This beautiful coastal city has a surprisingly underrated repertoire of sights, culture, and food.
In a recent weekend trip to Lisbon, Portugal, I came to the conclusion that this beautiful coastal city has a surprisingly underrated repertoire of sights, culture, and food. I found the culinary offerings particularly impressive, and, thanks to my lucky exploration decisions and some helpful tips from locals, the variety of food I ate in Lisbon was delicious, authentic, and affordable.
For those wishing to conserve money but still experience Lisbon’s many traditional tastes in a short time, I recommend seeking out these must-try items:
1. Seafood – If you are traveling to Lisbon and do not have a serious allergy to fish, then Portuguese seafood absolutely must be a priority! Plan on eating at least lunch or dinner in a Portuguese seafood restaurant. You will find good fish at almost any hole-in-the-wall, but ideally find one that is off of a main street and away from tourist attractions like the Castle of Sao Jorge or the beach; this will save you at least a few Euros.
Per usual, you also want to find somewhere with other people in it. When you order, be adventurous! Whatever you get will be unbelievably fresh, and naturally flavorful enough that it will have very little seasoning. If you want to be safe, consider going for grilled sardines or cod from the oven, and if you like non-fried calamari, order squid or octopus!
If you order a mixed grill (or really anything grilled), be prepared for your food to still have a face and eyes! This will be an eating experience worth telling people about, if you are not too squeamish to try it!
2. Pastries – in many European countries, Portugal is not a place you will find American-style “breakfast food.” This gives you a perfect opportunity to try one of the many delicious baked goods that Lisbon has to offer! We tried many different pastries, and we found that you really can’t go wrong with them; the Portuguese know how to bake.
However, if you only have a day or so in Lisbon, you’ll have to try Pasteis de Belém, a custardy tart that you can dress up to your liking with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Although they are sold all over the city, the best place to get these yummy treats is Pasteis de Belém, right near the Belém bus stop. The bakery opened in the 1800’s, and is named after the pastries themselves.
The other, more savory, baked good that you must try is also well known in Brazil: Pão de Queijo. These are wonderful, doughy, cheesy balls of heaven, especially when heated up. They do not look as extravagant next to some of the more decorated pastries, but do not be fooled, because they are to die for.
3. Drinks – Last but not least, a true taste of Lisbon would not be complete without trying the local drinks. There are many to choose from, as Portugal is known, unsurprisingly, for their ports and wines. But they have also developed some fun and delicious liquors that I absolutely recommend prioritizing during your short stay in Lisbon. The first of these is called Ginginha, and is a sour cherry-flavored liquor that you sip on its own or out of a chocolate cup! Ginginha is a perfect balance of fruity and smooth, without being too sweet, so you can have it at a bar or as an after-dinner drink.
If you’re going out on the town and want a fun, tasty cocktail, go for Caipirinha, which is similar to a mojito. Although it is served in other parts of the world, including Brazil, Caipirinha is expertly prepared in Lisbon, and perfectly captures the fun and interesting nightlife of the city.