Lisbon has changed dramatically since I first started visiting the city regularly in 2002. At the time, in the aftermath of the Salazar years and then the Revolution, it was still rather rundown, with many buildings in poor repair. These have since been renovated and the city has become a very popular tourist destination.
It is easy to understand Lisbon’s popularity. Even in December the temperatures stay in the mid-to-late teens, and close proximity to the Atlantic means the searingly hot summer temperatures of the Douro or Alentejo are rare.
Lisbon is a city to walk, although it is very hilly so it helps to be reasonably fit. The city is a delight, with many beautifully tiled buildings, cobbled (and sometimes slippery!) pavements, little squares and frequent vistas across the Tagus estuary.
Despite its popularity, it is still great value. The Portuguese are friendly and welcoming, and importantly the city feels safe.
Easy to get around
The airport is in the northern part of the city – just a short taxi ride from the centre – or you can take the Metro which is clean and efficient, with the stations often decorated with attractive tiles. There are also good bus services and of course the famous trams.
The rechargeable Viva Viagem card, which can be bought at Metro stations, covers all Lisbon transportation including short ferry crossings across the Tagus and trains out to the seaside resort of Cascais and up to Sintra. Taxis are also plentiful and cheap.
Food and drink
Three important Portuguese culinary passions are: good bread, tasty pastries and coffee. There are myriad cafés, both traditional and modern, the latter serving an international clientele who expect wifi and charging points as well as coffee.
Gleba is a bakery that makes an excellent range of sourdough breads and now has several outlets, including in the neighbourhoods of Alcântara, Amoreiras and Campo de Ourique.
Restaurants and bars:
Seafood is a speciality in Lisbon, especially wonderful shellfish and delicious grilled fish dishes. Portuguese cuisine has long been shaped by outside influences, particularly from its former colonies – Angola, Mozambique and Goa, for instance.
However, over the past decade or so, with the huge increase in foreign visitors, the Lisbon restaurant scene has become increasingly cosmopolitan.
A great place for lunch, Corrupio, in the vibrant Cais do Sodré district near the Time Out Market (Mercado da Ribeira), is a small and informal restaurant which opened in September 2022.
The central feature is a horseshoe-shaped bar with stools around the counter. Chef Daniel Ferreira creates delicious dishes which are perfect for sharing. The wine selection is fairly short but well chosen. Open from midday to midnight.
Rua da Moeda 1, F/G, 1200-275 Lisbon
+351 21 396 1585
Also situated in the Cais do Sodré district, Ibo is a long-established and elegant restaurant with magical views over the Tagus. It opened in 2008 in a former salt warehouse. It is best to book a table upstairs, preferably by the window, where there are great views of ferries coming and going in the Tagus estuary.
João Pedrosa, owner and chef, comes from Mozambique, and this heritage is reflected in the fusion of Mozambican and Portuguese food.
Although the menu does not change much, the food is consistently good and the wine list well chosen, while the service is professional and attentive.
Compartimento 2, Cais do Sodré Armazem A, 1200-450 Lisbon
+351 961 332 024
Atira-te ao Rio
On the south side of the Tagus and with great views across the estuary to the city, the Atira-te ao Rio restaurant is the perfect spot for lunch. There are few things better than sitting outside by the water’s edge on a Sunday with a chilled glass of white or rosé, admiring the view and watching the boats on the river while contemplating what to eat. Summer evenings watching the sun go down are also magical.
The cuisine is Portuguese with some international touches and the wine list is reasonably priced. Booking is advisable, especially at the weekends. To get there, take the short ferry ride from Lisbon’s Cais do Sodré district across the Tagus to Cacilhas.
Rua do Ginjal 69, 2800-284 Almada
+351 21 275 13 80
Taberna da Rua das Flores
Located just off the Praça Luís de Camões square, the perennial queues outside this small, cramped restaurant are testament to its popularity and the magic of Angola-born André Magalhães’ brilliantly inventive fusion cooking. The idea is to share a number of petiscos (tapas). No reservations and cash only, but it’s still well worth any waiting time to get a table.
Rua das Flores, 103, 1200-194 Lisbon
+351 213 479 418
André Magalhães’ new venture opened in autumn 2022. Unlike his very successful Taberna da Rua das Flores, this is a more spacious and stylish restaurant with 15 tables offering a more traditional format – starters, main course and dessert – sharing or not, as you wish. The cooking is just as inventive and delicious, while the wine offering is more extensive. Reservations and credit cards are accepted.
Rua Mal. Saldanha 25, 1200-259 Lisbon
+351 21 347 1515
The upmarket Bairro Alto Hotel on the Praça Luís de Camões square in central Lisbon was renovated in 2019. Open from breakfast through to dinner, BAHR is its elegant and stylish restaurant serving Portuguese cuisine in an international style. Just adjacent to the restaurant is a rooftop terrace bar with spectacular views over the lower part of Lisbon and the Tagus – great for an aperitif or digestif.
Praça Luís de Camões nº 2, 1200-243 Lisbon
+351 213 408 253
Close to the Jardim da Estrela, Senhor Uva opened in January 2019. It started as a wine bar with food but is now a restaurant serving highly inventive, plant-based dishes created by chef and co-owner Stéphanie Audet.
