LATEST NEWS How to eat your way around Lisbon in a long weekend

Travel writer and Athena’s Editor Lauren Holmes shares her insider food tips for a long weekend in Lisbon.


How to eat your way around Lisbon in a long weekend

Travel writer and Athena’s Editor Lauren Holmes shares her insider food tips for a long weekend in Lisbon.

Lisbon is such a hot spot these days, it seems every weekend someone has a friend coming to town who wants insider tips on Lisbon.  Always the question that comes is… “where do we eat?”. When it comes to churches and traditional sightseeing, I’m no expert, but ask me about restaurants and music, and yes, here I can help. Since I was a little girl, travelling with a passionate foodie for a father, the question at every meal time would be, “Where shall we eat?” Now, when people come to visit me, we plan our days around meals.  From which beaches to stroll in preparation for spectacular lunches or which cobblestone streets to wind through on route to cozy tascas.  Food and music. It’s our living, breathing culture, so alive and human.  You can tell so much about a city’s soul through this everyday tapestry of life. Lisbon is at an interesting cross-roads of evolution, the blending of its traditional roots with the influx of cultures and trends that now flood through it’s gates from former colonies like Africa and Brazil, combined with a new-wave of European expats, digital nomads and yogis from the Far East and the US.  If once, Portuguese explorers set out on great sailing boats to connect the dots between the East and West, forging pathways to the new world and Africa, now the tables have turned and those energies are drawn here to a vibrant cultural melting pot. Always, I seek out the places that haven’t yet hit too much tourist hype and represent the value-for-money that makes Lisbon so rare as a European capital. Come high season, the one-time highlights can be packed. Yes, chef Nuno Mendes’s favorite restaurant A Taberna da Rua das Flores is great, as is the outstandingly popular ceviche bar A Cevicheria, but who really wants to spend 2 hours queuing in the street? Insider tip: If you are desperate to tick these off, go for a late lunch at 4pm, or as soon as they open at 12pm.


9 am: Located a 10 minute stroll along the water from Time-Out Food Market and the buzzing central transport hub of Cais do Sodre, Santos has flourished during Lisbon’s recent evolution into an intimate creative community with a vibrant café culture.  Stop for breakfast at stand-out spots like Cafe Boa Vida, with its healthy home-made cakes and innovative brunch bowls, Hello, Kristof for high-class coffee and artsy-magazines, or Dear Breakfast for all-day Eggs Benedict.  Then take a stroll along Rua São Bento and Rua Poço dos Negros to browse independent craftsmanship from local designers and artists.  Don’t miss olive oil shop D’Olival, tea haven Companhia Portuguesa do Cha and a stop by art centre Rua das Gaviotas 6, where you can catch a court-yard mural by local street artist Vhils.  Take note of the tiny houses and narrow streets, first built as the dwelling place for slaves brought in by the boatload during the Portuguese empire.

1pm: Hop in a cab or enjoy the 15-minute walk along the docks from Santos for some of the best grilled fish in town. One of the few spots where you can eat right on the river, Ultimo Porto is the go-to for local businessman during the week, while on Saturdays it’s packed with families and friends.  Deliciously unpretentious, tables are set out under an awning as fresh fish smokes on the open-barbecue.  It’s high-class cooking in an informal atmosphere. Book ahead to avoid a wait.

3pm take a stroll along the waterfront all the way to Bélem, or jump on the E15 tram, where the best pastel de natas (creamy custard tarts) in the whole of Lisbon awaits at the iconic Pasteis de Belém.  Stop by the Torre de Belem and Padrão de Descobrimentos monument in honour of the city’s sea-faring soul before a visit to Lisbon’s hippest new art, architecture and design museum Maat.


5pm: Lisbon’s sunsets are legendary so plan to end each day at one of the city’s viewpoints. For high-class cocktails, head to Rio Maravilha, set on the rooftop of Lx Factory in Alcântara.

9pm: Expect the warmest service and delicious Mediterranean-inspired dishes from an effervescent duo of Israeli chefs at local neighborhood spot Tantura.  Still well under-the-radar, this cozy spot offers some of the best quality for value food in central Lisbon.

