We've added a new trip to Portugal as one of G Adventures new tours for 2018! If you've been dying to go to the country — or just want to find out what it's like to go there with G — click here to learn more about our new Highlights of Portugal trip.
On my flight to Lisbon I was served a custard tart, the unofficial national snack of Portugal. Upon landing, I quickly learned the sweet pastry was just the tip of the flavourful iceberg that is Portuguese food, which has incorporated ingredients and cooking methods from its colonial past — places like India, Africa, and South America, to name just three — into one diverse cuisine.
The best way to enjoy all those influences is to eat — a lot. Here, a list of some of Portugal’s essential dishes, and where to find them in Lisbon.
If you’re in Lisbon and you aren’t eating dried and salted cod, you aren’t eating. The fish has been a staple of the country’s trade since the 15th century. Today, bacalhau comes in many shapes and forms — as a paste, formed into balls, cooked into a casserole — and is perfect as snack or appetizer. Head to the Time Out Market, a food hall located in the city’s former fish market, to try bacalhau in many forms. Here, a collection of 40 restaurants and bars from across the city offer up a taste of what’s on the menu at their flagship locations. You can also stop at Conserveira de Lisboa to pick up a few souvenir tins of bacalhau for folks at home.
The popular Indian dish vindaloo actually has origins in Portugal — it's an interpretation of the Portugese dish carne de vinha d'alhos. Tasca Do Marinheiro has an extensive selection of curries on its menu, as well as what some claim are the best samosas in town, plus sweet, Goan-inspired desserts. Fortunately, they’ve also got a long list of beers on offer to help quell the effects of anything that’s too spicy.
Down an alley not far from the Rossio metro, one of the city’s main subway stations, is the unassuming Cantinho do Aziz, which specializes in Mozambican–Portuguese fusion. Lamb stew with okra and zucchini is a specialty, and the prawn curry with coconut rice is also a tasty option. They fry up a mean samosa here, too. Waitstaff will warn you that the accompanying sauce is spicy — heed their warnings, and wash it all down with a bottle of Laurentina, a Mozambican beer.
When you’re in a country with a coastline like Portugal’s, seafood is an essential part of the diet. In the posh hood Principe Real, you’ll find the popular A Cevicheria; you’ll know it by the giant octopus sculpture hanging from the ceiling over the dining room. The menu is Peru-meets-Portugal, with a variety of ceviche, tapas (like a pork belly and shrimp small sandwich), and a six-course tasting menu. Pisco sours are served up at the bar. Pro tip: Opt for an early dinner here: Lisbonians eat dinner after 8 p.m., and this place doesn’t take reservations, so if you want a table without a wait, get here before the locals do.
You can’t visit Lisbon without having one pastél de nata — and if one is all you have, you’re a rare breed. Everyone will tell you to go to Belém for the bakery that uses a secret custard tart recipe from 1837 that was developed in a monastery. Pastéis de Belém is larger than it looks from the outside, so keep walking all the way to the back and you’ll find a lovely outdoor terrace — and shorter lineups. Indulge in a tart or two before enjoying the sights on Belém’s waterfront. If you don’t make it to Belém, many argue that the tarts at Manteigaria, right in Lisbon, are even better. The bakery’s location, adjacent to Praça Luís de Camões, has an open kitchen so you can watch as these treats are created.
Technically, this native wine isn’t something you eat — but it should accompany every meal you have while in Lisbon. The name translates to “green wine,” but it really means young wine: vinho verde is a white wine that’s consumed shortly after bottling. It’s semi-sparkling, which means not quite bubbly, but just enough fizz to make it a perfectly refreshing choice for a hot day in the city. BA Wine Bar do Bairro Alto is the place to go for a sampling of vinho verde. Its staff is extremely knowledgeable, and the bar’s accompanying light bites are sure to hit the spot.
Hungry for a taste of Portugal? G Adventures can get you there. Check out our small group tours of Portugal — to Lisbon and beyond — here.