For my 30th birthday, I received a fantastic gift – a private food tour of Lisbon, tasting the top 10 Lisbon foods! This was a perfect gift, as I am a huge foodie and the tour included some great food and also some great sights!
I won’t give away all the secrets; after all the food tour is really 100% worth doing yourself! However, I can understand it is not in everyone’s budget to do such a tour. So I am sharing the highlights and recommendations to do your own Fiery food tour of Lisbon!
One of the good things about this tour is that they adapt it to what products are in season. Normally it includes sardines, but as sardine season starts only in June (all offered before are frozen and not fresh!)
My food tour guide
My tour guide was Diogo, a Portuguese student from the Southern part of Portugal. He had a great passion for food and especially the stories behind it, and it was a pleasure to have him as my guide. He switched the narrative between Portuguese and English (when I was having a hard time following) and explained a lot about the history of Lisbon and how it has shaped the food culture in Portugal and Lisbon specifically. For a history enthusiast like myself, this was really great! After meeting at one of the well known view points in the city, we started our three hour walking tour.
Our first stop was in a small restaurant, one that was obviously only patronized by locals. These are often the restaurants where real gems can be found. My first tasting was of Alheira. Alheira is a sausage that does not contain pork – but I would definitely swear that it does! Diogo let me taste some and it was a juicy, delicious combination of garlic, bread, herbs and what I thought was pork. It was chicken! The Alheira sausage was invented by Jews in 1497 when they were being prosecuted by the Christian church during the inquisition. By developing a sausage that tasted like pork, they avoided unwanted attention and were able to keep to the laws of Judaism.
The restaurant where we had the Alheira (not 100% sure!) – Papo Cheio, R. de São Pedro de Alcântara 15, 1200-212 Lisbon
Next on our tour was the Bifana sandwich, something I was really excited about. Look, I love pork, in all of the beautiful varieties that it comes. That includes the bifana; a pan-fried pork steak, seasoned with garlic and spices, put in a bread roll and layered royally with mustard. The magic here is in the simplicity. Without any frills, you taste the juiciness of the pork, the good dose of garlic and the magical combination of the mustard. The only thing that would be better, would be a cold beer to have along with it. There are two other similar types of sandwiches – the prego (seen also on Anthony Bourdain’s Lisbon episode) and the leitão. These are made with beef and suckling pig respectively. My advice: try all three varieties! I think this must be especially satisfying after a night of going out 😉.
The restaurant where I tried it:O Trevo – Praça Luís de Camões 48, 1200-108, Lisbon
Best pastel de nata in Lisbon
Even if you have never been to Portugal before, chances are that you have already tried a ‘pastel de nata’. A crispy, custard filled sweet pastry, topped with a little bit of powdered sugar and cinnamon. They are absolutely delicious and should not be missed when visiting Lisbon! Actually…my pre-breakfast consisted of one of these pastries and a strong coffee most mornings.
The recipe is credited to the monks of the Jéronimos Monastery in the Belém district of Lisbon. This may explain why the most popular bakery to get them is the Pastéis de Belém in the same street. If you have ever been there, you know that it sounds far more glamorous than it is. Waiting times are long to buy them or grab a seat at the bakery, and it feels…a little too touristy for my taste.
Lucky for me, Diogo introduced me to the Manteigaria. He told me this is the best place to get them because of the quality and due to the nonexistent waiting lines! The pastry is made with real butter here, which delivers its super crispy crust! The pastries are made in front of you, so you can follow each step in making these little bites of magic.
Manteigaria: Rua do Loreto, 2 1200-242 Lisboa
Just a small Ginjinha…
Ginjinha is a liqueur made from infusing sour berries (Ginja) in alcohol. It’s a traditional liqueur from Portugal, and if you like alcohol, definitely one to try when in Lisbon! It develops into a sour, sweet brandy-like liqueur which is usually served in a shot glass, with a small cherry.
Diogo took me to the smallest bar, ‘A Ginjihna’, which is literally a hole-in-the-wall bar (it fits three people max). The drink itself is said to be invented in the 1840’s, at this very bar. It was said to help cure all types of illnesses – this I highly doubt, but it’s a good excuse to have a mid-day shot right 😉?
A Ginjinha – Largo São Domingos 8, 1100-201 Lisbon
Pastel de Bacalhau
Next on the food tour is one of my personal favorites – Pastel de Bacalhau! These are codfish pies, best with a lot of hot sauce on top of them in my opinion. The pastel that I tried wasn’t the best, to be honest, but I have had a lot of these, as we also have them in Brazil. However, many places serve different fried snacks, which serve as a great mid-day sightseeing snack, accompanied by a glass of wine or beer.
Best surprise of the food tour of Lisbon
My favorite moments whilst traveling are the surprises; surprise encounters and finding hidden treasures. Our last stop of the tour was such a hidden treasure, that also had good food! Casa Alentejo is a palace that was built in the 17th century, and formerly owned by the Viscounts of Alverca. Formerly going by the name of the Palace of Amaral or Alvera, the building has now been repurposed as a cultural center to showcase the culture of the Alentejo region in Portugal. This is the southern region (literally below the Tagus river) and above the Algarve.
Continuing the journey, we headed inside and it is beautifully decorated in the Moorish style, with Arabic inscriptions on the walls. The center now houses a cafeteria and restaurant, both serving typical dishes from the Alentejo region. Diogo let me taste two dishes: a delicious white cheese and migas. Migas is rolled bread fried in lard, with pan-fried pork meat. Do not be judgemental and judge a dish by its photo. It was warming, delicious and very filling!
It was extra special because Diogo was himself from Alentejo, and enjoyed telling me about where he was from and all the food and wine from that region. Hearing the stories that people have about food, and how it relates to matters that are important to them (home, family, friends) are the reason why I love to talk to people about food wherever I go.
Restaurant and Palace: Casa do Alentejo – Rua Portas de Santo Antão, 58 1150-268 Lisbon
I can definitely recommend doing a food tour of Lisbon – self guided or with a guide!
I have not included all stops of the tour, but hope it inspires you to do a food tour of your own, and discover all the delicious foods and drinks of Lisbon for yourself.
If you would like to book the same tour, mine was via With Locals, the Top 10 Foods tour. Via this link, you’ll receive €30 off on any activity on the With Locals site – get €30 off on your first tour!
Going to Lisbon soon? Read more in the Fiery Explorer’s Guide to Lisbon or keep an eye out for more upcoming blog posts in the Europe – Travel category!