11pm: Barrio Alto comes alive at night with happening little bars, stroll the streets, head for speakeasy cocktails at bar Red Frog, or check out the line-up of performances, art shows, djs and live music at Galeria Zé dos Bois.


9am: Head to Feira da Ladra – the vintage flea market in up-and-coming neighborhood Graça, where antique, vintage and bric-a-brac stalls are dotted between a grassy park and the striking Pantheon temple. Pick up local pottery and soak up the scene before a pit-stop of coffee and cardamom buns at Danish bakery Copenhagen Coffee Lab.  All fuelled up, head to the magnificent São Vincent church. Pop next door to the convent and climb the winding stairs up to the secret roof-terrace, with fabulous views over the city.

1pm – Stroll through Alfama’s iconic cobblestone streets on route to traditional tasca Ze da Mouraria. Set in the heart of one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, where the first fado singers strummed their soulful laments, house specialities include the giant squid casseroles and chunky steaks with ice-buckets of crisp vinho verde.

3pm Hop in a cab and head to Lisbon’s loveliest lung of green, Estrela Park, where live bands often play in the late afternoon sun, or you can catch a snooze under the century-old Pepper trees.  From here, it’s a 20 minute stroll passed elegant embassies towards the chic neighborhood of Principe Real. Stop on route for decadent ice-cream at Italian gelateria Nannarella to be slurped in the picturesque square of Praça das Flores.  Wind of the afternoon browsing the myriad of boutique shops that line Rua Escola Politecnica.  Highlights include Brazilian emporium Casa Pau Brasil and multi-brand gallery Embaixada, where you’ll find organic spa Organni along with Fair Bazaar, which curates ethical and locally sourced pieces.

5pm For sunset views with a more local, bohemian scene, Adamastor statue in Santa Catarina always draws a vibrant mix of local musicians who jam to a youthful crowd as the sun goes down.  Set just behind this hip-hangout, Pharmacy Restaurant has tables set on the lawn and a great selection of Portuguese wines if you seek a more sophisticated setting.

9pm –Music and Food.  Options abound in Lisbon when it comes to live music. Book ahead for a table at this tiny neighborhood bar in Alfama where some of the city’s best live Fado singers perform every night from 9pm and you can graze on tapas-style antipasti and a red wine.

12am For more of a vibe, head to Intendente square for alfresco drinks before heading to 3-storey bohemian town-house Casa Intendente, where a lovely alfresco courtyard and stella roster of DJs make this an eternally popular option for a fun night out in Lisbon.

2am And for the most atmospheric nightcap?  Stop by the tiny Tejo Bar in Alfama where local musicians go to jam together once their sets have finished.  Sessions get going from midnight and can last until dawn, with doors closed when the place is full.


11 am Sleep late like the locals and then head to the beach. Lisbon is enveloped in spectacular pristine beaches, all of which which make for great options for exploring before a long lunch.  Which to chose depends on how mobile you are.  If you have a car, then take the scenic drive out to Sintra, stopping to explore the historic center and a handful of castles, before a seafood lunch at scandi-esque wooden restaurant Bar do Fundo, set at the far end of Praia Grande.  If you fancy a trip on the train, hop on the comboio at Cais do Sodre and head out to Cascais.  Out of the wide range of beaches on route, the sweeping sands of Praia do Guincho, where surfers and kite-surfers congregate is a further 10 minutes on by cab and well worth the extra effort (ask to be taken to the Bar do Guincho entrance).Then head to traditional fish restaurant Mar do Inferno overlooking the water in Cascais and ask for a table on the terrace.  Finally, if you find yourself in Lisbon in the height of summer, there are few better options that a day on the beach at Praia da Princesa on the Costa Caparica, a 20 minute uber ride from Lisbon’s center.  Here, a barefoot beach chic setting and delicious fish makes Bar do Princesa a the best bet for lunch. For all of the above, book ahead for a table.

7pm Sun-dozed and smiling, round of the day with organic wood-fired pizza at Principe Real’s pizza spot In Bocca al Luppo.  If it’s the last Sunday of the month, then see if you can bag a spot at Lisbon Living Room sessions, a secret jam session with leading local and international musicians that takes place in private houses around the city.