Senhor Uva specialises in organic, biodynamic and natural wines, with a wide-ranging list mainly focused on Europe, particularly Georgia, plus a few from Australia and the USA.
The knowledgeable staff complement the intriguing wine selection. Its other dining room – Senhor Manuel – is just across the street. Book online to avoid disappointment.
Rua de Santo Amaro 66A, 1200-804 Lisbon
+351 213 960 917
Lisbon’s most famous shellfish restaurant, founded in April 1956, is an excellent destination spread across three floors. Justifiably popular, booking is strongly recommended.
Avenida Almirante Reis 1 H, 1150-007 Lisbon
+351 21 885 1024
Situated in the district of Beato and housed in a converted military building, this brilliant, informal food and wine space opened in September 2022, and is both a restaurant and retail outlet. There are cheese and charcuterie boards to share, plus very good petiscos.
Olavo Silva Rosa is responsible for the strong wine selection which features Portugal, Italy, Spain and France. Corkage fees from the retail wine store are imaginative – €10 for the first bottle, €5 for the second, and no charge for the third! A Praça is rather out of the way, so a taxi is the best option to get there and back.
Tv. Grilo 1, 1950-145 Lisbon
+351 912 421 223
A Casa Dos Passarinhos
Founded in 1923, Passarinhos is a lovely, traditional Portuguese restaurant on the eastern edge of Campo de Ourique. Very good grilled fish and meat is the restaurant’s mainstay, with daily changing specials.
Offering great value, including reasonably priced wine, Passarinhos is deservedly popular with a largely local clientele. There are often queues outside the restaurant on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Rua Silva Carvalho 195, 1250-249 Lisbon
+351 21 388 2346
Close to Lisbon:
Restaurante da Adraga
This restaurant is the only building at Praia da Adraga, a small, unspoilt cove just 3km north of Cabo da Roca (40km west of Lisbon) – the most westerly point of mainland Europe (this surely must qualify as mainland Europe’s most westerly restaurant).
Come here for great shellfish – the crab is highly recommended – to be followed by brilliant grilled fish partnered by a bottle or so of Vinho Verde. Try to get a table by the window overlooking the beach and out across the Atlantic.
The restaurant is understandably popular, especially in summer, so best to book.
Praia da Adraga, Sintra, 2705-063
+351 219 280 028
Pedro and Vitalina Marques used to be involved in a popular restaurant and wine bar in Lisbon’s Bairro Alto. They have now set up Terroso in Cascais, a seaside resort on the Tagus estuary about a 45-minute train ride from Lisbon.
Vitalina is a great chef, specialising in high-quality traditional Portuguese cuisine. Pedro, a professional wine taster, is front of house and will always find interesting wines for customers to try. The restaurant is quite small, so do book.
Rua do Poço Novo 17, 2750-467 Cascais
+351 21 486 2137
Three top restaurants that reflect Lisbon’s increasingly cosmopolitan restaurant scene:
This is the Lisbon outpost of the Kabuki Group, which opened its first restaurant in Madrid in 2000.
Kabuki Lisbon is in the renovated Ritz Galleries overlooking Edward VII Park. It opened in late 2021, was awarded a Michelin Star within a year, and offers high-end, exquisite Japanese food matched by a remarkable wine list put together by wine director Filipe Wang – for instance, there is a vertical of Clos Rougeard running from 2016 back to 2009.
Rua Castilho, nº 77- 77E, 1070-050 Lisbon
+351 212 491 683
With its small attractive terrace, Ruvida is a friendly Italian restaurant in Alcântara run by Valentina from Bologna and her partner Michel.
Valentina’s homemade pasta is very special, the cooking inventive and the wine list features both Portuguese and Italian wines.
Valentina and Michel recently opened Pausa & Crescente, a wine bar/café also in Alcântara but closer to the Tagus. Booking is advised.
Praça da Armada 17, 1350-027 Lisbon
+351 21 395 0977
The Old House
This is an excellent and very popular large Chinese restaurant in the Parque das Nações, the site of the world fair Expo 1998. I have enjoyed some of the best Chinese food ever in The Old House. Try to get a table upstairs with views over the Tagus. Booking is advised, especially at the weekends.
Rua da Pimenta 9, 1990-254 Lisbon
+351 218 969 075
Garrafeira Estado d’Alma
This carries an extensive range of wines and spirits, including some old vintages of Portuguese wines and many interesting finds. It is located a short walk from Marquês de Pombal square.
Rua Alexandre Herculano 45A, 1250-010 Lisbon
+351 21 410 5162
Garrafeira Campo de Ourique
A highly recommended shop run by the Santos family, with a large selection of mainly Portuguese wines along with some older vintages. You’ll get knowledgeable advice from Mafalda Santos.
Rua Tomás da Anunciação 29 A, 1350-322 Lisbon
+351 21 397 3494
Founded in 1927, there are three branches of this wine shop – two in the Baixa district and one in the Time Out Market. Choose from an extensive range of wines and Ports, with more than 8,000 references.
A traditional grocery and wine shop at the southern end of Rossio Square. Ports are a specialty here, and it boasts vintage Ports going back to at least 1908.
Rua da Betesga 1 A & B, 1100-090 Lisbon
+351 213 424 209