door.
What those in the know do to get their sugar fix do is stroll past the hordes and wind their way past the kitchen, to the back of the bakery. When you see a little patio, take a seat, and a waiter in a white apron will be happy to bring you a coffee and a pastel de nata to enjoy at your leisure. You will be revitalised by your snack and back out enjoying the sights before the back of the outside queue has even been served.
Enjoy a Salgado
Cafe culture is a way of life in Lisbon and snacking is a great way to discover some of the excellent little cafes, snack bars, and bakeries the city has to offer. Salgados are savory finger food snacks that are enjoyed from late morning onwards but are at their most delicious when fresh out of the over at around 11 am; locals often enjoy a salgado and a lambreta (a tiny 150ml glass of ice-cold beer) standing at a cafe counter. One of the tastiest local treats to try in Lisbon, Salgados are usually fried and should be eaten warm. Avoid anything that looks as if it has been in a display case feeling sad all morning and find somewhere that cooks fresh batches often.
The pastel de bacalhau is without a doubt the most popular, and is a delicious little morsel made from flaked salt cod, potato, eggs and parsley quenelled and deep-fried. Rissois de camarão, the breaded half-moon pastries filled with shrimp and bechamel sauce are also very popular, along with puff pastries called chamuças or croquetas filled with any combination of cheese, ham, or spinach.
Empandas are also worth trying; these snacks are small pies rather than being a fried delicacy and are usually filled with chicken or duck.
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Where to get the Best Ice Cream in Lisbon
Nanarella, Davvero, or Santini? These three Gelaterias in Lisbon always provoke discussion on which is the best. In the name of research, I have tried various flavours from all three a few times. Whether you’re exploring in the Alfama or enjoying beach life in Cascais you are never far from top-quality gelato.
Nanarella is near the Palacete de São Bento and is open late into the evening so you can enjoy a treat after dinner. Davvero’s central location is near the Mercado da Ribeira, close enough to to the Tejo to stroll along the riverbank with your ice cream cone and there is an additional shop in the Centro Cultural de Belem to the west of the city.
All three ice cream parlours have a range of delicious flavours from mango to marabunta (choc chip) but Santini’s edges it for me, there is a branch in the Time Out Market as well as the two original shops in Cascais, and the choices change often enough to keep it interesting.
My top tip is the raspberry sorbet, and you can even buy a litre in a stay-cold container to take home.
Lisbon’s Fresh Fish
The Portuguese only eat sardines that are a maximum of 24 hours from swimming around the deep blue sea, and most importantly of all only eat them in months which have no ‘r,’ namely May, June, July, and August. You have to eat them grilled fresh and well salted, and they taste best when you eat them outdoors by the sea on a sunny day. In season you’ll see handwritten signs outside bars and restaurants letting you know ‘há sardinhas’, that there are fresh sardines on the menu.
You can buy cute souvenir sardines all year round, the ceramic ones are beautiful and painted with all sorts of modern and traditional motifs and patterns and make a great souvenir by which to remember your trip.
Celebrated Portuguese artist and ceramicist Rafael Bordallo Pinheiro (1846-1905) opened his ceramic factory in Caldas de Raina to the north of Lisbon in 1884. His original concept was to focus on the style and natural motifs of Portugal in the form of tin-glazed pottery, and this continues today. The bigger pieces such as bowls and jugs often take the form of leaves of flowers and the ceramic sardine collection changes often to stay apace with popular culture.
Cocktails with a View
Last but not least for local treats to try in Lisbon is the cocktails! Park is an amazing rooftop bar situated on top of a multi-story car park in the historic Bairro Alto is popular for sundowners on warm summer evenings. This hip bar features in a lot of Instagram stories as the view over Lisbon is second to none.
There are a wide variety of cocktails on offer from the trusted classics to funky new concoctions. Try the snacks and light meals which are available in the early evening to help give you stamina for the dancing later on! Once you have climbed past all the cars right up to the 6th floor where the bar is you can relax to the sounds of soul and funk played by the resident DJ. Kick back amongst the tropical plants and look across the Tejo river to the 25 de Abril bridge and the Christ the Redeemer statue.
Topo is another Lisbon hidden gem, a rooftop bar situated on the top floor of an old shopping mall in the Martim Moniz area. The entrance is tucked away, but it is definitely worth the effort. It has spectacular views over the Castelo Sao Jorge and the rooftops of downtown Lisbon.
If you can’t bear to tear yourself away from the bank of the Tejo, then you can pause for an aperitif right there. Pitcher Cocktails is an old fashioned tricycle-cum-cocktail bar that parks on the riverbank in the sun. You can order delicious cocktails such as the mojito or caipiroska or go for a refreshing alcohol-free passion fruit lemonade to enjoy on the esplanade next to the Tejo.
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