Lisbon has rightly garnered a reputation as being one of Europe’s hippest cities – but Portuguese cuisine remains somewhat unknown. Rest assured, though, Lisbon’s food scene is every bit as exciting as the city’s nightlife, trams and quirky charm. Here’s our expert guide to the best restaurants in Lisbon, divided by area.
Best restaurants in Lisbon? Start in Cais do Sodré
The formerly rundown waterfront district of Cais do Sodré has been cleaned up in recent years and is now home to some of the city’s hippest bars and restaurants. A wander down Rua Cor de Rosa or “pink street” will lead you to some of the best, from hip taco joints to traditional tascas.
For a bit of everything
Mercado da Ribeira, AKA the Time Out market. The spacious 1930s building and long-standing produce market has been given a new lease of life since it became a giant food hall. Many of Lisbon’s leading restaurants showcase their cuisine at a series of stalls here. Sit at one of the communal benches in the central area, and sample everything from smoked ham to sheep’s cheeses, organic salads and seafood.
Lisbon's famous Pink Street © By Kavalenkava/Shutterstock
Best for bargains: Baixa
The Baixa is Lisbon’s compact grid of streets in the historic centre. One of the first examples of town planning, the district was designed as the city's commercial hub when it was rebuilt after a major earthquake in 1755. Though it has become something of a tourist epicentre, it still has plenty of restaurants which cater to local office workers. And that means local prices.
For fast food Lisbon-style
Beira Gare. Right opposite the impressive frontage of Rossio station, Beira Gare (which means beside the station) caters to commuters on the line out to Baixa and Lisbon’s northern suburbs. If you want something quick, tasty and inexpensive, Beira Gare ticks all three boxes with aplomb. Grab a squished-in table or perch at the bar and tuck into the likes of grilled octopus, pork steaks or hake fillets with rice, all for under €10.
For comfort food
Bom Jardim. The King of Chickens has been serving mouth-watering barbecued chickens, with or without piri piri, long before Nando’s came on the scene. For us that makes it one of the best restaurants in Lisbon. Though it serves other grilled meats, chargrilled chicken with salad and chips is the thing to go for.
Chicken cooked on a charcoal grill is one of Lisbon's most famous dishes © Bernhard Richter/Shutterstock
Best for views: Bica
Bica is best known for its lift of the same name, a hybrid funicular/tram which glides up one of Lisbon’s steepest cobbled streets. From the top, it’s a short walk to the Miradouro de Santa Catarina, an alluring viewpoint gazing out over the western riverfront.
Best restaurant in Lisbon for tapas
Pharmacia. Part of the Pharmaceutical Museum, this restaurant’s quirky décor features retro fittings from old chemist shops. However, the big pull is the river view from the front terrace. The speciality here is petiscos, Portuguese-style tapas, such as duck croquettes, salted-cod fritters or sublime aubergine-wrapped goat’s cheese.
Best outdoor terrace
Noobai. Perched under the lip of the Miradouro de Santa Catarina, when it comes to restaurants with a view, Noobai is hard to beat. The uninterrupted views across the Tagus are as tasty as the varied menu, which features everything from healthy brunches to petiscos and tuna steaks.
Best for upmarket dining: Chiado
Chiado is Lisbon’s upmarket shopping district and home to its most famous café, A Brasileira. It has also become the domain of Lisbon’s leading celebrity chef, José Avillez. You’ll find his double Michelin-starred restaurant, Belcanto here, along with two more affordable options:
For an innovative menu
Belcanto. Tucked into the splendid Art Deco interior of the Teatro de São Luís, the menu here is presented as acts in a play and certainly throws up some theatrical delights. There are "exploding" olives, edible cocktails and “ice cream” cones filled with tuna tartare, with the cone made of seaweed. Virtually every dish deserves a round of applause.
For contemporary Portuguese
Cantinho do Avillez. This fashionable space serves memorable modern Portuguese cuisine: think black pork with coriander or scallops with sweet potatoes and asparagus. If you need reminding you are in Lisbon, the famous 28 tram rattles past the door every half an hour or so.
Eating outdoors is one of the great pleasures of Lisbon © Kuznetsov Alexey/Shutterstock
Best for pastries: Belém
This area is famed for its monastery and distinctive Torre de Belém tower. But, once you've taken in the sights, no visit to this upmarket riverside suburb is complete without a taste of its famous custard tarts.
For a sweet tooth
Antiga Confeitaria de Belém. This café has been making pasteis de nata using a closely-guarded recipe since 1837. For a slice of heaven, have a couple served warm and sprinkled with cinnamon, washed down with a strong bica coffee. Its cool, cavernous interior somehow absorbs the hoards of visitors.
The famous pasteis de nata at Antiga Confeitaria de Belém © Altan Can/Shutterstock
Best for neighbourhood restaurants: Madragoa and Lapa
West of the centre lies the more earthy, traditional district of Madragoa and the more chi-chi neighbouring Lapa, where tourists have yet to discover the fine restaurants. If you want to eat where locals eat in Lisbon, this is the place to come.
Varina da Madragoa. Tucked into a cobbled backstreet lies this quintessentially Portuguese restaurant whose previous clients have included José Saramago and Jimmy Carter. Decorated with grape-motif azulejos, its snug interior offers the chance to sample sublime salted-cod cakes, trout stuffed with presunto ham or goat cutlets.
For classic dining
Guarda Mor. Its worth turning up hungry at this small upmarket local so you have room for starters that include unmissable peixinhos da horta (tempura vegetables). Follow that with one of its bacalhau dishes or mackerel ceviche. For the full Portuguese experience, go on a Wednesday for live fado.
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Top image © ESB Professional/Shutterstock