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How To Eat Like a Local in Lisbon


You’re wandering through Lisbon’s cobbled streets, up and down the many hills. Next thing, you stumble upon a tiny taverna filled with laughter and the most delicious smells wafting out. So, you walk in. And this is where your journey to eat like a local in Lisbon begins.

Beyond the well-trodden tourist paths lie culinary treasures that define Lisbon’s soul—hidden gems where food tells the story of tradition, culture, and the sea.

If this sounds like your type of travel experience, keep reading. We’ve got all the insider tips to keep your stomachs full and your tastebuds enticed. 

Here is an overview:

Where to Eat Like a Local in Lisbon

Eating like a local in Lisbon means embarking on a flavorful journey through its quaint tascas, bustling mercados, and charming pastelarias. 

  • Tascas, the heart and soul of Lisbon’s dining scene, are small taverns where the day’s catch and traditional dishes fill the air with irresistible aromas. Here, the food is honest and unpretentious. 
  • Mercados, such as the vibrant Mercado da Ribeira, offer a feast for the senses, with stalls brimming with fresh produce, seafood, and delicacies that reflect Lisbon’s rich culinary diversity. 
  • For a sweet interlude, pastelarias beckon with their heavenly pastéis de nata, creamy custard tarts that are a national obsession.

Exploring Lisbon’s neighborhoods is like turning the pages of a gastronomic diary. 

With its winding streets and Fado houses, Alfama offers a taste of the sea with dishes like Sardinhas Assadas (grilled sardines), especially during the popular Santos Populares festival. 

Bairro Alto, a nightlife hub, hides countless tascas where the traditional Bacalhau à Brás (shredded cod with onions, fried potatoes, and scrambled eggs) is a must-try. Meanwhile, Baixa, the heart of Lisbon, is perfect for leisurely lunches in the squares, offering a wide array of local and international cuisines.

Lisbon’s soulful culinary traditions come alive in these neighborhoods, inviting visitors to sit down, slow down, and savor each bite as locals do. Whether it’s through a hearty fish stew in Alfama, late-night tapas in Bairro Alto, or a pastry savored in the shadow of Baixa’s grand arches, eating like a local in Lisbon is an invitation to experience the city’s vibrant culture, one plate at a time.

Related reads : Top Markets and Shopping in Lisbon & Top Cafes, Restaurants and Fado Bars in Lisbon

Time Out Market, Avenida 24 de Julho, Lisbon, Portugal
Time Out Market, Avenida 24 de Julho, Lisbon, Portugal

Must-Try Local Dishes

Several must-try dishes stand out, each with a story and essence that captures the city’s spirit. Codfish cakes, known locally as “Pasteis de Bacalhau,” are a beloved snack, blending salted cod with potatoes, onions, and parsley, fried to golden perfection. 

This dish reflects Portugal’s long-standing love affair with bacalhau (cod), a testament to the country’s seafaring heritage and its ability to bring the flavors of the ocean to the table.

No culinary exploration of Lisbon would be complete without savoring the iconic Pastéis de Nata. These custard tarts, with their flaky pastry and caramelized tops, originated in the Jerónimos Monastery in the early 19th century, becoming a national treasure. 

Bifanas, tender pork cutlets marinated in white wine and garlic, served in soft bread, offer a taste of Lisbon’s rustic yet refined street food scene.

Pairing these dishes with local beverages elevates the experience. Enjoy codfish cakes with a glass of crisp Vinho Verde, or sip an espresso with your Pastéis de Nata, following local tradition. 

A chilled Super Bock beer or a glass of red from the Douro Valley complements the spicy, garlicky Bifana, blending flavors and cultures in every bite. 

Related read: The Art of the Galão – The Portuguese Experience that Can’t be Put into Words

Eat like a local in Lisbon
Eat like a local in Lisbon

Exploring Lisbon’s Markets and Festivals

Lisbon’s markets and festivals are essential showcases of its vibrant food culture. The Mercado da Ribeira, also known as Time Out Market, stands at the forefront, offering a rich assortment of fresh produce, seafood, and gourmet delights. 

Among the city’s food festivals, the Festival do Peixe e Marisco is a standout event, celebrating the ocean’s bounty with a wide array of seafood dishes against Lisbon’s picturesque backdrop. These gatherings are more than just places to eat; they’re opportunities to immerse yourself in local traditions and connect with the community.

During the Festas de Lisboa in June, Lisbon buzzes with the aroma of grilled sardines and the flavors of bifanas, chorizos, and farturas. Streets fill with vendors and bars, offering these traditional Portuguese dishes alongside refreshing drinks. It’s an overwhelming but truly unforgettable experience. June is also one of the best times to visit Lisbon due to this festival!

Related read: Not to Miss Experiences in Lisbon

Eating Etiquette and Tips

In Portugal, dining etiquette emphasizes leisurely meals and respect for culinary traditions. Typical meal times are later than in many countries, with lunch around 1-2 p.m. and dinner not before 8 p.m

Tipping is appreciated but not mandatory; rounding up the bill or leaving 5-10% is customary for good service. Common courtesies include waiting for everyone to be served before eating and using bread to mop up sauces, a nod to the country’s love for its cuisine.

Making reservations is wise when dining out in Lisbon, especially for popular spots. To avoid tourist traps, seek out restaurants filled with locals or those slightly off the beaten path. 

Look for menus in Portuguese and listen for the buzz of local conversation. These signs often indicate authentic experiences, promising memorable meals and a true taste of Lisbon’s vibrant food culture.

One more thing….always sit to eat your meal. Whether at a table or a counter, Lisboetas always sit down to eat, regardless of how quick the meal is. 

Related read: Top Sights and Hidden Gems in Lisbon

Culinary Experiences Beyond the Plate

Lisbon’s culinary scene goes beyond dining, offering interactive cooking classes, insightful food tours, and comprehensive wine and cheese tastings. Cooking classes across the city, led by culinary experts or local chefs, teach participants how to prepare traditional Portuguese dishes, offering a hands-on approach to the country’s culinary arts. 

Food Tours in Lisbon

Food tours are a practical way to explore Lisbon’s lesser-known eateries and markets, guided by locals who share their knowledge of the city’s food history and culture.

This Tastes & Traditions of Lisbon Food Tour is a favorite. Your guide takes you through the historic neighborhoods of Baixa, Chiado, Bica and Cais do Sodré, pointing out the most trusted restaurants and best-kept secrets. 

The tour includes 9 tastings and 3 drinks at 7 different small businesses in Lisbon. This is enough food for a full breakfast and lunch! Plus, you’ll get to learn how to eat and drink like a local in Lisbon, from understanding the complexities of the cuisine and how to order your favorite meal.

Some of the tastes to look forward to include salted cod, cherry liqueur and, of course, pastéis de nata. 

Here’s a quick summary of the itinerary: 

  • Start with coffee and pastries at a nearly 200-year-old iconic pastry shop.
  • Visit Lisbon’s oldest traditional grocery store; learn about bacalhau and taste Iberian ham.
  • Explore one of Lisbon’s main churches to glimpse the city’s history.
  • Sample Lisbon’s famous cherry liqueur at a 130-year-old family-run shop.
  • Learn about Lisbon’s history in one of its central squares.
  • Enjoy the best Portuguese pork sandwich from a place over 50 years old.
  • Visit a popular Cais do Sodré neighborhood bar for codfish, sausage, and another local dish with wine or beer.
  • Get introduced to the world of Portuguese canned fish.
  • End with a pastel de nata tasting at a competitor for the city’s best custard tart.

The tour lasts about three and a half hours and does require some uphill and downhill walking (you really can’t get away from it in Lisbon!) 

The tour caters to different dietary regulations and can be adapted for vegetarians, pescatarians, dairy-free, non-alcoholic options and pregnant women. However, this tour is not recommended for vegans and due to the risk of gluten cross-contamination, this tour is not recommended for those with celiac disease.

Departure Point: Praça da Figueira

Departure Time:  Varies  

Ending Point:  Time Out Market

From: €79

Book this tour now

Praça da Figueira, Lisbon, Portugal
Praça da Figueira, Lisbon, Portugal

Looking for a Fun Night Out?

Bairro Alto Evening Food & Wine Tour will take you on a night to remember, exploring the eclectic Bairro Alto neighborhood – where 300 bars are packed into one square kilometer!

Join a local guide and a small group of food enthusiasts for an evening food and wine tour in Bairro Alto, Lisbon. Together, you’ll explore the neighborhood’s finest bars, tascas (taverns), and pastry shops, indulging in the area’s best culinary offerings.

Here’s what to expect:

  • Begin the tour in Príncipe Real, a lively and picturesque neighborhood.
  • Visit a bar with historical ties to anti-dictatorship revolutionaries; enjoy petiscos with Japanese and Jewish influences, paired with a craft cocktail.
  • Explore a stunning miradouro for panoramic views of Lisbon and learn about the city’s growth.
  • Enter Bairro Alto, discovering its diverse history and seeing it from a local perspective.
  • Stop at a wine bar with over 600 options, sampling wines alongside fire-roasted chouriço and Portuguese cheeses.
  • Visit a traditional Portuguese tasca in Bairro Alto, known for its loyal local clientele, for duck rice, fish soup, local wine, and homemade bagaço.
  • Conclude with one of Portugal’s famous custard tarts and a glass of Port at a local favorite spot.
  • Finish the tour with a deep understanding of Lisbon’s petiscos culture and insights into exploring the city’s culinary scene and neighborhoods.

This tour lasts about three hours and is, unfortunately, not wheelchair accessible due to the uneven streets and steep hills. It is adaptable for vegetarians, pescatarians, dairy-free and gluten-free. This tour is not recommended for vegans and, due to the risk of gluten cross-contamination, this tour is not recommended for those with celiac disease.

Departure Point: Praça do Príncipe Real

Departure Time: 5:30pm  

Return Details: Largo Luis de Camoes

From: €89

Book this tour now

Tapisco, Lisbon, Portugal
Tapisco, Lisbon, Portugal

Wine Tasting in Lisbon

Wine and cheese tastings provide a delightful insight into Portugal’s rich gastronomy. The country’s diverse regions produce various wines and cheeses, from the smooth, fruity Vinho Verde to the robust, tangy Queijo da Serra. 

Tastings often happen in atmospheric cellars or shops specializing in local produce, offering a comprehensive introduction to the flavors that define Portuguese cuisine. 

Ready to Eat Your Way Through Lisbon?

Whether you’re sipping on a craft cocktail in Príncipe Real or savoring a pastel de nata against the backdrop of a stunning viewpoint in Lisbon, you’re now part of Lisbon’s vibrant tapestry of life, one delicious bite at a time.

All that’s left to do is get out there and start eating. And yes, one more pastel de nata is always a good idea!

  • Devour Tours

    We connect curious travelers with local food and people in a way that helps culture thrive. We crave food and travel experiences with a true sense of place. Devour: to absorb or engross wholly.
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